The Campaign Spot

If Obama Smells Like Cigarettes in Cairo, It Doesn’t Mean He Relapsed

President Obama will soon be heading off to Egypt where he faces “high expectations” for his speech to the Muslim world. The venue which spurred me to find this article in the archives, inspired by a three-week visit there about two months after the U.S. invaded Iraq. Some highlights:

“There are close to 800 factories around [Cairo], most of which have safety- and pollution-control systems that would make outgoing EPA director Christie Todd Whitman break out in hives, provided she didn’t double over from an asthma attack first.”

“Most restaurants in Cairo have two sections: Smoking and A Lot More Smoking.”

“According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, more than 20 states and 87 localities in the U.S. have mandatory bike-helmet laws, as well as all of Australia, and parts of Canada. In Cairo, people jump into and off of buses while they’re moving. People ride in the backs of trucks, in the scoop parts of bulldozers and earthmovers, and on every other not-so-stable spot that an American cop would probably write you a ticket for. Some cabs have seatbelts, some don’t. Those that do often have them attached to the roof with a safety pin.”

“It’s worth noting that despite the high speeds, extraordinarily crowded streets, symphony of car horns, constant lane changes, merges, and labyrinthine street layout, there don’t seem to be that many big pileups in the Cairo avenues. (Americans living in Cairo say that some drivers don’t even bother to stop and inspect the damage after a mild fender-bender.) Perhaps this is the side effect of living in a country with few trial lawyers.”


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