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Reading ‘Fairyland’ in Nairobi

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The book: Fairyland, Alysia Abbott

The place: in Nairobi traffic.

I do a great deal of my reading at the moment in taxis traversing the horrific Nairobi traffic. It was the same in Cairo, though at least when I lived there my patterns were more predictable: a 9am taxi from Zamalek to Downtown, which would usually take about 20 minutes, depending on the snarled traffic on 26 July Corridor, and a taxi back the other way, somewhere around 6pm if I didn’t have an Arabic lesson after work, or 7.30pm if I did. The return taxi was always harder, both to flag down in the first place, and then to navigate through the traffic, often taking between 45 minutes and an hour – but I never got sick of crossing the bridges, Zamalek Tower in the mist and the Saraya Restaurant lit up against the Nile – not to mention my awkward and halting Arablish conversations with a motley crew of taxi drivers (my favourite being the one who appeared to be asking me whether it was true that Peter Crouch was the son of Queen Elizabeth I).

Living in Nairobi, as I now seemingly do, is having the odd effect of making me miss Cairo enormously. I am honestly trying to like Nairobi, and it has myriad advantages: many friends here (mostly former Juba people); high quality restaurants – including multiple places to get good sushi; it is green and cool (in fact more on the cold side at the moment) and things mostly appear to work, at least in comparison to places like Juba and Mogadishu. And yet. My favourite things about Nairobi remain things around it, rather than in it; the game park, the tea plantations (where I went horse-riding last Sunday), the 90-minute flights to the coast. It just doesn’t feel like a real city to me, just a series of malls and suburbs strung awkwardly together by traffic-clogged streets – while Cairo, for all its faults, is undoubtedly a metropolis; it has a verve and a life and an energy that I have found quite lacking in Nairobi, so far. Perhaps I just don’t know it well enough yet. I hope that’s the case.

But oh, Cairo:

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Written by Jess

July 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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