Cairo, Egypt / by Camila Bernal

The air is hot and dry as I walk through the airport doors. I feel sweat drops on my lower back as I haul my backpack over my shoulder and make my way through a crowd of taxi drivers. As I wait for an Uber, I anxiously try to learn Arabic script in order to read the license plates. Cairo is exhausting, it’s masculine, loud, fast. Women in hijabs and burkas passed me by, they could have easily gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for their eyes, watchful and attentive, sometimes warm, wrinkled eyes as indicators of a hidden smile. Cairo is a megacity, with a metropolitan population of over 20 million people, but as we walked through el'arafa (City of the Dead) everything was still, the Necropolis was the quiet counterpart to a bustling downtown. While staying in a hostel in the city center, the noise became a buzzing in my ear, I would fall asleep with the frantic sound of car honks and I’d wake up with the calls to prayer. When I wondered the streets past midnight I saw the streets flooded with life, the summer heat becomes tolerable and people are eager for contact. I walked through a maze of markets that never seemed to end. Cairo is an organized madness, logical chaos.