Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLXXX. A Return Visit (9 of 15)

Strolling through the streets of Cairo

I dedicated part of my time to just walk through Cairo. I was trying, at least in my mind, to compare the Cairo of yore with the present Cairo. And the difference was substantial.

Cairo and the surrounding areas have today (2011) 17 million people; presumably the population was lower back in 1996, nevertheless, this was a very densely populated city and it showed.

Wherever I went, there were always throng of people. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I had to make my way on the sidewalk.

The sidewalk were very high, why? So that cars cannot park on them! But they managed to do that anyway! How? It took me two years after I came back, to figure it out. They presumably carry a ramp in the trunk, or a nearby store provide them with one.

The cars were another story. It defied the laws of physics to try to fit so many cars on the road, but it was done. Traffic should have been bumper to bumper, but, generally, it was not. How was that possible?

The drivers had very little regard for the traffic rules. Traffic lights were non-existent, or where they existed, they were totally ignored. The cars went into a continuous stream, but absolutely necessary signalling took place. I asked a taxi driver how this was possible. He laughed and asked me how long I have been away from Egypt. When I told him “40 years,” he laughed even harder. It seems that the government had tried to bring order on the road, but it was all in vain. “You don’t know to what extent Egypt has changed,” he concluded.

The moral of the story: If you’re a foreigner don’t drive there unless you’re suffering from temporary insanity!

To cross the street, I had to find a place where the traffic was not so dense, and signal with my hands that I was crossing, actually, pleading for my life!

Other aspects of my stay in Cairo


Taxis were plentiful, anybody that had a car and wanted to drive a taxi did; not officially, of course, since a permit was required; in actual fact controlling the taxi business was near impossible. Taxis had meters, and it seems that that aspect of the business was enforced – well, sort of. The official tariff was absurdly low, and the fare was therefore negotiated in advance, plus a nice tip was expected. The meter was activated at the beginning of the trip, but nobody paid any attention to it!

It is through conversations with taxi drivers that I came to realize how much Egypt has changed. Not the make-up of the average Egyptian, rather, life itself which had become very hard.


“I am a university graduate, and work for the government during the day and drive a taxi after hours; my salary doesn’t even cover the rent.”

“I was in the army and got wounded during the war; what I get as a veteran is mostly symbolic. Egypt can’t afford to pay its returning soldiers.”

“I just came back from the Hajj and my savings are depleted, please send fares my way, here is my card. I have five children to feed.”

“Many young people are in despair, they graduate from university and can’t find a job, can’t get married, and can’t lead a normal life. Those that are particularly bright can get a job in a foreign company, but these places are very demanding, if you’re late, do not perform to their satisfaction, you can get fired!”

However, not all conversations were about the ills of Egyptian society. This driver is old, and is delighted to have an old-timer in his taxi. The conversation is about the actors and singers of the past; “they were the best,” he affirms. When we come to Farid El Atrache, the two of us can’t say enough. Since I told him that I am going to have breakfast, he insists on accompanying me, and we both share a delightful meal of foul. I pay my fare and pick-up the tab.


They range from the very expensive, to the absurdly cheap. The well-known and affordable ones that I visited at the time of my visit follows.

El Tab’a El Domiati. His fare was foul medames, falafel, tahineh, salads, tarachi (pickles) and other Egyptian specialties. His food was excellent and his (low) prices were beyond belief.

Abu Shakra. He specializes in kebab and kofta kebab. Grilled chicken and pigeons are sometimes available. His food was superb, and his prices reasonable. This is a strict Muslim restaurant, therefore, no alcohol is served. I loved his food and enjoyed his delectable lemonade; it beats a cold beer anytime!

Al Omdah. It serves only koshari, the “luxous” with butter, and the regular (and healthier) without it. Koshari is rice with black lentils, on the side you have fried onions and a tomato sauce which you add to your rice. The lemonade here is second to none, I ordered two when I went there.

Casino des pigeons. I often went there to dine with my parents. This restaurant, of course, specialized in pigeon, but grilled chicken could also be had. In the evening and night, it was also a place for lovers, but having come to Cairo by myself, I went there for lunch only.

For a variety of reasons, I was not happy at my hotel. Khaled, the coordinator of the travel agency, suggested that I move to the Nile Hilton, a 5-star hotel. “This would cost me a fortune,” I exclaimed. “Not so, I can get you a very good deal,” he countered. And he was as good as his word.

And so it was that early in my stay, I resided at this hotel which has become so famous since it was opened in 1959. Indeed, it was the first international hotel built in Egypt and the first Hilton in the Middle East.

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