How folks can’t see the proverbial rollercoaster of potential expiration they ride day-to-day here in Egypt is beyond us entirely.
In any corner of this happy little clump in space, the grandest adventures lie in wait for any would-be thrill-seeker, and we here in
the groin of the universe Om El Donia aren’t any different than the rest of the waking world. Anything as simple as crossing the street, or even ordering out can take you on a wild, unkempt ride through the most fantastical of journeys here in Egypt.
Since we’re nothing if not charitable (humour us), we’ve decided to shed light on how even your most seemingly mundane of daily ventures can be a six-flag ride of ungodly proportions to your standard outsider. So find a comfortable-enough barstool, try not to cry too much into your whiskey sour and read about how you can make the most out of your falsely boring daily routine.
If there was ever a form of athleticism out there in modern human existence, you’ll undoubtedly find its “extreme” alternative; extreme rugby (wet water), hockey in all its forms, downhill rally racing, and perhaps the most perilous of all; extreme moving around, also known as Parkour.
Not ones to shy away from a challenge (except maths), we have our own form of extreme sport, one that doesn’t pay as much (or at all) as any of the other examples worldwide; crossing the fucking street. Even the tamest of roads in Egypt can go from “Chicken crossing the road” to “How it’s Made: Burger Meat.” It’s such a high-stakes gambit that the law ceases to protect you if you meet your untimely end trying to cross a highway (look it up). So the fact that an entire populace of hapless motherfuckers literally dance with the reaper while dodging incoming traffic, performing their own version of parkour (colloquially; morour) is enough proof that white folk jumping out of planes onto trampolines ain’t shit.
How many times, dear reader, have you managed to skip across the Ring Road, Street 90, or even Nasr Road like a more depressed, beige version of frogger as if you were applying deodorant? Have you any idea of the kind of bodily contortions and rapid bursts of speed you’re capable of when a handful of lories come screeching at you? Goddamn dude.
Too Fast, Too Serious
On the somewhat complete opposite side of that asphalt-laden spectrum, getting an automobile in our great republic is as much a rite of passage as it is a slow, costly death sentence. Sure, a set of wheels will get you from A to B right quick, but is it ever as smooth as your geriatric driving instructor made it out to be.
Way back when cars went past the 20 kilometre per hour, the powers that be unanimously decided that a speed limit would be a particularly bright idea, and the world was far better for it. All but a few corners of this earth; chief of which is Egypt. The concept of having to stick to 60 KM/H in most areas of the country might as well be an insult, and sticking to your lane? What the fuck do you think this is? Switzerland? Scathing remarks aside, every journey in your mom’s 2012 KIA Cerato to your “friend” in Mohandesin is a grand prix of its own accord; tell us where else you can get an impromptu drift race going at 140 KM/H, on a busy highway during rush hour, with each car just a few metres apart all on a daily basis, and we’ll legit give you our senior writer for a month (he cooks, he cleans, he’s tearing at the seams).
Need a realistic example of how adventurous it can get? The writer of this article once had a friend in the not-so-distant past who decided to upgrade his Hyundai Verna with a particularly powerful engine, one that was well beyond its structural capabilities, as well as those of Egypt’s speedbump-infested streets. He once decided to test the full extent of his engine’s horsepower, so he put pedal to metal down Mostafa El Nahas, eventually hitting a speed bump. He flew, but never landed.
End of the Road
Crossing the road might be an exercise in tempting fate, and getting your own set of wheels may as well be your ticket to an adrenaline-fueled demise, but what about those of us who aren’t poor enough to hightail on our own two feet, and aren’t rich enough to splurge on that (fucking) Nissan Sunny that everybody’s second cousin has? There’s always a ride around the corner.
Even your garden-variety ride with your nearest microbus driver can provide enough of an amped up adventure for any would-be speed freak, if they’re not used to what a ride usually entails. What can be more logically confounding yet heart-racing than being in a metal can with about 20 other motherfuckers, going at a speed of 120 KM/H on a cramped speedway, swerving between all manner of traffic as if more ethereal than corporeal? To an outside, this is pure absurdism. To us? That’s being late for work, and it’s not even guaranteed that you’ll be going to work; you never know if you might get kidnapped, harvested for organs, blown the fuck up, get shot because one of you is a drug mule, the possibilities are as endless as they are thrilling. This applies to almost all forms of public transportation here; every ride is a slow, loud waltz with the angel of death, but it sure as fuck is fun.
Chicken-Greased Lightning (or Thunder)
It’s tasteless to take a proverbial dump on the fast foods we’ve come to know and love growing up in the Middle East’s most terrifying little triangle of dirt, almost as tasteless as the food itself (did you think we had standards?). Though dedicating one of your weekly (or daily) meals to takeout is akin to playing Russian Roulette with the reaper using the world’s slowest machine gun, especially if they’re known to be particularly… risky.
Getting your average 3-piece and a coke from the Colonel might sound like a good idea on a lazy Tuesday evening, and it often pans out that way for a time. For a time. If you thought last year’s get-together at the local Escape Room was an adrenaline rush, you’ve obviously never had to ride the proverbial rocket as you try to live through the emergency evacuation that soon follows a fistful of fried chicken (complete with accompanying soundtrack). Maybe you’re a little less ritzy and decide to go to your nearest Kebda cart (end of month blues) for a quick nip on your way home from the office, because your understanding of a balanced diet is about as well-formulated as the Great Australian Emu War (look that up too). Sure, it’s liver, but do you know where it came from? Do you know how fresh it is? Do you have any idea how long the names of whatever fatal entity that live inside it are? Motherfucker might as well be martian meat, and each bite may as well be a leap of (poor) faith. All you can do is hang on tight (to whatever you can) as biology does what it does to your fragile little ecosystem, and you’ll enjoy it.
Notice how we didn't mention the ethnic cleansing that is eating feseekh during Egyptian Easter; how many other countries out there make it a priority to send out over 2,000 ambulances for one day a year just to cover all the inevitable poisonings?
Adrenaline, in layman’s terms, is the body’s reaction to impending danger. Along with seething fury, it is the engine that drives even the foolhardiest of folk to go through with heroic deeds, mortal danger and incredibly stupid (but fun) shit. It’s not limited to combat, punching sharks or extreme hide-and-seek (like regular hide-and-seek, but with tasers); you can get your fill of it from the people around you right here in the jewel of the Middle East.
As docile as we may seem, we will vehemently defend what we enjoy or believe in to near-death. You can land yourself in quite the combative conundrum just by voicing a contrary opinion in public. Need examples? Walk into your local Ahwa right now and repeat this phrase; “Mohamed Salah is a shit.” If each and every patron and their mother around you doesn’t pick up their shisha and start gunning for your neck as you run the fuck out of dodge, maybe you can try something a bit more political (you have fun with that though, we wouldn't even dare). Hell, having a disagreement with your barber can be just as heart-racing as bungee jumping (one of those includes razors against your neck), and if you decide to maybe piss off your local armed member of the law by using logic? Better have your Kevlar shirt on.
Get Used to It
Cairo, for all intent and purposes, is horror and chaos incarnate. Every small endeavour can easily be a death-defying feat of pure madness, and it is this fact that gives it its flavour, its essence. Yes, it’s a shithole more often than not, but it gives us our adrenaline fix, and you should stop to appreciate the kind of adventure you’re constantly in.