Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tried to make me go to Rehab

And the consensus is: No no no

Rehab is a gated community about 4kms down the road from AUC's new campus and a million miles away from our current life in Cairo.

Beautiful, clean and orderly. It is everything downtown Cairo is not. Even our idyllic Zamalek seemed utterly chaotic compared to Rehab. The wire fence and entrance gates are designed to keep out the riff raff (we only got in because we were on an AUC bus...) and as we drove around, I half-expected to hear classical music wafting through the air as the soundtrack to this carefully planned la la land. It reminded me a little of Sharjah -- convenient strip malls, concrete curbs and orderly sidewalks, grassy knolls and clear blue fountains.

"Breathing the air in Cairo is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day"

"One year of breathing Cairo's air can lead to cancer"

"Constant noise pollution causes depression"

"Did you know that all the traffic cops are impotent due to the high levels of lead in the air?"

Hmmm. Compelling reasons to move out into the 'burbs, no doubt. But I think to myself: if clean air was our only priority, surely we would have stayed in Canada, no?

And not to paint a completely negative picture of Rehab: I will admit that the clear sky, fresh air and subsequent ability to take deep breaths and open our windows are all appealling.... the palm trees (both natural and artificial) were pretty. And if I ever craved "Gauchos Argentina Grill", it would only be moments away.

After spending the day in Rehab, I felt a renewed love for Cairo stirring in my heart. Returning to the city, I found myself embracing the buzz of Cairo traffic, admiring it for still functioning despite the madness. I was proud of the four fully grown men ducking and diving through rush hour traffic on one small motorcycle. I gave props to the woman with six large boxes on her head, crossing a 10 lane motor way. In the wrong direction. While holding hands with several small children. I found that I was (could it be?) happy to once again be stuck in the middle of Cairo gridlock.

It may be chaotic and it may not always make sense. But Cairo is full of life, in your face and a constant source of entertainment, insight and inspiration. I would much rather live a life of thought-provoking frustration than a carefully planned, pristine life of certainty.

I guess it that same philosphy that has drawn me to live in the middle of some of the great cities of the world -- London not Richmond, Paris not Nieully, Manhattan not Larchmont, Toronto not Oakville.

No point in breaking the pattern now that we live in one of the most living, breathing, spitting, seathing cities in the world.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

I totally agree, Suf. I remember standing on the roof of the albeit lovely apartment in El Rehab and looking in all directions. In 2 directions stretched the concrete skeletons of buildings under construction - literally as far as the eye could see. My eye, anyway. In a third direction, completed condos to the horizon. And the fourth? Escavated earth, mounts of raw soil, just waiting to become, in turn, directions 1, 2, and 3. I can't deal with construction for the next 15 years, watching the world get blotted out! Plus, I came here for CAIRO, not for the 'burbs. I could've stayed at home and gotten that. And my friends and loved ones too.