When guiding walks in the bush, the most common question I am asked is whether the activity is safe. People are generally out of their own familiar environment and they find the wild animals and insects intimidating. I generally reassure them and
explain that personally I find the bush to be safer than living in a city.
I recently tested this theory by spending some time in a large African city, called Cairo.
And the results of this academic research strongly supported my theory! One night I was disturbed by explosions and gunfire outside my hotel window on the main street of Cairo at 9pm. Bear in mind that Cairo is at its busiest from about 8pm onwards so this was not the middle-of-the night. This “street war” continued for about 45 minutes, undisturbed by the irritating distraction of any law enforcement representatives.
I also regularly used elevators in Cairo. If you haven’t been there, this is quite an experience too and way more dangerous than taking a stroll in the bush. The elevator shafts are simply installed on their scaffolding and runners without any protective walls or even internal doors! The result is that as you travel up or down in a building you have a vivid view of the guts of the building as it flashes past your eyes, including very exposed drops.
Once I survived the street war and the elevators I had to survive the city air and the traffic. Cairo has a population of about 20 million people and is rated as one of the most air-polluted cities in the world. Cairenes smoke incessantly and I became convinced that they do this in order to get something cleaner than Cairo air into their lungs!
In order to get anywhere one must at some time cross a Cairo street, and that must be one of the most terrifying experiences in the world – until you master it. It does have some similarities with confronting a charging elephant because both require calm, courage and commitment and involve a degree of psychological engagement. However I found the motion of motor vehicles in Cairo to be much less predictable than the charge of a wild animal. For example vehicles go around traffic circles in whatever direction they wish! And traffic lanes are a form of linear decoration on road surfaces, unrelated to traffic flow. Long distance reversing on freeways is accepted driving style and the critical item required for an Egyptian motor vehicle to be considered in good working order is the horn, which must be used incessantly. In contrast headlights are avoided at all cost. I think it is the Egyptian way of saving energy. They drive at night with their headlights turned off (most often on the wrong side of the road)!
The final results of my academic research into this matter?
Cairo is an awesome city to visit, but it is way safer to walk in the bush than in a large city!