Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Metro in Cairo

Have been wanting to buy clothes for my 6 year old for the last 1 month but kept postponing it as I wanted to go Downtown rather than buy it in Maadi. All roads in Maadi seem to lead to the Grand Mall and I was not about to go there again.

Fixed a plan with a friend to go Downtown by the Metro! When I had mentioned Metro to some colleagues in my husband’s office they had thrown up their hands in mock horror! La, la (no in Arabic), as a foreigner, it will be difficult for you. Well, difficult or not, I decided I shall not be deterred. In any case, I had my Egyptian friend for company who should be able to get us out of any sticky situation, should one arise.

So off we went to the El Maadi Metro station on Road 9. Bought our tickets - LE 1 for one person from Maadi to Downtown. The Cairo Metro, I believe, is the only full-fledged metro system in Africa. The system currently consists of two operational lines, with a third in planning / construction.

Like in some other countries, the first two cars of each train are reserved for women until early evening as an option for women who don't wish to ride with men in the same car, however there is no restriction on women riding any other cars. Currently, the metro services the most densely populated areas. On enquiring, I discovered that you can only go Downtown from Maadi on the Metro – no Mohandissien, no Zemalek.

The platforms were neat and clean and so were the compartments for women. The Metro reminded me a lot of the New York subway metro with one stark difference. The Metro in Cairo was full of Egyptian women wearing the head scarf / hijab. I had to look around really very hard to find an uncovered head. As my friend remarked, that’s a very easy indicator of differentiating the Coptics (Christians) from the Muslims!

The journey from Maadi to Downtown just took a little over 20 mins vis-à-vis the hour it would have taken me by car. It was a comfortable and short ride with no trouble at all, and, much faster! But more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to see really how much of Cairo is Islamic – much more than my cocooned world of Maadi made me beileve.

How to find a Metro station? Easy - look for the red M arches (not the McDonald kind)!

The Metro deposited us (very conveniently) bang opposite the Egyptian Museum and the Nile Hilton. After that, the world is your oyster!!

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