Cairo is one interesting city. It’s loud, full of culture – and great food, and also; pollution. It’s a lot to take in for newbies. But it has also taught me a lot of great lessons (and not so useful ones). NYC is my favorite city, but I have beef with it because it claims to be unique without realizing that it’s super similar to other big cities. The “city that never sleeps” or “if you can make it there you can make it anywhere” expressions can both be applied elsewhere. Because if you can make it in Cairo and come out alive, you can probably make it anywhere.
Wherever I go, I will always take these lessons with me 10 Lessons You Only Learn if You Live in Cairo
How to cross the street without dying
I’ll be honest, this still feels like a near-death experience for me every time. Cairo has this way of giving you an adrenaline-inducing adventure you never asked for whenever you need to cross the street.
Food will fix all of your issues
Egypt has been through a lot, especially in the past few years. But, whatever is wrong, I don’t think it can’t be solved through Egyptian food. Honestly, though, my appreciation for food has grown so much because of feteer, mahshi, shawerma and molokheya.
How to endure severe heat
You don’t need to be at the beach to get a tan here. The summer extends from May to, let’s be honest, November. And as a hijabi, especially, my body now has a much higher heat tolerance thanks to this country. 42 °C (107 °F) baby, I will survive.
(night) Sleep is for the dead
As I said before, Cairo is the city that never sleeps. Walk around the streets at 12 am and you’ll find people in the ahwa (outdoor cafes) and kids running around. My biggest culture shock was in New York when there were five other people in Times Square at 1 am on a January night. Cairo gives NYC a run for its money.
Meeting times are a mere suggestion
If you’re on time, you’ll always be the first person there. As a somewhat punctual person, this will be the death of me, but it’s also nice to know that if you’re late it doesn’t really matter.
Don’t be scared of loud noises
Your ears don’t exist anymore. Cairo is the land of noise pollution. I wake up every day at 8 am sharp because there’s a regularly scheduled building destruction explosion (is that what it’s called?!) near my house on a daily basis. Bombs sound like fireworks and fireworks sound like bombs. So, don’t be surprised at any bomb-sounding noises, you’ll be fine (mostly.)
You can get anything delivered, at any time
This is one of my favorites, and I almost can’t imagine living any other way. Groceries, clothes, prescription meds, appliances, you name it, they can probably deliver at 12 am (2 am if it’s Ramadan).
Connections will get you anywhere
This is something I hate but I admit helps. If you know a connection (wasta) in Egypt, you can literally do anything. The law is a mere suggestion sometimes. But where does hard work stand now?
You have guts
Your stomach learns resilience, and you’re unfazed by otherwise likely-to-be poisonous food.
You’re alert and know your surroundings
In Cairo, you need to know where you’re going at all times because Egyptian GPS might just lead you into a wall.
And those are just some of the things I learned from 19 years living under the Egyptian sun. I hope you didn’t expect Hieroglyphics to be on that list because I promise you Egypt is more than our thousands year old Pharaonic historic.
I guess this is why I love NYC so much because it’s a more tame version of home (imagine that!)