Cairo, Egypt, part II

The wonderfully named ‘Museum of Egyptian Antiquities’, more commonly referred to as The Egyptian Museum, is about 25 minutes walk from my apartment in central Cairo. Upon leaving the relative peace of the flat, I find the bright sun and noise of the street jarring. I descend into buzzing motorcycles and jostling cars with their incessant horns. Turning at the end of the street, I pass one of the many foreign Embassies located in the district of Zamalek. Bored police in flak vests sit in pill boxes, assault rifles laid across their laps. As I walk, taxis slow down and bip their horns to see if I want a ride.

Sounds of Cairo

city street, Cairo

I reach the Nile, a wide expanse of cloudy green swirling currents, and head south. Along a concrete wall overlooking the river, groups of teenage girls in headscarves take photos of each other, posing in front of Egypt’s ‘Giver of Life’. Couples hold hands discreetly, and young blokes laugh loudly and smoke cigarettes. Crouched by a small stove, a tea seller is busy preparing short glasses of steaming brew. Cairo’s stray cats nibble at food left for them in plastic take-away tubs.

I follow the river, with it’s eddys of plastic waste and swaying weeds, passing Eucalypts growing tall on its banks. There are more police, though why they have chosen that particular spot to set up their post is unclear. They talk and snack and smoke and play on their phones. Workers in orange cotton scrubs sweep dusty sand along the gutters with straw brooms, leaving a talcum coat over the parked cars.

The Nile, Cairo

I pass floating casinos and restaurants, with their flashy facades fronting worn out cargo ships wallowing in the shallow water. Valets wait by the kerb to park their client’s cars in impossibly tight rows. Ponies wearing brightly coloured tack and flashing adornments are hitched to equally gaudy carriages. They push their heads into feed bags while the owners doze on the bright leather seats. Finishing an apple, I wander over to one of the animals, who snuffles the core up from my palm.

Street market, Cairo

A park of bleached children’s carnival rides sits overgrown by the water. A team of men work casually amongst the clutter, though it’s hard to tell if they are repairing or dismantling.

I reach the Kasr Al Nile Bridge, with it’s towering statue of the revolutionary, and later Prime Minister, Saad Zaghloul. The converging roads raise the traffic noise to a chaotic din. I turn left to cross the wide expanse of the Nile, and the pavement is packed. Those having somewhere to be walk with purpose, and those just hanging out loiter and wander. Old and portly flower sellers in niqabs shame men into buying a rose for their sweetheart. Young Sudanese blokes in flashy clothes stand in small groups. A young kid, emboldened by his peers, runs up to me and says ‘fuck you!’ and disappears back in to the crowd. A man falls in step beside me and starts the now familiar refrain: ‘Hello sir welcome to Egypt. Where are you from?’ I politely shut the conversation down before it reaches its inevitable business proposal.

statue of Saad Zaghloul, Cairo

Reaching the west bank of the river, I pass more police, some peering over steel shields with rectangular firing slots. There is an entire Tourist Police wing of the force, created to stop the attacks on international visitors that occurred regularly until the latest bombing in 2019. Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, ochre-pink and grand, is surrounded by a heavy security cordon: police, guns, dogs, riot vehicles and barricades. Although the personnel and hardware ought to make visitors feel safer, their presence is a constant reminder of past atrocities and present threats.

Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

I pass through the first police gate, and join the jostle of Russian tourists queueing to have their bags and bodies screened. Onwards to the ticket window, then another short queue at the grand entry to the Museum. A ticket check, another bag scan, another walk-through metal detector, and I am inside the cool of the foyer.

Armed security, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

Outside is the noise, dust and bustle of modern Cairo. Inside, I am dwarfed by colossal statues, and hallways lined with dark wooden display cases that promise the ancient treasures that fired my boyhood imagination.

To learn more about Cairo click here

If you liked this post, you may also like Cairo, Part I , A Day at the Egyptian Museum

Subscribe to Midlife Crisis Odyssey

Subscribe to receive new post alerts and a free monthly newsletter


4 responses to “Cairo, Egypt, part II”

  1. Kat Avatar

    What evocative writing ! Thankyou so much for taking me on a journey through Cairo this morning ….

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      My pleasure Kat, glad you enjoyed the walk!

  2. Steve Dingley Avatar
    Steve Dingley

    Thanks mate, I enjoyed the words and imagery. Not so keen on the street noises but it fits the place I suppose. Hope you’re doing well.

    1. Jim Clayton Avatar
      Jim Clayton

      G’Day Steve glad you enjoyed the post. Yeah the street noise is pretty intense – makes me miss the serenity of the bush. Hope all’s good mate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Midlife Crisis Odyssey