I have found myself spending the winter in Egypt in a suburb of Cairo, called Maadi, and I wanted to write something about this place. I did not really pick it; I was offered a place to stay here and I accepted. But — together with my travels around the city and the country — being in Maadi offers an insight into contemporary Egypt.
It’s a suburban area about 12 kilometres south of downtown Cairo, not far from the Nile. As you may already know, Cairo is an enormous city, and it spreads for many kilometres on either side of the great River. Maadi is one of several wells to do suburbs that offer a respite from the megalopolis’s frenetic pace while retaining an urban charm all its own.
Compared to the newly-built districts of New Cairo City, Sheikh Zayed City and the 6th of October City, Maadi is older and more established, as you can see by the myriad old-growth trees that fill the landscape. The town was planned out in 1905 by Alexander J. Adams, a Canadian former officer. Adams created the wide boulevards and large villas that you can still see in the older parts of Maadi today, though most of the residences are blocks of flats. These are lovely apartments, attractively placed in the streets with lots of plants and trees. In the older part, the town planning is organized around roundabouts, and there are a lot of small gardens between streets.
Of course, Cairo is vast, and Maadi is pretty big too, and I have not seen all of it and probably will not. There are some immense highways and a lot of traffic in places. You will see juxtapositions like tuktuks racing along next to donkey carts and frantic minibuses, and you’ll have to dodge them all to try and cross the road. No crosswalks here! You have to get used to it. Watch the dogs cross the road, nonchalantly, and copy them.