Friday, November 02, 2007

Outing to Carrefour at Maadi City Centre

Today is Friday, the first day of the weekend in Egypt, and a quiet day on the roads. I got up early today, made myself a simple breakfast and set off to Carrefour at Maadi City Centre, rearing to try out my taxi vocabulary. I hailed a taxi easily, shout out the name of the Metro station and got on the taxi.

By the way, Metro is the name of the mass rapid transit in Cairo. Although it is essentially an MRT system, it is more like a rail system. For those in Singapore, think the 3rd class train on Malayan Railway from Tanjong Pagar, if they still exist. For those in Taiwan, it like the 平快 or 电车. The stations and trains are not air-conditioned but with the windows opened, it's actually not too hot inside. The ticket is cheap, just 1 EGP (or about 30cents) to travel from Dokki to Maadi, about 10 stations away. The meagre price tag explains the pathetic condition of the stations and trains. Appearance aside, it's actually quite easy to commute in the Metro with the English transliterations of the station names. There are two lines running east/west and north south. The east/west line runs from El Mounib in the west through Giza (where the Great Pyramids are) to Dokki, where are got on, all the way to El-Marg in the north east. The north/south line runs from Shobra in the north through Sadat, the interchange where I changed train, to Helwan in the south, going through Maadi where I got off.

The Metro ride is pretty fast, about 20 minutes, but the problem started after I reached Maadi. Mistakenly thinking that the Carrefour is at the Grand Mall, I started walking towards it. In fact, Carrefour is at the far flung corner of Maadi that will take me hours to reach by foot. To make the matter worse, I took the wrong turn and ended up walking in the opposite direction until I reached the Nile! I asked someone along the way for directions and I was told to take a taxi instead. The first taxi driver wanted 20 EGP from me which I though was a rip-off. So I continued walking until I saw a yellow City Cab which normally charges by meter. I got on and arrived at Maadi City Centre in 15 minutes. Guess what, the meter was 20 EGP.

The Carrefour here in Maadi City Centre is comparable to the Carrefours I have been in Singapore and Taiwan. It is big, clean and well-stocked. Here's a video clip I took at Carrefour.

I have practically made up my mind to find an apartment in Maadi next year when I bring my family along. The Maadi City Centre is a new modern shopping centre with Carrefour as the anchor store and it also features many international brands like Levis, Esprit, Starbucks and even Mothercare. I think the shopping mall should be fully opened by March next year.

After buying a few items at Carrefour, I got out and started looking for a taxi to bring me back home to Mohandiseen. A nice chap waved at me and asked for 50 EGP for the trip up north. I bargained for 30 but settled for 40. It turned out that this guy is no ordinary taxi driver with a crap taxi like the ones abound. He is a part-time taxi driver with a nice clean comfortable sedan and so the 40 EGP is definitely worth it. His name is Nasser and he speaks quite good English for an Egyptian taxi driver. Nasser gave his card to me and told me that he is normally available on the afternoons from Saturday to Thursday and the whole day for Fridays. He can also ferry me around if I wish to tour the city and even the pyramids at Giza. This contact will come in handy when Irene visits in January next year. Here's a video I took on the taxi ride with Nasser.

PS: Check out my Facebook photo album of Cairo for new photos. If you are reading this blog on Facebook, you can view the videos on my YouTube channel.

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