My host, graciously volunteered through Sherif, a good friend of the Gypsy Queen’s, who I had yet to met, lived somewhere in Cairo. I had no idea where and also no idea how big Cairo was.
The night bus ride from Hurghada to Egypt’s capital was an uneventful seven hours through what I assume to be desert landscape. I managed sleep until the sunrise which I caught through the crack of a good eye. The other eye submitted and it too opened up and I was fully awake to watch the desert take on the day. A couple of hours later, Cairo appeared on the horizon.
And how could it not? It took up the entire horizon. In fact, Cairo should be its own planet. It’s the biggest city I’ve ever been to. It diminishes Bangkok to suburb status. A concrete jungle of overpasses and high-rises, Cairo is a collective of cities like Giza, the 6th of October City and Nasr City to name but three.
The bus-ticket, earned by playing two nights at the awesome and friendly Jolly Café in Hurghada, passed the revolutionary Trahir Square where 2011’s revolt helped spark revolutions across the Arab world (just like the one in 1952 lead by Nasser) was quiet in the early morning hours.
We pulled into the GoBus station somewhere nearby and from here I followed Mohammed’s – and anyone who could speak English that I came across – instructions. I took a microbus –a mini-van (known as matatu in East Africa) – to Ramses. From there I hopped on another microbus under a huge overpass.
The driver charged me for a 3-row seat because of my bags.
“I can put them on the roof,” I said, pointing at the roof rack.
He refused, seeing the opportunity to cash up a bit.
I then piled my packs on top of me. “No problem, see?” I pointed through the packs at the easily accessible and empty seats beside me.
He still refused.
Grumbling, I hopped on and we drove – right past the GoBus station where I had entered Cairo.
For at least an hour we rode through the empty, concrete streets. As it was Friday, the Muslim holy day, everything was shut down and empty before I was told by the only guy on the bus who spoke English that I needed to get off and ask around for the address.
Finding myself on the banks of the Nile, the longest river in the world that I had been following from Sudan, I crossed the highway like Frogger and asked to use phones and get directions. Finally, I made it to the building where a groggy-eyed Ahmed, Mohammed’s housemate, opened the door for me and returned to his room.
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Photo courtesy of the author.