Sans Sugarcoating: 11 Things I Personally Miss About Cairo When I Travel

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Written by Mariem ElTagoury

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View of the River Nile in Cairo

There are far too many people around me who want nothing more than to buy a one way ticket out of the big city, and one can’t blame them. Every young adult faces too many challenges in Cairo, but once we’re out there we get struck with homesickness  and longing for the things that make  the city special & it’s not just our families we miss. Today, I am going to list down the things I miss most about Cairo:

1-    Delivery (24 Hours)

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Order anything – anytime!

Call me a lazy ass all you want, but after a long day at university/work, with nothing to eat in the fridge when you get home, there’s that wash of relief (those who have spent long months abroad without this luxury can relate) when you know you can always pick up the phone and something will be delivered to your door. This relief is doubled knowing you can do this even at 3 am in the morning.

It’s also a relief when you’re craving pancakes at 6 am or perhaps a soda that you’re too lazy to get dressed, go out & buy! And it’s not just food we’re talking about here; in Cairo everything can be delivered to your doorstep, from groceries, to luxury food, to cosmetics and medications, and even books (you’ve got to love Diwan for this).

PS. Please always remember to tip the delivery guy well especially if he’s braving the cold instead of you to bring your warm meal right to your door.

2-    The City That Never Sleeps

Cairo
Cairo: The City that never sleeps!

It’s one thing to have food delivered to your doorstep; and another to have the capability of shopping till 12 am (or even later)! Point made!

3-    The Food

Koshary
Koshary!

Let’s talk about food some more, and I’m not talking just Egyptian cuisine –although that’s one hell of a delicacy I miss, but Cairo never bores you when it comes to food. First, the awesome variety of Egyptian food and then there’s almost every other type of cuisine on the planet. Today it could be Chinese, tomorrow Italian, the next Lebanese; and don’t get me started when it comes to desserts; heck we even have bagels; because Cairo just has everything…. and it always tastes good, because when it comes to food quality, I think we ace in that test.

Also,  there’s the ease of buying Halal food everywhere; I confess I’m not so strict about my diet but miss a worry free mind when it comes to that (if you had an experience with hidden ingredients like pork fat in dessert or alcohol in cheese you’ll catch the vibe)!

4-    The Azan & the Church Bells

Unity
The Beauty of Unity

They call Cairo the city of the 1000 Maazanah (Minarets in Turkish & the west); so you can’t miss the Azan in Cairo wherever you go. In the west, I miss the Azan; sometimes when I walk lonely I think I hear the call in the distance but then I turn and it’s not there. The warm musical voice that calls so many people to unite in peace and love; I miss that. I also miss the Egyptian Church Bells; most of the west use Church Bells as a clock that rings every quarter hour or so; but in Egypt the Church Bells have preserved their purpose of call to prayer.

Perhaps that’s why they have a softer, warmer cling-clang, I think my most magical moment was during the 30/6 revolution when the Azan and Church Bells united in call, not for prayer, but for patriotic unity. There are few historic moments where this happens; I have to say I am glad to have attended this one; because the magic of it was indescribable.

5-    The Care & the Compliments

Free Compliments!
Free Compliments Everybody!

I can’t believe I’m saying this; but I miss it in the people. We care, even if out of habit; if someone doesn’t show up to work or class, we call to check up on them, even if out of habit. We compliment each other, even if we don’t mean to, out of habit. You say ‘habib alby’ (dear to my heart) even if you don’t know the person; you tell your friend how good they look today even if you’re not entirely convinced by what’s coming out of your mouth.

It’s hypocrisy in a way, and in another it’s kindness. We have so many habits that are buried deep within us through our culture and traditions, and as much as they might sometimes tend to be annoying,   they still bring comfort to others. They remind us that we’re not alone, that we are loved, and that we are magnificent enough to annoy a lot of people! Whether this or the latter; it’s far better than feeling invisible or, worse, alone.

6-    The Rich Experiences

The Rich Experiences
From Top Right To Left: Synagogue (Temple Hanan), at Abbassieh quarter in Cairo; The Oprah House, Cairo; Mohamed Aly Mosque, surrounded by the Citadel, Kattameya, Cairo. From bottom left to right: The Cave Church, Cairo; Desert Dune Buggy experience; Spices Market, Khan ELKhalili, Cairo

Egypt is like a hub of experiences of culture that you can’t just get enough of; there’s so much more to enjoy in Egypt than in possibly many other countries put together. In Cairo, you’ve got on-going festivals and events all year long; there’s the luxury of the Opera, the blithesome of underground concerts & music, the history in the numerous museums, the art galleries& artifacts scattered around the country, the architecture in all what is old.

Desire for a relaxing day by the water? The entire Nile is at your command. Crave the sea? An hour’s drive or two can take you to ElSokhna or Alexandria. Yearn the desert? Wadi Degla is on the borders of Maadi. Desire nature? Take a train trip through the country side. I’ve heard this before and never quite appreciated the meaning of it but, “Cairo is the life”.

7-    Not Having to Check the Weather Forecast Every Time You Leave the House

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No More Weather Checking!

The luxury of just walking out! Not having to worry about an umbrella or snow boots or God knows what because it is always predictable… and how bad can it ever get?!

8-    The Weather!

Sunset
Dat Sun! <3

Yes, I can’t emphasize this enough; because who doesn’t love sunny winter morning brunches? The ease of just running out to grab something without worrying about getting dressed into 5 layers for the cold, the presence of the glorious sun year round and I don’t even mind our long heated summers right now.

9-    The Ease of People

hya
Eshrab shay! = Have some tea!

You’ll find people who are mean & evil in the big city; but you’ll always find someone willing to help or give a hand. It’s in our build.  We’re the type of people who share food, drinks, cigarettes, you name it. We’re generous, with what little we have. How many places in the world do you know someone who you could just call up, exclaim you’re bored, decide to go out this second, and that person says let’s go (putting in mind you don’t have to be best friends or have known each other for eternity). Only Cairo. It’s just who we are!

10-    The Practicality of Finding a Beauty Parlour

Salon
” Unless you’re in Cairo, then you can’t guarantee affordable AND good quality service.”

When you travel the world, one thing you’ll find difficulty in is finding a beauty parlour that’s available, affordable & hygienic. Unless you’re in Cairo, then you can guarantee affordable AND good quality service. Ha, victory!

11-    ELSHATAFA! (Bidet nozzle)

...And this is the bathroom! Dad, there's even a little bath for me!
A necessity in the bathroom

This list would not be complete without mentioning “ELShatafa” (Bidet nozzle)! In spite of the west’s rigid sanitation and hygiene care, how they survive without it is beyond me. As a friend of mine once said with a beaming smile, as we landed in Cairo after a vacation in Europe, “we are back to the land of the shatafa! oh how it has been missed!”

Thoughts?

So, what do you think? What are the things you miss about Cairo when you travel? Did I miss any important points? Let me know in a comment.

 

 

 

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