1. That greyish brown film covering everything.
We’d only been walking around for about a half hour when I started to get a sore throat. At first I was worried I was getting sick on my first day in Egypt. It didn’t take long to realize that the pain in my throat was in fact an adverse reaction to the smog-diesel-dirt-dust-exhaust that covers every surface and is a palpable component of the air. By the end of the day my feet were black with pollution.
From the moment I arrived I felt surprisingly safe in Cairo. On the whole the people are warm, friendly, and welcoming. Though the city is replete with touts and tourist scams it is not as bad as I expected, and the rate of violent crime remains very low compared to cities like New York. Anyone with decent intuition can sense that immediately. Though you may feel a man mentally undressing you at every corner, you will rarely feel threatened by the possibility of theft, mugging, rape, or other violence.
3. Man it sucks to be a woman here.
I appreciate that many women choose to wear the burka or headscarf out of modesty. However, I fail to understand how cultural and religious traditions that require nearly complete bodily coverage could possibly have been adopted in a geographic area prone to temperatures of 100+ degrees for several months a year and 80+ year round. When temperatures enter the triple digits and the sun is unrelenting, I want to be able to choose to wear shirts and a tank top without deriding my moral character. But for the time being I am wearing floor length skirts or pants, shirts with longer sleeves and modest necklines. (I did succumb to the heat on day two and wear short sleeves for most of the afternoon.)