April 19th, 2009

Three Stops on the Cairo Metro

Posted in Africa and Middle East, Transportation by Christopher Szabla

Mar Girgis

Saad Zaghloul

Giza

Pending the completion of Johannesburg’s Gautrain, the Cairo Metro is the only rapid transit system in Africa. And for all the rot and deterioration that characterizes much of Cairo’s city center, it’s surprisingly clean and efficient, with stations that possess a maintenance level and design savvy that would be the envy some far wealthier cities, like New York.

The Metro does have a few relatively unique quirks — every train, for example, has one or two all-female cars, so single women can avoid the physical consequences of the harassment that’s all too common on the city’s streets. There’s even a station, St. Theresa, named for a Christian saint, which is a bit surprising in a country where the Coptic Christian minority often complains about social and political marginalization.

It’s also fairly incomplete, with two generally north-south routes but none traversing the city from east to west, leaving residents of some of the city’s most important neighborhoods without transit service. Though there are plans in the works to remedy this, including up to four new lines operational by 2022, lack of service is not so much of a problem for the denizens of relatively upscale parts of town like Zamalek, Mohandiseen, or Nasr City, who can either afford escalating or unreliable cab fares or skillfully negotiate them down. In a crowded, sweltering city of over 17 million people, where summer temperatures often soar well over 40 degrees Celsius, the Cairo Metro’s lack of air conditioning is its bigger problem by far.


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