Sometimes I prefer to walk.

There are certain aspects of city life in Cairo – the whir of traffic, the smell of great tureens of koshary and the cool night breeze off the Nile – that simply can’t be experienced in the back of a cab or on the Metro. So, when I feel like I need to feel the pulse of the city or when I just need to do some thinking, I walk home from the Nasser metro station to my apartment in Zamalek (**for previous misadventures about walking home, read my entry about getting lost in a slum in Calcutta trying to make my way home in July).

It’s about a half hour walk if I go quickly, and along the way I get to see the heart of the city. Emerging from the station I’m thrown out into several lanes of traffic. Minibuses dart out honking to patrons who run – and with one hand extended out – pull themselves into the buses as they speed away. Those trying to cross the street dodge and hustle their way through several lanes of traffic, under an overpass and onto the relative safety of the other side. No one stops for anyone; it’s the constant motion, the constant vibration of millions of individuals animated by the same force.

My usual strategy is to wait for an Egyptian to go and just follow. It’s like having a blocker. For me to go down, I know he’s got to go first…and for some reason that’s comforting.

I walk by children fighting, men smoking in coffee shops playing backgammon, shopkeepers reading the Qur’an, men wooing their hijabi girlfriends. I move in and out of traffic, avoiding the sidewalk which is always blocked off by some business or another.

I pass military checkpoint after military checkpoint, where both black clad officers inattentively mind their posts and white clad ones mumble into handsets.

Crossing the 26th of July Bridge the city comes into view. 5 star hotels crowd the waters edge of a placid Nile. It’s here that you can really feel the river’s breeze; the one thing that makes the Corniche bearable in the hot summer months. I pass a party boat where Western tourists, expats and a handful of Cairenes bump and grind to last year’s Rihanna hits.

Once I get to Zamalek, I know I’m close to home. Signs start to appear in English – and sometimes French – more than Arabic. Fast food joints like Hardee’s, Pizza Hut and Micky D’s line the road.

Luckily, though, the street youths are still chilling in the street chain-smoking. The shabaab are still being shabaab. I know I’m still in Egypt, even if they are wearing designer jeans.

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