Just after finishing that last post and heading out the door of the internet cafe, a torrential downpour struck Homs, quite unexpectedly. The streets flooded, the traffic cop across the way retreated into his little capsule and, amazingly, I didn’t see any wrecks (amazing because of the very slick roads from an unexpected rain storm, not because of the lack of intervention of the traffic cop, who mostly just seemed to scold drivers for not yielding to pedestrians anyway). Figuring the rain would clear out fairly quickly, I waited out the storm underneath an awning, casting the occasional sympathetic look towards miserable-looking cyclists (who inevitably disobeyed the traffic light, though I’m not sure if it was in haste or out of habit) and guys on mo-peds, which seem to be quite popular here. After the winds changed direction, the terperature cooled, the thunder subsided and the rain cleared, I waited a bit longer for the water on the road to clear. Since my experience in Cairo riding only a couple kilometers in a simarly unusual rain storm, I was keen to avoid getting filthy in the same way. Another 20 minutes later, there were still puddles around, but it had mostly dried up, so I made my way slowly to the main strip and the cheap hotels. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘biking’
We dawdled a bit on the way out of Lattakia—getting up late, having a leisurely breakfast—mostly because we thought we’d have to take care of some bureaucracy to extend our visas, which meant we would want to leave after the worst of the mid-day heat had passed anyway. It turned out however, that we could wait an entire month before we had to renew our visas, despite what the entrance stamp and other sources said. We might have waited for another day, but our guide books indicated that our next destination of Qal`at Salah ed-Din was closed the next day. So, we made a stop for coffee and then headed up the hill to the castle at around noon.
The last several days have involved travel via a number of different modes of transportation. As I noted in my last post, the folks at the Jisr ash-Shughur train station were kind enough to store our bikes for us so that we could ride the train to Damascus to meet up with Adrienne. It was a bit strange to cover the distance we had taken three days to ride (admittedly with some significant scenic detours) in just a few hours. We arrived in Damascus early in the morning the next day, after an uncomfortable night’s sleep on the train. Still, we were in better shape than Adrienne, who had apparently required a little assistance getting to sleep the previous night and was still a bit groggy. Early as it was, we had some difficulty finding some food, so we sat for a bit in a little park, where, just before we got up to leave, the sort of wingnut I’ve rarely encountered outside of Santa Cruz approached us and seemed very much to want to “help” us. He was full of all sorts of praise for the European stock from which he had decided we all came. Despite the fact that some poor Texan was waiting for him, and despite the fact the we clearly weren’t interested in his “help,” he carried on and decided we really needed to know what our names looked like in bad, blocky Arabic and Armenian calligraphy. We eventually extricated ourselves from this self-professed philologist and headed to Mayssun’s house. (more…)
If ever there were a place that deserved to have this as their motto, Syria would be it. In the three days Elaina and I spent bike touring between Aleppo and Jisr ash-Shughur, we were constantly offered to share tea, eat food and stay the night. Even at grocery stores, we found it difficult, if not impossible, to exchange money for food or drinks. The country has so far lived up to its reputation for incredible hospitality, and that in spades. While this almost overwhelming hospitality, in combination with some pretty significant mid-day heat, has slowed down our forward progress, we have been able to travel in comfort, with most of our needs in terms of food, water, hygiene and rest generously taken care of for us.
My apologies to those who had been following my blog and were disappointed to find that I wasn’t updating since last spring. My access to the internet over the summer while I was bopping about North America was somewhat limited and it became difficult to get back in the habit of posting when internet was available again. In addition to this, I groaned every time I thought about trying to critically engage with the dominant political discourse around the US elections or the “world financial crisis”, a phrase I became tired of just as quickly in Arabic as in English. (more…)
Well, I had my first real bike wreck in Cairo today. I don’t count a previous incident which involved just me, my bike, the pavement and some poorly executed fancy maneuvers to fix a loose cog on the fly. In terms actual injuries, however, this is rather less severe than the latter. (more…)
A couple days ago I had a horrible time getting to school on Qasr Al-Aini St., my usual route to school. The road was completely gridlocked for many blocks, and I had rather a hard time getting through the tightly packed cars. I had originally thought that it had something to do with overall traffic chaos as a result of football fans rushing to buy up tickets to the final match of the African Champions League (taking place today), but I learned later that it was because of the inaugural session of Egypt’s Parliament, located off of Qasr Al-Aini. Al-Masry Al-Youm had an article about the impact of such sessions on the local traffic, traffic which I’ve discussed here extensively. It turns out they halt traffic to allow representatives to cross the street, but for long stretches of time. I don’t generally pay much mind to the traffic cops since, unlike drivers, they have no particular leverage over me, but the article mentions the impact on pedestrians as well. I generally take my cues from other cyclists, most of whom, like pedestrians, will cross roads where there is space to do so, no matter what the traffic police are telling the cars to do. I wonder if perhaps I’m not being a bit too cavalier when it comes to government representatives.
Here’s another attempt at filming my daily commute, to and from school (down Qasr Al-Eini—قصر العيني and back on the Corniche—الكورنيش). This one is not as crooked as the last, but rather more shaky. The traffic is a bit more exciting, though. More pedestrians, more wheelchairs, more crazy drivers, more horns, more cabbies absentmindedly sticking their arms out the window (another reason to plug those bar ends!), more greetings with the bawab (doorman), more close-up shots of my nostrils. Good times!
This was a bit of an experiment. I decided to see what would happen if I strapped my little digital camera to the shoulder of my messenger bag. Below is evidence of what happened. The video came out alright, and you can get a sense of what it’s like biking downtown, but it is tilted at a 45º angle to the left. I hope you don’t get a crick in your neck trying to watch this. Luckily, as you will see, it documents only my ride from home (you’ll hear me say good morning to the security guard downstairs) to the AUC campus, which, as it turns out, is only 4 1/2 minutes. Unfortunately, you can also generally only see to my left, which leaves something to be desired. My shirt sleeve also covered up part of the lens in the wind. A much better video is available here. (more…)
Despite not hanging out much with people, i seem to have made something of a name for myself. And it didn’t even require carrying a doll around. I’m apparently now well-known as the guy who rides his bike to school. (more…)
The food here is mostly pretty good. The taamaya (طعمية, what they call falafel here) is excellent. In most places, i’ve found the ful (فول, beans) to be pretty good, but it can be pretty bland in some places. We actually haven’t gone out to eat all that much. (more…)
I went a bit crazy for the short period when i wasn’t biking here in Cairo. (more…)
Cairo can be graceful and beautiful, suprisingly friendly at some times and strikingly ornery at others. But boy is it ugly when it gets wet! Okay, this is a ridiculous metaphor, but whatever. Last night and this morning, there was some crazy weather here in Cairo: high winds, thunder and lightning and a pretty substantial amount of rain, particularly for the desert. I was pretty excited, actually. I’ve loved watching thunderstorms since I was a kid in Ohio. That and fireflies were the two things I missed most when my family moved to California. Plus, I actually like riding my bike in the rain, too, as long as I’m not working and it doesn’t rain for weeks at a time (messengering in Seattle in late fall sucked).