I am in Cairo preparing for the delegation’s arrival here from Tel Aviv on Thursday night. Our plan is to leave for Gaza on Friday (the 13th!) morning, spend Saturday in Gaza and return later in the day. That gives us all day Sunday for appointments in Cairo, before we leave for Washington, DC early on Monday morning.
In order to enter Gaza from Egypt, we had to request permission several weeks ago from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to pass through Rafah, the only crossing point between Egypt and Gaza. Al-hamdulillah, they granted us permission! Now we are frantically trying to set up appointments.
This is my first time in Cairo, so I’m comparing what I see with how people told me it is. The tour company booked us in a nice hotel in Garden City, an affluent section that abuts the Nile and is full of mammoth hotels full of Westerners, swimming pools, casinos, neon lights, and fireworks. While most of the city is as noisy, crowded, and dirty as people say Cairo can be, Garden City seems like Las Vegas on the Nile — still noisy and crowded, but less dirty.
One obvious source of Cairo’s problems is the ridiculously large number of cars. The resultant pollution hangs in the air and turns the buildings brown and black. This part of the city, at least, was not designed to accommodate pedestrians — sidewalks end abruptly, there are no traffic lights, no stop signs, no crosswalks. I paid 25 Egyptian pounds (about $5) to take a taxi three blocks today just so that I wouldn’t get run over. I wonder how much of the problem is due to generous government fuel subsidies, which bring the price of gasoline down to $1.20 per gallon.
Here are two pictures of the view of the Nile from my balcony: