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Place: Cairo Dis­tance: 10-ish kilo­me­tres Rat­ing: Easier than build­ing a pyra­mid Rea­son: Went to Egypt to ob­serve the elec­tions last year Route: From Nile City com­plex across Nile to Agouza and Za­malek, then to Tahrir Square and back t’s hard to leave your ho­tel to run Cairo if you’re not quite sure how the prover­bial lo­cal chick­ens cross the road. Just as well that the traf­fic in Cairo’s mean streets lets up slightly in the week that we’re there, ow­ing to it be­ing the Is­lamic New Year. It turns the whole week into a bit of a long week­end.

On Fri­days, the first week­end day for Mus­lim Egyp­tians, no­body goes to work any­way, so at least in the morn­ings, un­til mid­day prayers, the streets are runnable.

Even so, if get­ting up early while the other 15 999 999 peo­ple in the sup­posed 24-hour city that is Cairo are still sleep­ing (in­clud­ing the lot who par­tied the night away with a live band right un­der my win­dow) is a tad dif­fi­cult, the sight of the sun ris­ing over the Nile is an in­cen­tive to get me out there.

Aim­ing for the Im­baba Bridge, I turn right out of the ho­tel en­trance, with its heavy se­cu­rity and X-ray scan­ners, and hero­ically cross the Cor­niche el-Nil Road that runs along the great river.

On the other side of the Nile is the Giza gov­er­norate, where elec­tions are due the week af­ter this one. There are posters up ev­ery­where, but my lack of Ara­bic means I can’t de­ci­pher any of them. Leav­ing aside the de­bate about the le­git­i­macy of the elec­tions, it’s good to see fe­male can­di­dates up there too.

The Giza side of the river seems even dirt­ier than this side, but the views of the sun ris­ing over the Nile be­hind the palm trees are a good re­ward.

Za­malek, oc­cu­py­ing the north­ern por­tion of the lengthy Gezira Is­land in the mid­dle of the Nile, seems to be a bit neater. It is an af­flu­ent sub­urb play­ing host to many diplo­mats and ex­pat work­ers.

Down the side of the bridge are petrol garages and hawk­ers set­ting up greasy falafel, fried onion, aubergine and chip stalls for the late-break­fast/post-prayer lunch crowd.

The leafy path on the east­ern em­bank­ment of the is­land makes for pleas­ant run­ning, and the views re­main spec­tac­u­lar. It even­tu­ally leads to the Saad Zaghloul Pasha statue, which stands 16 me­tres high in front of the opera house on the one end of the Qasr el-Nil Bridge.

Zaghloul was an Egyp­tian rev­o­lu­tion­ary and states­man, and served as the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter for 10 months in 1924. He was the leader of Egypt’s na­tion­al­ist Wafd Party and fought against Bri­tish oc­cu­pa­tion.

When the statue was un­veiled in 1938 (along with a statue of him in Alexan­dra), it faced the Qasr el-Nil Bar­racks, which housed the Bri­tish army and where the Nile Hil­ton now stands. Zaghloul’s raised fin­ger had the de­li­cious am­bi­gu­ity of show­ing him in an or­a­tory pose, or show­ing the Bri­tish the fin­ger – alas, not a mid­dle one.

Zaghloul’s ex­ile in 1919 sparked a rev­o­lu­tion in Egypt, so it is per­haps fit­ting that, just across this bridge, is Tahrir Square (mean­ing Lib­er­a­tion Square), home of the 2011 Egyp­tian Rev­o­lu­tion.

The square is huge, but it isn’t one big, open, pedes­trian-friendly zone. Some of Cairo’s killer roads run through it too.

Af­ter pass­ing quite a few cof­fee shops and falafel stalls that are open­ing or host­ing early morn­ing cus­tomers, I re­turn to Cor­niche el-Nil Road to take in more views.

Down be­low, a lone man is fish­ing from a di­lap­i­dated lit­tle wooden boat ma­rooned on the river bank. It’s not about to cast off any­time soon, due to all the wa­ter leak­ing into it.

It makes me think about Egypt’s tourism busi­ness, which has gone down by about a third since the 2011 rev­o­lu­tion.

To read the full blog post, visit carien­run­sthe­world.files.word­press.com


A man waits for a bite in a wa­ter­logged boat along the banks of the Nile

VOTE OF THANKS A poster from the 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions can be seen along the run­ning route around Cairo

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