Cairo Subway an Oasis From the Chaos Above

Kareem Fahim explores the surprisingly reliable subway system beneath the Egyptian capital, as well as public sentiment that it's the last stronghold of order in a city still trying to regain its balance.
May 9, 2012, 5am PDT | Ryan Lue
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A year and a half after the dawn of the Arab Spring, Cairo still has a long way to come before life finds a new normal. But amidst the hustle and bustle of violent conflicts, government protests, bus strikes, and gas shortages, there remains one beacon of stability for city dwellers just trying to live their lives: the subway.

"In this often capricious city, the Metro is something of a miracle," writes Fahim. "Efficient and orderly, it is frequently referred to as the one thing that always works."

"If there was a crisis in the Metro," said Mohammed Ahmed, a 20-year-old commuter, "the people would have another revolution."

Even in spite of labor disputes, workers appreciate the importance of the Metro. While they've held regular sit-ins throughout the last week over unfulfilled promises of wage increases, the workers syndicate has stopped short of organizing a system halt.

"Not now," said Hossam el-Nabawy, vice president of the syndicate. "If the treatment is bad, the whole system will collapse."

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Published on Thursday, May 3, 2012 in The New York Times
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