The Egyptian Tourist Board has some choice words to describe Cairo…” a vibrant, exhilarating, exotic, fascinating and welcoming city”.

However never believe anything a tourist board tells you. You’ll find that most of them use similar words to describe whatever god-awful place they are being paid to promote, including Hull which describes itself as “exciting, dynamic, eclectic, entertaining and friendly”…whether it is Arabic or English, they all read the same thesaurus.

Wikipedia has some more interesting words to describe Cairo, and probably Hull too…

“Air quality measurements have recorded dangerous levels of lead, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide…unregulated vehicle emissions, urban industrial operations and trash burning…4.5 million cars on the streets…serious respiratory diseases and eye irritations…unregistered lead and copper smelters….25,000 people a year die due to air-pollution related diseases….neurotoxicity, especially in children…10,000 tons of waste per day, 4000 tons of which isn’t collected…dangerously high levels of mercury in the water system.”

This explains why everything is brown. A building may have started out as a nice polychromatic piece of art-deco architecture in 1932 but within ten minutes it would have turned brown. That is if it ever got finished, which is unlikely. Most of the buildings in Cairo, and throughout Egypt, are unfinished. This is because you don’t pay land tax on a building if it is yet to be completed. Hence you live in the finished ground floor of a house but leave the first floor with no walls and just a pile of bricks and a bag of cement…with maybe a snoozing workman thrown in for dramatic effect. As a consequence of this, the entire country looks like one big building site. So take care, because your hotel balcony door is probably going to open onto a balcony made of nothing more substantial than brown air.


This nonsense has been going on for some years. It may even explain why the pyramids still look as if the plasterer didn’t turn up.

Apart from the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, Giza train station and the airport I can’t really claim to have seen much of Cairo. However I probably saw as much as I ever want to see from the back of a taxi. Anyway I think it was the back of a taxi. After a two hour drive from Giza to the airport in Cairo’s mental rush-hour traffic it could have been a padded cell in a Victorian asylum that only my mind ever actually left. The other inmates were busy wandering in and out of the moving traffic, driving nose to tail in their battered cars or burning piles of dead animals on the hard shoulder.

If Armageddon is indeed just around the corner, with all the nut-jobs we have in power now, and we face a future where the mutated remnants of the world‘s population scavenge their way through life from motorised machines (er, like in Mad Max), then Cairo is the place where we should all go to practice.

For my other guides to Egypt click here.