I am in Egypt for business, and decide to try something new prior to my meeting today. Namely to run through Cairo city at dawn. I want to cross some of the bridges over the Nile, and to get a close-up impression of how this huge and lively metropolis wakes up.
It is a few minutes past 5 a.m. and I leave the Hilton Ramses Hotel. The security guards at the entrance greet friendly, but seem to wonder why on earth someone would exit the hotel in sports gear at this time. I do not care and I start running along the Nile while the day light slowly gets brighter.
Two street children are laying on a traffic refuge where they seem to have slept overnight. A stinky and noisy truck is collecting the numerous garbage plastic bags which the inhabitants and shop owners have deposited on the pavement for collection.
I am crossing the Nile on one of the many bridges. It takes me to the west side, and while on the bridge I am looking upstream the river and realize the brown smog covering the whole of Cairo. I continue with steady pace and a bit later arrive in an area with many small shops.
The morning air is mild, dense and full of odors. Every street, every meter has a different smell: sometimes it smells like rotten garbage, then exhaust, then fresh bread from a bakery, or a mix from many different herbs and foods under preparation. I jump over some puddles with water which exist after someone cleaned the street, I jump over a garbage bag and over some deep holes in the pavement. Even if I want to observe what is happening around me, I also need to keep my eyes on the ground.
Two Egyptians watch me with a mix of interest and surprise while they enjoy their early morning tea in front of a small café. But most people simply ignore me. Cairo is now wakening up more and more, the streets are getting lively and increasingly crowded, both with people and traffic. Everywhere there is life. Cats, dogs, people, even a donkey in front of a cart full of fresh grass. And thousands of cars.
After an hour I arrive back in my hotel. During this jogging trip I have seen streets and corners of Cairo which I have never seen before, and where most visitors wouldn’t go. I love this! What a great way to start the day!
Photo source: Raduasandei at en.wikipedia