On Thursday (Feb 25), an almost annual event happened in Cairo. Not just Moulid Al-Nabi (the Prophet's birthday). Rain. In Cairo. In fact, this was not just rain. This was thunder, lightning, rain and HAIL.
Since it doesn't rain that often in Cairo (see above: annual event), the streets are not designed to handle runoff water. So what ends up happening is that the water sits in the street until it either evaporates or someone comes to take it away in buckets. Whichever happens first (and its not always the latter...). Cairo is normally a pretty dusty and dirty city which tends to happen to cities when they are a) in the middle of a desert and b) has a lack of efficient city garbage services. When you add rain with no where to go to the mix of dust and dirt you get...mud. Lots of mud.
Another shining example of the ineptitude of the city's inability to deal with rain is the fact that many if not most of the older taxis do not have windows that workably move up and down. This can be slightly annoying during the winter when its cold in the morning and I'm sitting in the taxi and there is cold air blasting through the windows. But can you imagine it being cold, wet AND you're job is to drive a taxi?
It also so happens that as the first night of the weekend (weekends are Friday and Saturday in Egypt), meaning everyone wants to go out. Which means lots of cars on the street. And there's lots of rain. From the storm. So there's lots of water, mud, cars, and the inevitable traffic. But this wasn't normal traffic. This was only the type of traffic you can get in Cairo.
I was just trying to grab a couple beers with some friends downtown. From where I live in Zamalek this is usually a 10 minute ride for around 5 LE ($1). I stood on the main street in Zamalek (an island in the middle of the Nile) for over 20 minutes waiting for a cab. I crossed the street several times ready to settle for grabbing a cab going the wrong direction. Finally, when I was about to just start walking across the bridge, I found a cab (one with closing windows and a meter).
Its a good thing I found a nice new white cab, because it took over an hour to get downtown. The traffic was so bad that I walked the second half of the way to where I was going. And still paid 15 LE ($3).
Eventually I got to Odeon, a rooftop bar in downtown Cairo, Stella (the local Egyptian beer) was ordered, fun was had, and the streets were clear by the time I left.