Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First ride on the Cairo metro

Yesterday, for the first time, I used a metro system in Arabia. Off the top of my head I can't think of any other Arab cities that even have a metro system, but I'm sure someone will remind me of them if they exist. If they do, I haven't been there, or if I've been there, I haven't used their metro.

The Cairo metro was hot and crowded, and now I know why my friend Nancy (who we're staying with) said that she could get just as sweaty and flustered taking the metro somewhere as walking there. Oh, the humanity. Maybe it was a mistake taking our first metro ride during the afternoon rush hour, but on the other hand, I hope it can only get less hot and crowded than it was today.

On the way to our destination, Jeremy and I and the girls sat in the mixed car. Well, we didn't really sit, not at first, because there weren't any seats. Then, of all the men to give up his place, it was an elderly, semi-infirm man instead of one of the dozens of young able-bodied ones. So I got a seat and each of the girls took turns sitting on my lap.

On the way home, I decided to take the girls to sit in the ladies-only car. I was thinking maybe we'd get stared at less, but I was wrong. We got stared at way more, or at least way more openly. But there was the consolation that it was more staring than leering. The seats were all full again and before a nice lady gave hers up to me, many of the young women were trying to get Miriam or Magdalena to sit with them. When we stopped at each station, people from outside the car were reaching their hands in through the open windows to tousle the girls' hair.

In the end, I think I preferred the ladies-only car even though it was (marginally) more crowded and more cutthroat as far as seating went. Think about it - if it's all women and children in the car, who is supposed to give up her seat to whom? I think I ranked pretty high in the seat priority hierarchy because I had two young children with me. I don't think anyone would have been so quick to give up her seat to me if I had had only one.

Such is the pecking order, I suppose.


TareX said...

Oh... you took the subway. I remember taking the subway in Cairo, before I had a car. Let me tell you something, unlike the subway in big cities like Toronto, NYC... the subway in Cairo isn't the way most middle-class people get around. If I were you I'd stick to taking the cab... when converted to dollars, it's actually pretty cheap (taxis in North America are EX.PEN.SIVE!).

I'm sorry that nobody sprung out of their seats to get you seated! I dunno what happened but it was pretty common practice to let women sit down in mixed cars back when I was there... I think young men may have been scared that their act would be perceived as some sort of "favor to a cute lady" as opposed to simply being a gentleman's act. That's how I would be thinking, to be honest!

Enjoy the Kofta, Koshary (dont forget to add the garlic/vinegar sauce), and shawarma in Cairo! Alexandria is a beautiful city and just taking a stroll along the Corniche (the long big road on the Mediterranean) is very, very therapeutic. I must warn you though: ALEXANDRIA NEVER SLEEPS. It's true. It'll be as noisy at 3:00am as it was at 5pm... these people DO NOT SLEEP. Which is pretty cool because it makes the already safe city even safer....

Places to visit in Alex: El-Ma'moorah, El-Montazah, The Library and the Castles :)

Liz Johnson said...

OK... I think it's really interesting that they have both gender-specific and mixed metro cars. I don't know why, but that caught me as interesting.

How long has Cairo had a subway??

Susanne said...

For some reason I'd think your having two children is not a big deal. Aren't Arabs known for having way more than 2 children?

Bridget said...

Susanne, yes, but maybe it's because they're not stupid enough to take more than two of them on the metro. :)

Susanne said...

Ah, I see. :)

I'm enjoying "my" adventure to Egypt through your blog. Thanks much for sharing your life with us stuck at home. Eager to see Syria again! :-D

Katie said...

When you first said "mixed" car I had no idea what sort of mixing you were referring to. Sometimes other cultures boggle my mind. I think it's a good boggling though.


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