While we were still in Maadi, Ron made the wild suggestion that we try to catch the sunrise by the pyramids one morning. Never one to say no to a wacky adventure (see current life as example) we planned ahead with packs of water and nuts ready to go, and a pile of maps. One issue with maps here is that there’s not one that ever suffices. There is also not one that covers all of Cairo. So we use a combination-method and try to overlap and keep our fingers crossed. But there are entire areas of Cairo that are just not on any map. That, plus the issue of lack-of-street-signs (though Zamalek is well-signed, I’m delighted to announce), almost guarantees our driving excursions turn into getting-lost excursions.
With low expectations of getting there, but high expectations of seeing something interesting, we stumbled out of bed at 4:30am and struggled to the car. We knew the general direction we wanted to go, so we pointed the car into the west and drove on.
The morning was a typical Cairo morning, very hazy (which means chunky visible pollution), with low general visibility. Basically it was un-pretty. But we took the highway out, passing by Cairo highrises with the colors and textures of flapping laundry breaking the brick-and-mortar monotony; witnessing the unfinished buildings, with wooden scaffolding intermixed with satellite dishes (in climates like this, roofs apparently are of less importance than Cable TV).
We weren’t sure what road to take off of this one to reach the pyramids, but when we literally came to the end of the road at this weird structure, with a metal pyramid-montage sign, and only a few resident dogs meandering about, we figured we’d missed something. We turned around, under the very watchful eye of the local canines, and drove back the way we came.
On the chance that we might randomly pick the right road, we took the next exit available. It didn’t lead us to the pyramids, but we did wander along a small canal, passing small farms, palm trees, a few watermelon carts already out with their wares, some small villages, rug-making factories, mosaic stone displays, more stray dogs (some guarding the unfinished floors of structures – I fought the urge to get out and make sure he had food and water and a way down, as I did not have dog food, bowls or a ladder on me – damn my lack of Boy Scout training).
We did get to catch the sunrise over the green fields. It was still very hazy though (I think this was actually one of the worst mornings we’ve had). We drove around a little more, and then decided we’d had enough getting-lost for one morning and were ready to head home. As we crossed the bridge back over the Nile the sun’s rays still hadn’t been able to permeate the pollution haze. Despite our lack of success in seeing the pyramids this morning, we felt we had accomplished something. Little by little, we may just explore every inch of the non-tourist areas Cairo has to offer.