Egyptian odyssey

My latest travels have taken me now to Cairo, I wasn't expecting it to be a cycling city like in northern Europe.  There isn't much writing about utilitarian cycling in Egypt, but I was pleasantly surprised.   Much like in Hong Kong which I wrote about before, cycling in Cairo is very utilitarian and not at all chic or particularly contemporary or encouraged by the government.  The most common bikes you will see are delivery bikes, which cut through the infamous traffic bringing gas, bread, parcels and whatever you can strap down on a bike.  In a way I like how unglamorous cycling is in Cairo, it's purely a choice defined by cost, efficiency and function.

A fake hanging swings off a traffic light post
Tahrir Square is now a photo spot!

You may be wondering firstly what the situation is like in Cairo right now post-Arab spring, I stayed near Tahrir Square where the revolution and most of the protests happened.  There were still many people camped in Tahrir Square mostly in opposition to the current Morsi government, it was generally peaceful and I didn't experience anything bad, however the square itself was in a bit of a mess with lots of rubbish and burnt out cars strewn about.

This is the most common type of bike you see around Cairo
This shop had a fleet of delivery bikes

The interesting thing about this cycling culture is that all the cyclists were men, and that anyone who was not delivering something was generally an old man on his way about town.  There was not one female cyclist at all.

Most of the bikes were old style roadsters, there were quite a few models with double top tubes and rod brakes.  Surprisingly they were mostly Indian and Chinese makes like Phoenix, Avon, Nikki etc.  I would have expected to have seen Pashleys like in Hong Kong or at least Raleigh or some other English make, owing to the former British influence in Egypt.

This is a pretty common sight,
in fact the bread packs  are usually bigger!
One of the most impressive sights was seeing bread deliveries, these guys rode through heavy Cairo traffic, usually one hand on the handlebar, the other holding the rack of bread.  What I loved about Egypt was the freshness of produce and food, bread is always made fresh that morning and delivered fresh everywhere; not just fancy places but even to the cart in the picture above where a lunch meal would cost 50 pence.

Cake delivery

Nice old roadster

Plenty more of these!

A cafe/shisha lined street in downtown Cairo
I loved this awesome delivery bike with plenty of signage in Arabic.  Too bad it had missing tubes and no chain, I wish I could take it back with me to London.  I couldn't quite figure out what was going on with the front hub, whether it was a front drum or what though.

I've never heard of this Indian Nikki brand before.
It's interesting that the most common cycle I saw was the delivery bike, much like in Hong Kong the bicycle has been relegated to short distance deliveries in heavy traffic.  There were plenty of trucks, motorcycles and cars doing deliveries but I assume the bike was by far the most economical and probably very quick for small loads around Cairo.

Give me some bungee cords and I will
give you a delivery!
I don't think I saw any recreational cyclists at all, even though there are some in Cairo, I think they probably prefer cycling outside of the city.  Every person cycling was in normal street clothing.

Now this was a pretty odd handlebar setup
One of the irritating things about Egypt is the touts and expectation of tipping.  It's not like in America where it's expected to tip at restaurants and for services, it's much much more aggressive.  Just stepping off the plane, a guy asked for tip just for walking me to a taxi, chit chatting and offering me a cigarette.  A guy asked me to tip him when I took a picture of the bike below, which was really pushing it.

Strangely, this was one of the few bike shops I saw in Cairo, it was filled with what could be best described as K-Mart bikes.  They were all very cheaply made MTB bikes with no mudguards, mediocre suspension which was useless and no provision for cargo.  Quite a strange contrast to the bikes you see actually being used on a day to day basis on the streets of Cairo.

Lastly, I thought I'd finish with a hilariously parked bike, it's in a bit of a squish.  Thanks for reading.