From the moment I got off the plane in Cairo it was a delight to experience the warm cordial greeting of Egyptians.  Everyone was smiling, friendly, courteous and eager to be of assistance – from the shuttle bus drivers to security personnel who were everywhere.

“Welcome to Cairo” was the refrain that was heard often from morning til night.

Some conference attendees were apprehensive due to death threats before the opening of the conference but it was obvious that a massive security apparatus had been put in place.  Thousands of uniformed officers lined every route that the shuttle buses took in transporting delegates and journalists etc., to and from their hotels.  Plain clothes security were everywhere, including on the buses where a plainclothes officer rode shotgun with a submachine gun.

Any car arriving at a hotel was inspected by a security team.  Everyone entering the conference sites had to undergo metal detector tests twice, as well as open their bags for inspection.  Even though this security was all pervasive it was done in a friendly way.

Those taking a taxi from the Conference Centre were asked their destination, and this information, as well as the taxi’s license number and driver’s name, was recorded by the security staff.

Maybe I should have been afraid but I wasn’t.  The only real fright I had was riding in the front seat of a Cairo taxi for the first time.  Driving in Cairo is truly an adventure.  The only role seems to be this—if there is space, you take it—but beep the horn first.  Three lanes easily become seven, depending on the volume of traffic and the daring of drivers.  Nobody pays attention to traffic lights unless there is a policeman directing the traffic.  My taxi driver’s idea of being careful was to beep the horn before going through the red light.  And yet drivers seem to have a sixth sense that allows the traffic to flow quite well most of the time.  Only once in 12 days was I delayed in traffic.

After my first ride, I simply accepted the reality of Cairo drivers’ habits and enjoyed it.