The reality finally set in: I’m in Africa
It was day four in Africa before reality truly hit: I was in Africa. There was a little bit of a jolt when I was leaving the Cairo Airport as I first got to the continent. Six rows of cars on a four lane road, weaving in and out of each other like a Hollywood movie. The realization finally hit home during the adventure from Cairo’s downtown to the heart of Alexandria.
On the way to Alexandria, I left the “face” (as one Egyptian called it) Cairo puts on for the world. As we departed the limits of the city, the less-tourist/main media side of Africa started to show itself. Here are some of what I saw that made it a it bit more of a reality.
As we left the outskirts of Cairo, we passed a small pick up truck packed with styrofoam (maybe they recycle – never thought to ask til writing this). Laying on top of the styrofoam to keep it blowing away is a 14-16 year old son. His father is driving. We passed them at 120km/h (barely). They were doing likely just over 100km/h.
We are doing 180km/h on a brand new, eight lane freeway through the desert. There are parts where traffic comes to a complete halt – the road has turned to gravel/dirt for a few hundred metres.
Kids are playing soccer/football on a dirt, rock-covered field. Maybe I witnessed the next international superstar-in-the-making (in cleats 3 sizes too big).
Saw four or five small pick-up trucks with 18-20 road construction workers sitting in the back (in North America – probably would have been 7 – huge differences in waist sizes). The Egyptian I was with said not to worry – they are only workers (and perhaps a farmer or two catching a lift). Even still, social class plays an important role on the continent.
When we were stuck in traffic, were given a slight bump by the car behind us. This is normal in Africa so nothing was done (if I was back home, my temper may have got the best of me). However saw two incidents which even natives themselves consider accidents. One was a car and pick up truck that were totaled. The other one was between two semi trucks who had a head on. The cab of one of the trucks was obliterated. There were only the four tires of the cab attached to some metal which one would call the axels on a drivable truck. A reminder of the differences in safety standards. When most vehicles are 10+ years old, no wonder there can be catastrophic accidents (and must be a large contributed to Cairo’s very high levels of pollution and toxins in the air).
Also, most cars do not have seatbelts. If they do, normally only the driver and passenger seats. I never once saw an Egyptian wear a seatbelt.
Garbage is piled along canals and waterways (in Egypt, definitely not the Nile). Every so often it is set on fire. Normal to drive along a canal and see patches of suffocating smoke from the fires.
The army runs, and makes profits, from managing gas stations. All (I saw) are full-service with soldiers in uniform directing cars, filling gas tanks (or as I refer to cars: hunks of metal that make things more convenient).
Prisoners from passing by prisons were on the sides of the road doing slave labor.
Adam is currently traveling Asia, Africa and Europe. Follow him on Twitter (adam13goodwin) – #travels2012. You can connect with Adam by: Twitter (@adam13goodwin); Email (firstname.lastname@example.org); Web (www.adamkgoodwin.com); In-person