If I’ve learnt one thing in previous travels it’s to not judge a book by its cover but despite this I’ve found myself doing exactly this with Cairo during the past week. A quick trip downtown and a taste of a livelier part of town however, has reminded me that there is more to this city than the smog, dust and poverty that seem to surround you wherever you go but I realise it is impossible to think everything in this, one of the oldest cities in the world, is okay.
It has been almost exactly a year since the Arab Spring took off in North Africa and there are still some die-hard revolutionaries on Tahrir Square as we approach the anniversary of the Egypt uprising. This part of the city is bustling and electric, but the condition of the rest of the city makes me wonder sometimes why the revolution only happened now. It’s a shame that a once majestic place has been allowed to reach this point of squalor and poverty and one can only hope that the country’s future is rosier than the past 30 years. Despite this, the locals still go about their business with a smile and their undeniable spirit is sometimes heart wrenching and sometimes infuriating as you don’t always know if you’re dealing with just another tourist haggler.
Back in TDA land though there aren’t a lot of things on cyclists’ minds except bikes, tyres and the next four months. But then again, it is exactly this capacity of the tour to take your mind of anything else except the next 100km that really makes it special.
At the first official bike shop of the year riders were excitedly meeting each other and sizing each other up and while their first taste of convoy riding might not have been as exciting as they would have hoped it did give them some sense of what Saturday’s ride to the Pyramids will be like. This is now the only thing occupying riders’ minds and with just about 24 hours left before they set off on this great journey no one can blame them.
– Catharina Robbertze