Cairo has been described as one of the world’s most unattractive cities, and I understand why. The air filled with pollution and dust from the dessert enters your lungs, the sound of constant honking shouts its way into your ears, and the heat embraces your body, making you bewildered and aggressive. Cairo has a population of around 20 million and is still growing. The consequences of this overpopulation can clearly be seen when going through the city. The traffic is one big mess only ruled by the system of chaos, while mountains of garbage are lying beside the streets only waiting to grow bigger.
Initial impressions of Cairo can surely lead to overwhelming emotions of confusion, attempting to sort out the jumble of energy and life that surrounds the capital. But this jumble of impressions was not only connected with headache and dizziness. In between all this chaos, Cairo has a mysterious ability to charm. The streets of Cairo are a riot of colour and form, and in the evenings every tiny square is filled with people engaged in eating, smoking and talking while enjoying the soft and gentle night.
Navigating through Cairo is surely crazy and exhausting, but also very rewarding and charming. As the days passed on I began to understand the charm of the city. At last I even found the traffic charming, and as I started to relax more, I slowly but surely fell in love with the aura of the city. As I walked around with my host I for example experienced that it was common to converse with strangers. I found this fascinating and think it is something that we could learn from here in Denmark, where you are considered a strange person if you chat with strangers in the bus or in the train. From my point of view it is a bad sign of egoism and fear. Conversations with strangers can often be very rewarding because they open your to colourful aspects of human nature. And exactly this is very important in the world today: in a world that is deeply affected by political tensions, contradictory cultures and different religions. That is also why I think the GCP programme is very giving. If it was possible I actually think that everybody should have such a trip, where you are living together with a family in an unfamiliar and foreign culture. Such travels help break down prejudices, which is necessary if you want to understand and interact with other cultures. My experience was that people in Egypt in general are very kind and always ready to help if needed. My host family did what they could to make sure that I had a pleasant stay, and it was clear that the Egyptians wanted to show their country from its best side. It shines through the Egyptians that they are proud of their country, and when we visited the Giza pyramids I understood why. I was overwhelmed by the size of the pyramids they were much bigger than I had expected. It is amazing that such enormous constructions were build 2500 years before Christ. However, My favourite experience was the trip to the Nubian village. Bathing in the Nile was magic, the camel ride was frightening yet eventful and the village itself was totally wonderful. It was like taking a journey back in time to another world. Unlike Cairo the streets were not filled with cars, but with camels running through the tiny streets, as they pleased. Unlike Cairo the air was not filled with pollution, but with a jumble of different scents and aromas. And instead of listening to constant honking from cars, we were seduced by the melody of the soothing calmness of the Nile. As we in the evening sailed away from the village it thus hit me that Egypt is a multifarious society with a wide diversity of cultures: From the modern and hectic city life of Cairo to the traditional, natural life of a Nubian village.
The traffic in Cairo is in many ways a reflection of the Egyptian society: even though it takes a lot of time, people somehow always manage to reach their destination. It works, in a very screwed up definition of the word “works”, but it does. The society works in the same way: the society seems stagnant and not developing, but people somehow manage to survive. A screwed up definition of the word “survive”, but they do. The chaos represented in the traffic also shines through in the society, a society dealing with serious problems such as poverty, inequality and corruption. Egypt is chaotic, but it is that chaos and appearance an disorder that gives the country its intense charisma and provides everlasting entertainment.