During the first days walking along Mustafa el Nahaz, the main avenue parallel to my apartment, I counted around 10 to 20 furniture stores in just four blocks, as well as 15 pharmacies. My roommates and I found these characteristics very peculiar.
Thanks to a few established roommates, the new interns and I quickly learned where we could buy Wi-Fi, an Egyptian SIM card near our apartment, and basic groceries.
Five minutes away, a local bakery makes fresh cookies and pastries every day; a falafel stand we have embraced has a 1.50 LE (22 US cents) falafel sandwich diet; and a fruit stand sells 1 kilo of oranges for about 2 LE (30 cents).
Mustafa el Nahaz is very crowded with non-stop traffic, jaywalkers and city noise. In the middle of the avenue, there is an abandoned railroad track now filled with waste or what remains of a few piles of burned trash. The air is mostly made up of car smoke or something burning at a near distance.
Every block is full of apartments with several businesses on the first floor, but depending on the building, the sidewalk´s height may vary. Therefore, walking along the avenue is like being on a small urban hiking trail.
Crossing the street here, or anywhere in Cairo, is truly a suicidal act about which I have become quite expert. Cars rarely stop due to the fact that traffic signs and lights do not exist. So, I have learned a few things about crossing a street:
- Wait a few seconds for a distracted driver going slower than the others — and run!
- If the traffic never stops, then just cross the street with your hand up toward the incoming traffic. Cars will eventually stop to let you walk.
- Don´t think about traffic too much; drivers seem to be used to people being so close to their cars that I don´t think I will get run over anytime soon.
So, just do it!