Friday, July 26, 2013

Naples Versus Cairo: Cairo Wins on the Chaos Scale

On the chaos scale, you start with Boston. Talk to any Harvard-going Mass-hole and he'll consider himself some kind of war hero for surviving it (and I say that with nothing but affection for my Harvard-going Mass-hole friends). Multiply Boston by about ten and you have Tijuana. Multiply that by about a hundred and you get Naples. Now multiply that by about ten thousand and you're still nowhere near Cairo.

The top video is Naples. The bottom is Cairo.

I brought these videos to my blog to counter the readers who didn't believe my descriptions of entire families on mopeds and traffic converging in three dimensions. At about 0.20 of the first video (Naples,) and again at the end of the same video, you can witness the entire-family-on-a-moped phenomenon.

About 1:10 is where the traffic really picks up and starts looking like Naples as I remember it. I'm not sure if there is a correct side of the road or a speed limit, but it's clear that sidewalks are open terrain for both motor vehicles and pedestrians and that vendor's tents can be erected anywhere in the middle of the street. It's awesome.

Then there's Cairo.

My editor actually edited the narrative in The Vesuvius Isotope that read, "traffic converged in three dimensions." She thought I meant in three directions. Starting at 0.20 of the second video, you can see that I really did mean three dimensions. It comes from above and below, as well as from all sides.

At 0.53, you see a man walking casually between the cars dragging a large hand cart behind him. This is a common occurrence in Cairo. About 0.55, a guy steps out of his car to have a conversation with another driver, presumably a discussion of who should go first and how.

Another note-worthy phenomenon is what I like to call the "force field effect." At 1:35 you see an Egyptian man and child walking nonchalantly through the middle of the chaos, seemingly protected by some kind of supernatural force field, and then emerging unscathed on the other side of the street. In The Vesuvius Isotope, I incorporated a force-fielded character I had seen while in Cairo: a woman in a full niqab ensemble, leading a toddler and carrying a large basket on top of her head.

But even better: at 3:00, it's a sheep. Near the end of the video, a horse-drawn cart cruises through.

I miss Cairo, and I'm not saying that sarcastically. Cairo is Egyptian for Chaos. It's my kind of town.

For more about traveling through Egypt solo as an American female, visit What Would Katrina Do?

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 

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