Mix all the smokers in Cairo with it having the world’s worst air pollution it’s no wonder that Maha stated that the average life expectancy in Egypt is 60.
It is said that living in Cairo is the equivalent of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day. Between the actual cigarette smoking and the air pollution, our lungs didn’t have a chance.
Air Pollution in Cairo
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You would think that if you stayed at a 5-star hotel in Cairo, you could sneak away from all toxic air, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke.
We have stayed in Cairo at both cheap guesthouses. we’ve camped on the outskirts of the city and have been fortunate enough to enjoy 5-star hotels in Cairo.
But each time we travel to Cairo, we developed terrible coughs, and can never escape the pollution. I can only imagine how the local residents feel day in day out.
About Cairo’s Air Pollution
Cairo has a population of 20,901,000 people. It is the most populous city in the Middle East and it is the most polluted city on earth.
The traffic is unrelenting. We cycled through Cairo in 2008 and I developed such bad lung congestion, it stayed with me all the way through Ethiopia! (23 days later)
The mix of exhaust, manufacturing, and power plants with low standards has contributed to the low air quality.
But what people don’t realize is the sand and desert dust adds to the pollution amplifying the bad air quality. These factors all contribute to putting Cairo as having the lowest ambient air quality in the world.
When cycling through Cairo, the honking of cars horns, engine brakes of trucks, and constant construction took its toll.
At night we couldn’t sleep between the dogs barking, the street noise of people shouting and yes, the horns continue to hong well into the wee hours of the morning.
Light Pollution in Cairo
When staying at an expensive hotel, you can close the light blocking curtains and go to sleep.
But Cairo has the worst light pollution in the world as well. If you live in the city, you will never see the night sky as Cairo has a light index of 85 times brighter than the sky.
It is one thing to draw the curtains in a luxury hotel, but think of the people living in Cairo suffering from sleep deprivation.
Between the noise, air quality and light pollution, it’s no wonder that the median death rate is so low.
As a tourist in Cairo I have suffered from severe chest colds with each visit. My heart aches for those who have to live in the city day in day out.
Sadly, it is the cities that have the highest poverty rate that seem to suffer the most from pollution.
Poverty In Cairo
We feel for the people living in Cairo’s pollution each day and have visited projects in Cairo to see the good work that outsiders are trying to do.
It was an eye-opener to see just how much people struggle to have running water. We joined Plan Canada to see behind the scenes of projects in Cairo and visited communities around the city.
Whether it be clean water, a playground or a school, Plan Canada searches for where the aid is needed most and provides the necessary tools to help.
Our first stop was a youth community center.
What used to be a polluted pool of water surrounded by garbage and full of disease is now a clean tiled playground where children can safely play football and ping pong while interacting with other children in the community.
Our next stop was located in the poorest neighbourhood of Cairo. The streets were made of dirt, littered with garbage and the buildings were falling down.
But as we approached the school, we were greeted by smiling, playful children who definitely give hope for the future.
With computers, school desks, and a playground provided along with training programs for teachers there is aid getting to those who need it.
Cairo is gigantic. It’s polluted and many of these kids will never see a starry sky. But with school programs, they have a chance through field trips to see other parts of Cairo. It can be a real inspiration for them.
House and Communities
Next, we moved on to see some houses and communities that have been provided with plumbing, clean running water, and toilets.
Until now, people had to walk distances just to have a drink of water. Now they have a legal sanitation system.
Our final stop was a business set up through micro-finance programs. Struggling families can apply for a loan to start their own business they have 24 months at a very low-interest rate to pay that back.
People who otherwise would never be able to finance a project themselves are now given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
Cairo as a Tourist
Did I tell you a lot of people smoke in Cairo?
We wanted to enjoy our hotel’s ammenities, but everywhere we went people were chain smoking.
The sheesha bar outside by the pool of our hotel was going strong, the smoking section in the restaurant seeped into the non-smoking area sectioned off by an invisible line, and the lobby was filled with men in suits chain-smoking while they sat in lavish chairs looking important.
Even our room was smoky. I would think that even smokers would find it to be too much.
When booking a room in Cairo, be sure to request a non-smoking floor.
When we first checked in to our five-star resort at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cairo, we were put on a smoking floor. Our room reeked of cigarettes.
After two days, we couldn’t take it anymore. We woke up each morning with a headache and congestion.
When we asked to change rooms we found out that there was a non-smoking floor. We were elated to move. Unfortunately for us, nobody abides by the smoking rules in Cairo and it was just as smoky on the non-smoking floor as it was on the smoking floor.
The smoke seeped into our room. I turned off the air conditioner thinking that it was coming through the vents but it didn’t help.
I opened the window to let some fresh air in, but unfortunately, Cairo is so polluted so it made things worse. Plus, with the window open you can barely hear yourself think with all the honking going on outside.
How to Survive the Pollution in Cairo
If you are going to Cairo, be sure to pack a mask. Now that COVID has become a part of everyone’s lives, it’s not so odd to wear a mask. And a good mask will help filter out the dust particles, pollution, and cigarette smoke.
If you are arm yourself with these items, you may just feel comfortable exploring the awe-inspiring sites of Cairo.
So the next time you are haggling over a few dollars, remember, many of these crafts are hand made over 15 days by talented and hard-working families. We know we will think of it next time.