Sometimes, It's Good to be a Follower
For decades, Zamalek has been the face of luxury living in Cairo. Its long and illustrious history, royal palaces, beautifully-designed villas, quaint streets and overall elite-as-shit vibe has made it virtually the only in-Cairo neighborhood that people still aspire to move to, compared to the masses migrating to 6th of October and New Cairo districts.
By all means, Zamalek is still arguably one of the nicest neighborhoods in the capital city, offering a good mix between commercial, entertainment, and residential experiences to its inhabitants, but… if you’ll allow us the honor, we’d like to show you a side of Zamalek seldom talked about.
This is perhaps the understatement of the century, but I will bet you a month’s paycheque that you cannot walk more than 100 meters in any direction in Zamalek without almost stepping in dog shit. Zamalek is a literal dog-shit minefield, one that we have to dodge like we’re in World War One trenches every single time we venture outside our homes or offices.
Zamalek, owing to its more affluent residents, is a super dog-friendly neighborhood, but it seems no one taught those super affluent folk basic manners because they’ll be damned if they pick up after their own dog’s stinky business.
Call me a zealot, but I think it’s not much to carry a small plastic bag, wear it as a glove, securely grab your dog’s doodoo, flip the bag and toss it in any nearby trash can. Does that sound like something degrading or off-putting? Do you know what’s more off-putting? Your dog’s literal shit stuck on the sole of my shoe because you’re actually a walking piece of shit.
The issue is further compounded when you realize just how infested Zamalek is with cops, owing to the presence of so many diplomatic delegations. It would be so ridiculously easy to issue fines to those not picking them their dogs’ droppings but who are we kidding…
Are you a Zamalek resident? Are you a car owner? Do you have a reserved and/or guaranteed parking spot by your house? Congratulations, you’re among the 1%!
For some reason, perhaps an actually smart reason in hindsight, Zamalek’s buildings were not designed to have subterranean garages and as such, every single side street features double – if not triple – parked queues of cars. If you do not have your own “sayes”, (note: Google if there’s an English word for sayes that isn’t valet because they’re absolutely not that) then you’re pretty much destined to roam around the streets of Zamalek looking for a parking spot and never be able to do so; it’s essentially the contemporary version of the Myth of Sisyphus.
In fact, if you’re a Zamalek resident and have managed to nab a parking spot for your car that didn’t involve signing your firstborn to your local sayes, we highly recommend you cover that baby up and just sort of leave it there, forever.
This one’s a bit of a newbie relative to the other entries, but it’s grown in expanse noticeably over the past few months. If you haven’t visited Zamalek over the last six months and just only recently waltzed in, perhaps on your way to Euro Deli for a forgettable salad and a coffee to go, you might be forgiven for thinking you drove into Palestine’s West Bank instead.
Everywhere you look in Zamalek nowadays, huge grey slabs of concrete have been erected around and in front of the diplomatic missions that litter Zamalek’s streets. Whether it’s an embassy, an ambassador’s house or a military attache, the streets have now become overrun with these eyesores that have taken away much of Zamalek’s aesthetic claim to fame and have left us instead with a growing sense of not knowing where the hell we are because all the streets look the same now.
Note: This particular entry is, in a sense, somewhat biased due to the author’s pronounced disdain of any Homo sapiens under the age of 18.
Did you know there are 28 f***ing schools in Zamalek? Despite being a fairly tiny island as far as islands go, there’s a school between every other school and they are hell on Earth.
Starting 6:30 A.M. every single weekday, you’re greeted by the horns of dozens of buses as they descend upon Zamalek’s streets, dropping off one drool and poop-infested child after another. The following note in that symphony is what can only be described as a constant shrieking between the hours of 7:00 A.M. and 7:45 A.M. when the little beasts are left to roam the school yards freely, basking in their freedom by yelling out what can only be compared to the mating calls of a street cat for the better part of an hour.
If you think classes starting would lead to a relative quiet, you’ve obviously not been to school in some time because you skipped over everyone’s favorite part: the national anthem singing. See, it’s not that I’m against the concept of them singing the national anthem per se, it’s mostly that I’ve developed a theory that they intentionally pick the kid with the most banshee-like voice to be given the microphone and bombard every ear within a one-mile radius with its shrieks; proclaiming this nation of no noise laws, to be the greatest on Earth.
I feel like mentioning the complete traffic gridlock that happens between 1:30 P.M. and 3:00 P.M. in Zamalek and brings it to a complete standstill as all the little beasts are ferried back to whatever literal hell they came from is just a footnote at this point.
Before you assume we’re about to say the obvious, we’re actually super pro there being an underground metro in Zamalek. If anything, it’s quite late in arriving to this particular neighborhood which can stand to see less cars entering it and more pedestrians waltzing about instead.
That being said, our pitchforks and torches are directed at the particular location chosen for the titular Zamalek metro station (It’s just by Rooftop bar hotel in case you didn’t know) which, to date, baffles us whenever we pass by and duly reminds us that the concepts of urban planning and public transport are based on whims in this country.
Why would you put a main station so far away from anything of importance as far as the masses are concerned? The station is located on Mohamed Mazhar street right in front of the Dar Al Tarbiya school (which seems to be the only winner here). The street’s only claim to fame aside from a few more schools down the road (because duh) is the presence of about seven or so embassies; hardly the destination-choice of tens of thousands of Egyptians set to use this new metro line once it’s operational.
What about 26th of July street, you know, the one buzzing with businesses that actually attract decent footfall? No? What about the banks of the river, which could have made for not only a more picturesque backdrop when entering or leaving the metro, but could have also spared several ancient buildings the risk that the current location poses. No?
Sometimes, It's Good to be a Follower