5 Surprising Things About Life in Egypt

Desert dust, everywhere. It seems to envelop every little thing, like a sand-made mantle stretching across building blocks and minarets. An endless concert of deafening car horns plays a frenzied melody, as people shift erratically among street stalls, randomly parked cars and street garbage. To the foreigner, Cairo’s first impression feels somewhat like a slap in the face; but once you settle down in the city that never sleeps, it will gift you with surprises at every step:

1. It’s the perfect stranger suddenly jumping into your taxi, as if guided by the implicit understanding that we are all neighbors and, despite living in a massive urban jungle, there is no reason to be suspicious about each other.

2. It’s waking up to the sound of a singing rooster at 5am on the 12th floor of an old apartment building and watching the bawab feed his goats on the rooftop across the street; sometimes, you may even find a camel pleasantly sitting on the back of a truck, or a dozen sheep eating outside the butcher’s in Maadi. Cairo’s fauna is just lovable.

3. It’s crossing the road and realizing you are actually playing Tetris, dodging frenetic motorcycles, microbuses who invent their own rules, and taxi drivers who race against their fate to an uncertain destination, wrapped up in their otherworldly atmosphere.

4. It’s passing by the barber shop at 3 am to find him gallantly working a gentleman’s haircut, or finding yourself going to the dentist’s appointment at midnight while the whole world around you dreams in deep sleep.

5. It’s watching the passengers of an old broken-down bus get off to give it a bump-start; or the grey-headed man carrying an old man on his arms across the highway to 6 of October. It’s perceiving that feeling of being together through the same daily struggle.

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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