Amal El-Ghazaly-Study Abroad - Carnegie Mellon University

Amal El-Ghazaly

Observations on the Metro

Egyptians are rather interesting people and metro rides are very telling. I find that simply observing casually for the maybe 20 minutes at a time that I ride the metro is very revealing of Egyptian society today. Here are some observations that I have taken note of during some of my metro rides.

The range of personal space among members of opposite sexes is, of course, somewhat rigid and is almost always abided by. However, personal space among members of the same gender is practically nonexistent. For instance, most women prefer to ride on the women-only cars of the metro so that if and when the metro gets crowded they are packed in close with other women, not men. There are, of course, a finite number of seats on the metro, but Egyptian women (since they are with women only) seem to think that this is not the case. Several times now, I find a seat empty when I get on the metro, and relieved, I sit down. But I'm not relieved for long. Unfortunately, I left maybe 3 or 4 inches of space between me and the woman next to me. Apparently those few inches signal to the other women that there is enough room for one more person to sit on the bench. So, no matter how much room the women actually need (and Egyptian women tend to be not lacking in nourishment), they still squeeze themselves into those few inches. But somehow, they actually end up partially sitting on us. Who would have thought? Needless to say, I prefer to stand in the metro now.

Cell phone technology is probably the only technology that Egyptians follow closely and get the latest versions of as soon as they come out. A few years ago, I saw a blackberry with an Egyptian friend before I even knew what it was in the US. Even the man selling foul (fava beans, pronounced "fool") off a cart in the street has a cell phone, and probably a nice one at that. The latest Egyptian cell phone embraces the music technology era with music and video playing technology but no headphone jack. This way, everyone around can enjoy the music too. Or not. I fist discovered this phone on the metro, when a girl was playing music for her friends. I thought nothing of it at the time until I rode the overnight train to visit my family in Luxor. Expecting to get to sleep on the train, I was disappointed when I realized that the reality of the matter was otherwise. There wasn't just one of these phones, but 3, all playing different music, all loudly, and all at the same time! How was anyone to sleep?!

Amal El-Ghazaly

Amal El-Ghazaly

CIT '11- Electrical & Computer Engineering
Cairo, Egypt
Summer 2009