Written by Alaa A. Rahman
*indiscernible arguing voices*
YOU SON OF A –
Who said anything about subway trips being uncomfortable and annoying? Note the sarcastic tone by which I ask this question! Despite everything, taking the subway across Cairo is probably the most and only, time saving technique in Cairo. That is, if you want to avoid the devil’s own creation, which is Egypt’s lovely and chronic traffic congestion. Yes, the devil hates us so much, that traffic was created in Cairo as a manifestation of that hate.
Anyway, I say metro trips are not that luxurious or comfortable because:
(a) Millions and millions of Egyptians use it, with one single vehicle holding up to hundreds of people at a time, to a point where you can’t even hear your own breathing (because hello! I’m suffocating from your stench dude and haven’t you heard of an act of cleanliness called showering and using deodorants!?).
(b) Sometimes, the drivers would like to stop in one station to chat and socialize with their fellow driver companions for a few minutes (and by few, I mean half an hour) because they have a social life to care for rather than make sure their passengers don’t suffocate.
(c) With the stench (refer to (a)), the heat (which is partly offset by very poor working fans) and the unbearable number of people using the metro, you’ll be lucky to find a 0.5×0.5 meter squared patch of floor to stand on!
See? Super fun!
But in all fairness, when winter comes and the number of people are fewer than usual, the metro is the best way for you to connect with the literature world. And seeing how I’m a major book lover, the subway becomes my only haven away from reality and everything ugly that it involves. I can finally find the time for myself, to escape into the worlds of my creation, to contemplate deep and meaningful quotes and themes, to test the limit of my imagination and manifest it, to create scenario after scenario of unrealistic conversations where I somehow always manage to be a victim and a hero both at the same time. But most importantly, I cherish that time because I get to actually feel like I’m myself, my real self, not the fake smiling one you’ve encountered in Episode I.
I arrive at Maadi Metro Station and manage (with difficulty) to wiggle my way out of the metro vehicle. I take in the slightly cleaner and now cooler air into my lungs as deeply as I can, and feel them expand with every inhalation and deflate with every satisfying exhalation. A slight breeze passes, tenderly cooling my body heat. I close my eyes to it, letting it seep under my skin and enjoy the refreshment it conveys.
I then proceed with crossing the hanging bridge to the other side of the open aired metro station as the slowly sinking sun bathes the sky in orange and indigo colours.
One of the positive things about taking the metro, which I failed to mention, is that I tend to walk a lot and climb lots of stairs which are two of the most significant contributors to my fit physique which would be otherwise filled with fat layer upon fat layer.
Sorry I spoiled the scene!
I hand over my metro ticket to the (security?) guy standing next to the gate of the station as he holds up a big metal can and calls on passengers to hand over their tickets.
10 of the most useless jobs in the world: A ticket taker!
I find myself on Road 9, the most famous, amazing and utterly chaotic yet orderly street in the district of Maadi. Unusual for a Monday evening, the Road is bustling with activity. From cab drivers parked outside the station calling out their availability to the exiting passengers, to microbuses flying by (Yes! They fly by: whether it’s a narrow street or a wide one, microbus drivers don’t give a rat’s ass about others on the roads because they are the emperors of the Cairene Streets, long may they reign!), to merchants wanting to sell their goods (counterfeit brand clothes, shoes, sunglasses, silverware, fruits and vegetables, you name it, you’ll find it!), the scenery outside the station is just so amazingly… Egyptian.
Once you exit the station, you have two directions to take the story forward: either you take a right, or you take a left. Click your pick!