I am often asked, mostly by taxi drivers, what religion I belong to. I have given various answers, all of them funny, but it has dawned on me, the driver is really enquiring after how he should dispose of my body.
We are all going to have to go one day. And living in Cairo increases your chances of a fatal accident, reduces your life expectancy and lessens your worries about a retirement plan.
Clare had only just left her apartment in Zamalek when an air conditioning unit crashed at her feet. A monstrous hunk of metal rained from a sixth story apartment, shattering the pavement and launching shards of cement in all directions.
Walking anywhere increases your chances of dying. Expats are always turning up with bandaged limbs from falling down holes or tripping up on the steeple chase which is any casual stroll around your neighbourhood.
It is safer to drive or catch a cab, for even the shortest of journeys, but then you risk an accident. Clipping a pedestrian, having a flat tire, stopping for benzene and being blown up by the attendant smoking whilst pumping your gas or in one case being driven off by a properly crazy driver and almost kidnapped.
But that is nothing. A German Sheppard dog fell out of the sky and crashed through the awning of the 19th Hole Restaurant that was shading Jennifer of “Jennifer’s Nursery , whilst she was having a drink with friends. The dog broke her back. I don’t know if that is better or worse than having your horse fall down one of the pot holes at the pyramids and rolling on top of you, which happened to Ann Louise.
Either way it seems, animals are dangerous and Egypt is also one of the world’s high risk areas for bird flu.
Possibly a helmet may guard against random objects raining down. Because, Marilyn was in a Zamalek bakery and its marble façade peeled off and tumbled down, smashing to pieces as it banged into Brazil Street.
When first arriving in Cairo, I was warned against taking a Peugeot 504 on journeys outside of Cairo, they were described as flying coffins. Taxis plague the city, Egypt’s death toll on the roads is best summarised by seeing the Mel Gibson movie, “Mad Max , so I was glad to read recently about the government sponsored conference on road safety.
Only this week the thermostat on my kettle failed and the kitchen filled with steam and the smell of melting plastic. The electricity fizzed from the malfunctioning unit, the first step to a fire. My column doesn’t have room for all those who have been zapped, though Damian, who is a big guy, was thrown across the room and knocked out, after touching a live socket.
Three of my work colleagues have experienced fires in their apartments. Admittedly, one was due to a Cuban diplomat burning “papers , filling the stairwell with smoke and was a false alarm. Remember the three house boats that blazed three years back. Fire is scary and so are many of the elevators. They, I predict will be my downfall.
The emergency services maybe contacted on 121 or 122 free call.
Of course it is not all Cairo’s fault and sometimes people only have themselves to blame. Such as an incident before Christmas at a party to celebrate the opening of a new diplomatic mission and one of the guests tripped down the stairs cracked his head and I understand died.
Another embassy, and I think I can mention their name because they always throw the best parties, the Canadians, officially warned their employees against the local liquor. Basically poison, though this could never be said about the local wine!
Jane, an archaeologist, won’t wear her diamond engagement ring in Cairo. She said, “In Australia I couldn’t leave it at home because house burglaries are so common, and here, if you are involved in an accident, your rings and watch are the first things to go . Thus hospital jobs are sought after, especially in the emergency room where one can get first crack at the gold fillings in victim’s teeth.
I think my gut has acclimatised now, but my first dose of rotten fish from a downtown restaurant had me cramped in excruciating pain, leaking from all orifices and sweating as if I had malaria. The gypy tummy returns occasionally, but visitors rarely do. They always seem to get hit, often on a Luxor to Aswan cruise and the memory of being wrapped around the porcelain all night keeps them at home.
So, Egypt’s Parliament is now debating a new law about terrorism to replace the Emergency Act. Fine, as long as they realise the terror is in the kitchen, that gas bottle is a ticking time bomb, you know.