Thursday, September 4, 2008

Beeping Horns and the New AUC Campus

I do like Cairo, but after being in Turkey for two weeks; one week in the Southern Aegean on the beach, and the second week in Istanbul, which is now one of my favorite cities, some of the things I got used to about living in Cairo have become more noticeable post-vacation. For example, the traffic. One could write a thesis paper on the traffic in Cairo, but lately, I have been slightly annoyed by a couple of things. First, people driving incredibly fast down side streets, such as the one on which I live, and on which children are playing soccer, old people are sitting and selling corn and mint, and on which I am walking. Second, and this is not anything new, is the beeping of horns. Every Egyptian beeps his or her horn every time they get in their vehicle, all the time, without exception. A beep of an Egyptian horn may signify a number of things:

1. "Hello! How are you?"
2. "Move!" (to a pedestrian)
3. "Move!" (to another vehicle)
4. "Look out! I am next to you!"
5. For celebrations (often weddings, the beeping which goes: "daaah daaah dah dah dah!")
5. "I am coming through an intersection but will not slow down" (so I am going to beep my horn instead)
6. "Do you need a taxi?" (especially if you look like you are a Westerner)
7. "That woman over there pleases me"

I am sure many of you have read this article about the noise in Cairo from the New York Times, and I cannot stress enough how true this is.

The beeping is really quite loud.

On another topic, we trekked down to the new AUC campus today, which was not too much of a trek actually, because the bus, which was comfortable and air conditioned, picked us up not too far from our apartment and it only took an hour each way. I was happy to say that the experience was much better than I thought it would be and I am more optimistic now about the move and the new campus in general. The campus is quite beautiful, modern with an Egyptian touch, though it still does not look to me like it will be ready by next week, but hey, I am not a professional contractor. The CASA offices, for example, are half plastered, and have construction materials all over the floors. The library looks like a comfortable place to study.

So far, there is a Jared's Bagels, a Cilantro, and a Cinnabon on campus. There will be some other restaurants, including a McDonald's. I am not sure I will get the same Egyptian experience at the new campus that I was getting eating at the 1 Egyptian pound a sandwich hole in the wall ful (baked beans) and taamiya (falafel) place near the old campus in downtown Cairo. Also, the campus also has a very "campusy" feel, which is weird for me not having been in school for a couple of years. The undergrads are young (not that I am that old, but there is a big difference between myself and 18 year olds) and we talked to some graduate students today, who also happened to be very young.

We are thinking of staying at school until late during the weeknights to maximize our studying time. If we go to school, then take a 1 hour bus home, then try to eat, work out, and then study, we won't get anything done because it will be 9 o'clock before we ever get started. I think if we can schedule ourselves well we will be able to make good use of the new facilities, if they ever actually open. However, a 2 hour commute, class, and studying is a long and tiring day, so we'll see.

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