I heard about it ofter and thought it was a myth, but it was real and not only was it real… it was FANTASTIC! What am I talking about? The Cairo Metro.

The Cairo metro gets you to most places in the city for One Egyptian Pound. Yes you read right, 1 Egyptian pound. But that is not the beauty of this metro system. Nor is the cleanliness of the stations of the cars, since they were clean. Not a piece of rubbish in sight! The best thing about this metro system was the two women only cars! The thought of being in mass transit and not be harassed, jostled, touched or grabbed by a man was such a relief. I was so happy about this that I took pictures of this amazing idea. What was even more surprising was that I learned today that there are other places in the world where this is implemented.

Now this makes me both happy and sad. Happy that I can ride the metro in peace. Sad that it is necessary. I dream of a day when we wont need to segregate men and women for fear of violence. Until then, I will ride the women’s car when I can and complete my journey with one less thing to worry about.

Women's Section

Section of the Platform where the women cars stop.

Women's Section

Section of the Platform where the women cars stop.

Women's Car

The Car- text on top reads "Women only until 9 pm"

Whenever you are in a new place one of the things you need to figure out is how to get around a city and its transport. This region we live in is not know for its public transport, and Beirut is no exception, so here is my take on getting round this city.

You have five modes of transportation: On foot, in a private car, by bus or van, a service, and finally a taxi. Each one of these modes offers its perks and its perils. My favorite of them all is being in a bus or van and I will save my explanation till the end.

Let me start with Taxis and Services, why am I lumping them together? Because they are interchangeable. The same car can be a car pooling extravaganza or your private experience. Either way you start off in the same manner, at the curb side waiting. Once a taxi pulls up you shout out to the driver where you are going, it is totally up to him if you are worthy of his time and his chariot. Sometimes, without a second glance, they speed onwards and sometimes they just nod. But if you look like me and talk like me (or in other words don’t look or sound Lebanese) they most likely will start to negotiate. And this part I hate! You see its 10,000 LL for a taxi, 2,000 for one person in a service and they usually try to ask for anywhere between double (servicien) or 10 dollars! I find the whole process stressful and sometimes even rude. If you are in a service you should also expect to be dropped of near but not at your destination after going through a circuitous route to get there just in case they may find another fellow passenger along the way. But truth be told I kinda like the concept of carpooling, I think it makes sense. I only wish they could be nicer about it.

On foot is perhaps the most hassle free form of transport and it can be quite pleasant if you can find ways to tune out all the noise around you. The sidewalks in most places I’ve been are wide enough, flat enough and pothole free. I only have to untrain myself from walking in the street as I do in Amman , and repeat my mantra “the sidewalk is my friend”. Another major difference is that the majority of the roads are flat and inclines, if they exist, are gradual and easy with very few exceptions. So if you have the time I would recommend that you walk, and when you do duck into a side street, it can be much quieter.

Finally the big red buses and the small 10 seater vans place the highest in my ranking. I love that they run all the time, there is a set nonnegotiable route and fare and its easy! The hardest part is figuring out which bus goes where, which you can do by asking the wonderful drivers of the big red buses. They not only tell you which bus to take, but will give you a lift to the nearest corner too! So far I have done well with the number 2 and the number 4 getting me across town in the most efficient manner. I think I now need to familiarize myself with the others that I see on my journeys in the city, maybe even take a detour or two!

A big part of getting to know this city is learning to get around. Its been weird not being able to navigate the streets and know where I am. I cant tell you the number of times I’ve looked around and felt completely lost and sometimes even panicked until I see a familiar site. But those instances are lessening with everyday. I now just need to get out of the two neighborhoods of Hamra and Ashrafieh and really get to know the city a bit better.