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Make Me Happy

Make Me Happy
outlookindia.com
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It’s noisy, chaotic and full of surprises. If you can put up with traffic jams and the crush of humanity, Cairo can be one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Like all pulsating cities, it is full of contradictions. Walk among the colourful lanes of Islamic Cairo, then take a boat-ride on the calm waters of the mighty Nile. Drive across the spanking new flyovers and bridges and catch sight of the only surviving ancient wonder of the world, the Great Pyramids. Watch a voluptuous Egyptian belly-dancer in a club and see the faithful bend in prayer in the mighty mosques of the city.

Sixteen million people are crammed into this city that stands at the crossroads of Arabia and Africa—covering all shades of ethnicity from both sides and sundry international hangers-on. Those with a sense of history and geography can’t miss the magic of Cairo. It’s the capital of the most populous country in the Arab world. Egypt also has the second-highest population in Africa after Nigeria. It’s a timeless city: ancient pharaonic relics, medieval Islamic monuments, colonial European-style buildings and, now, satellite townships, depressingly similar to Noida and Ghaziabad, where most of middle class lives. In this city, straight out of One Thousand and One Nights, cabbies have a suggestive opening line. "You make me happy, I make you happy," is the vague promise they hold out to the uninitiated who try to fix a price. At journey’s end, it’s a one-word request every Indian must understand, "baksheesh".

As Egypt gets nearly five million tourists a year, Cairo cabbies are great at spotting nationalities. An Indian man is flattered with "Amitabh Bachchan sir, you look just like him" or "Indian just like Egyptian". Chinese travellers are greeted with an enthusiastic "Jackie Chan, very good, no?"

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