Millions of Cairenes in Cairo

giza district, cairo

Flying into Cairo, Egypt, you might get the impression that you’re going to land in a village. From the air, all you see is empty yellow desert, with a streak of green through the middle. But when you land, you are almost instantly thrown into a maw of urban living. People everywhere.

Most sources say around 7.7 million people live in Cairo, squeezed into the Nile Valley which is only few kilometers wide at this point, or on the near desert plateau. Official government statistics estimate the population density of Cairo at 31,000 person per square kilometer.

This is almost unimaginable coming from Washington DC. We have around 500,000 people in the Capitol with a population density of 3,597/km. How can so many people live in such a small space?

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A Year of Weather in a Week

Before I arrived in Egypt, I checked out the weather in Cairo online. It looked like it would be a nice, warm set of summer days. Highs in the 80’s, nights in the 60’s, everyone happy.

When I arrived, the first day was indeed perfect. The next few days it was cloudy and I could smell rain. No one else could though. As a waiter told me, it rained so rarely, like only 3 times a year, he didn’t know what rain smelled like. Even though I could smell the rain, it didn’t rain in Cairo, yet.

It did sandstorm though. A wonderfully dusty experience where I had this painful observation:

While the sand was collecting in every nook and cranny of my existence, I was reminded of another desert I tried to hold back: the Gobi. I didn’t succeed there either.

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