Crossing Tahir Square

Posted on: March 12th, 2011 | No Comments

Just weeks before, Tahir Square in central Cairo was the focus of the revolution that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.  Sure, some of the pavement stones are missing (ripped up for use in the rioting, exposing desert sand underneath), a few of the surrounding buildings were scorched and the tourists vacated the place (it was only dicey for a few days and is now perfectly fine).  But it’s still a thrilling place, ringed by travel agencies, fast food restaurants and the Indiana Jones-worthy Egyptian Museum.  And while Egypt is hardly off the beaten path (12 million tourists come here a year), it definitely retains a lot of the reasons people come here in the first place. 


The issue is with navigating the place on foot.  Cairo’s streets are notoriously chaotic and, to put it diplomatically, free flowing.  The recent revolution hasn’t changed that one bit.  Witnessing this firsthand is the best way to get to experience this but a little foreknowledge is helpful.  There are at least two ways to cross the streets that make up Tahir Square:    

Crossing Method 1 – The local way

How to: Assume a steely demeanor with a focus on the far curb, use only peripheral vision, boldly walk into traffic, pause only if a speeding car would unavoidably run you over, continue walking.  Drivers will somehow and miraculously steer their cars around you.    

When to use it: If you are a native Cairiene or long term resident, or have had several drinks.   

Crossing Method 2 – The prudent way

How to: Find other pedestrians who are about to cross (school kids and the elderly are better because they will not walk as fast), get close to them but “downstream” of traffic, look both ways and keep a close look out, cross at the same pace as the other pedestrians (ok we’re talking about using them as “human shields”).  Drivers will slow and sometimes even stop allowing the group of pedestrians to cross. 

When to use it: If you are new to Cairo. There is also a metro subway train beneath the square which can used to get from one side of the square to the other but how much fun is that?

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