Saturday, October 23, 2010

The smog and the prayers

Smoggy Cairo
Now that I'm in Alexandria, I can breathe again. Late afternoon is when smog rolls the most heavily
into Cairo. It is unlike any smog I have ever seen.

When the sun first goes down, and the air has cooled considerably by the Nile, traffic is still jumping but the Vegas atmosphere has not yet begun. I would listen to the traffic and enjoy a cool breeze from the balcony of my hotel room. The occasional Arabic song - music I have discovered I love - would waft up to me.

But the smog! You can chew it. It burned my eyes and invaded my nostrils and my throat. It was like sitting next to a campfire, except that there was also a sweet, cloying stench to it.

It is recommended that people with allergies and asthma limit their time in Cairo. As I sat on my balcony, enjoying the breeze and music and chewing the air, I could understand why. Fortunately, I seemed relatively immune to it. I guess Southern California has toughened me.

Several times a day, something else washes over Cairo. It is the call for prayer. It reminds me of the Vespers I heard in Italy. No matter where you are, it comes across a loudspeaker from somewhere. I think it's beautiful.

I read that when called to prayer, people will kneel wherever they are, even along the sidewalk. While I saw this a couple of times, most people out in the streets did not do this. I suppose they were too busy dodging traffic.

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