Egypt on the Charming Offensive with New Cairo

During my second week in Egypt, i discovered that there was what is termed as New Cairo. Its a lovely new city literally looking like a picture from a glossy real estate magazine like HABITAT. Cairo is the capital and is one of the largest cities in the world and it is the largest in Africa. Cairo is known as being a very densely populated city as well as being the center of Egypt’s culture and politics. Of course an adventurous spirit like myself would want to see every nook and crack of the city. Cairo metropolis extends away from the Nile in all directions, the city of Cairo resides only on the east bank of the river and two islands within it on a total area of 453 square kilometers. It was a very ambitious plan but i did manage to see a lot of sites including visiting one of the biggest malls i have ever seen.

I met a lot of people who took pictures with me and i thoroughly enjoyed visiting some of the restaurants and i might have to add that Egyptian food tends to be very spicy. If you plan to enjoy Egyptian cuisine, your stomach should be quite prepared for spicy foods especially if you are not used to it. I also learnt that sunscreen and shades are a must in Egypt.

The sky scrappers in Cairo are dirty and old and look like they survived a war. The state of the housing is abysmal, no footpaths just dirt, squalor everywhere and piles of rubbish everywhere. The one thing i will advise about Egypt is that never ever use any public toilet of any sort or manner. Im still receiving counselling for post traumatic stress disorder after  visiting one public toilet and was pressed. 

I had been warned about people spitting. I assumed that had to with the strong coffee that Egyptians offered us. At every small cafe, its common to find men sitting smoking using shisha water-pipes which is the most common form of tobacco consumption. There are no designated smoking areas as Egyptians smoke everywhere.

Egyptians have similar ethics or culture. Most of them are way different from people in the western and or other African countries i had visited before. Some of the people are way less open-minded, some don’t believe much in personal boundaries and they are not very tolerant. I discovered that Egyptians like to make fun of others a lot and they dont like it when it happens to them. However, you will meet among Egyptians some of the kindest and most generous people you will ever see in your life. Our tour guide told us that at every turn and corner,we will be hustled to buy all sorts of fake Egyptian trinkets and we need to make sure, we are firm with our response with a NO. That is what exactly happened in Beheira, Minya and Cairo. Vendors are persistent in selling their products once they spot you as a tourist and you have to be firm in your response.

There are plenty of shops in Cairo and plenty of sites that are of historical significance. As a visitor, its best you plan ahead before visiting the country and a tour guide is encouraged. Pre arrange tours are essential as not to confuse your trip. Be conscious of the fact that there are distances involved in visiting historical sites. Planning is crucial. As indicated in my first blog about Egypt, Cairo is congested and there are no traffic laws and no zebra crossings for pedestrians.

Id also suggest that you keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Dehydration can be a spoiler in such dry weather. You will also discover that there is a huge city called New Cairo on the eastern side of the town.
The eastern part of Cairo, near the international airport, is cleaner, more touristy and cosmopolitan, compared to the western part where many of the pyramids and monuments are. New Cairo is a new city that was created to ease congestion i presume. I later discovered that New Cairo is a notorious example of a dream that most Egyptians cannot afford. Top down planning might be the main culprit here.

There are plans to develop what will now be called the New New Cairo.
New New Cairo is a massive 30 Billion pounds project and the scale of the plans certainly defy historical norms. If completed, the currently nameless city would span 700 sq km (a space almost as big as Singapore), house a park double the size of New York’s Central Park, and a theme park four times as big as Disneyland – all to be completed within five to seven years. Source: According to the brochure of the project , there will be exactly 21 residential districts, 25 “dedicated districts”, 663 hospitals and clinics, 1,250 mosques and churches,and 1.1m homes housing at least five million residents. This is motivated by the fact that the population of Cairo is expected to double in the next 20 years.

We were cautioned and told to keep our belongings guarded at all times. Fortunately enough,noone in our group noone was mugged or lost any valuable. The place has many sites to see including the Museum which unfortunately we did not get to visit. We visited a tourist sort of spot that allowed for the tour guide to tell us more about the River Nile. You can easily notice that all human settlements are spread next to the River Nile. Farming is intense next to the Nile. We traveled a long stretch of road along the Western desert and saw the construction of new cities near the desert. We saw marvelous projects of agriculture and initiatives that were seemingly designed to halt the process of desertification. Plant life in Egypt varied and the western desert was mainly sand with limited plant life spread across the dessert.

We visited the Monastery of Saint Pishoy in Wadi El Natrun, Beheira Governorate, Egypt, which is the most famous monastery of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria named after Pishoy. It is the easternmost of the four current monasteries of Wadi el Natrun. I was fascinated by the Copts kissing the priests hand and when we inquired, the response was
the priest handles the holy things on the altar, and especially the Body and Blood of our Lord, therefore His hands are holy. When the faithful kiss his hand they are taking a blessing. Yes, the holy elements are placed into the mouths of the believers, but that does not mean that the priest does not have a special grace, as has already been explained.  Id advise anyone visiting Egypt to visit one of the many monasteries and be sure to indulge yourself in the history of the church. Its very rich and informative of some of the beliefs of Egyptians.

Truth is Egypt is a huge historical country and there is just so much to do and see. Apart from its short comings, Egypt
Egypt is a fascinating intense place with various places to visit such as Hurghada, Alexandria, Dahab, Siwa Oasis, Sharm el-Sheikh , Dahshur, Aswan, Cairo , Luxor, Giza Necropolis , Mosque of Ibn Tulun. Definitely one trip is not enough.

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