Originally published in Alter Ego magazine, Jan 09
At the turn of the century, Cairenes marveled at the city Cairo was. As the biggest city in the Middle East, Cairo boasted more traffic, corruption and sexual harassment per dollar spent than anywhere else. It was the happening place if you were an average masochist who was into spending hours in traffic jams, had a relative in high government office or had unfulfilled “needs”.
The Second Great Depression (2007-2019) took a big toll on the world. The government, always on top of these things, responded via an array of hard-thought-out initiatives to combat the Depression’s impact on Egypt and on Cairo specifically. Curbs were painted, extra lanes were added to the 6th of October bridge and even cheaper high-speed internet was introduced! Surprisingly, those tried-and-tested techniques did not work this time. It was a time of confusion and in an eleventh-hour push, the government put together a fantabulous bid for Cairo to host the 2016 Olympics. Do I need to say more?
As that didn’t work out, change hit Cairo hard and soon the party was over. The danger that always lurked in the shadows was becoming a reality. A young, foolish government was elected. No one understood the new government’s radical ideas of focusing less on lavish Middle East peace conferences and co-chairing the fancy Mediterranean Union with France and focusing more on applying successful anti-corruption policies that were developed in ex-communist nations in the 1990s. Curbs were left unpainted for months. Ugh, they were barbarians.
By the middle of the 21st century, Cairo had been transformed into a new city. Downtown is no longer the strange mix it once was of cheap clothing stores, beautiful 19th century buildings and ugly, ugly new buildings. Zamalek, unfortunately, no longer exists. No one saw it coming, with the global warming and the rising Nile and all. I am happy to report though that Zamalekites (mostly foreigners, diplomats and übercool Egyptians) have migrated to higher grounds. Most importantly, corruption is no longer with us. I too miss getting my driver license back with one phone call after I am caught speeding.
By 2080, Cairo did not become the political or economic center of the region. However, better education and better governance has given Cairo a commanding middle class and propelled the city once again into a league it was once part of in the distant past. But it’s not all good news. Cairenes, to this day, find it hard to queue – it is genetically impossible for us. Traffic is still horrible. While we used to run out of gas in traffic jams on the 6th of October bridge, your Toyota Hovercraft runs out of jet fuel over the Nile. You need to swim fast and stay clear of the super-intelligent race of evil fish that now lives in the Nile. Officially, the evil fish don’t exist, since they are a result of a military experiment gone horribly wrong. My advice if you ever face them, never to look at the third eye; it agitates them and God knows you don’t want to do that.