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Archive for December 22nd, 2011

Jet Lag in Cairo

It’s 5.17am in Cairo, and I have been up and about for more than two hours. The Azan call has just been sounded, one mosque after another blares their speakers, calling out to Muslims to perform their first prayer of the day, the rhythmic Arabic verses ripple through the winter chilling air, reaching every corner of the city resided by 20-million people.

It’s still dark out there, only a faint orange-grey hue is starting to filter through the sky in the distance horizon. From my 8th–floor hotel room’s balcony overlooking Cairo Downtown, I could see silhouette of numerous satellite dishes sitting on rooftops, puncturing the skyline. The streets below are still void of traffic, though I could hear occasional horn beeping and passing cars from a distance.

The blocks opposite my hotel, lights are shining through a few windows with french balconies, just a few lighted households showing signs of early morning activities, other than that, all is quiet. The streets in Downtown are lined with European-style architecture, these are the buildings raised up on a once swampy plain during a city make-over in the 1860s, by a ruler who returned from Europe and determined to transform the city into Paris by the Nile.

Somehow, I have the feeling that these buildings are left standing to decay, as many of them clearly lack maintenance, additional makeshift and non-descript concrete structures are springing up on neo-classical buildings’ rooftops, some balconies appear to be near-collapse, and the elevators that chomp up and down these buildings are moving through crack walls or iron-grill gates covered in cob-webs.

But in this early hours of the day, the city’s aging facade doesn’t seem as old under the disguise of semi darkness, until daylight breaks, the vibrancy of this over-crowded city is also contained. Having wake up so early from jet lag, I am enjoying a rare moment of tranquillity in Cairo.

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