By: Eden Lorren Pabalan
“Welcome to Egypt!” is the greeting of Egyptian rats of all sizes, shapes and ages to anyone who wants to try vacationing in the country.Yes, rats. I think the population of rats in Egypt are outnumbering the human population. And let me introduce to you the family of King Rats whom I met in Cairo.
There are many stories I can say about the King Rat and his family. While we have caught most of King Rat’s family (Grandpa rat, mama rat and 3 teenagers), it took us nearly a month to finally catch King Rat. In an exaggerated way, I think King Rat can maul a person down with its size. We are still catching some of the relatives and we hear them quite frequently when waking up in the middle of the night to go to the kitchen as we are dying of thirst. Of course King Rat cannot maul a human down, but he measures at around 15 inches in reality. Well, That is only the introduction. Here are some interesting “tails” about rats in Cairo.
The Vegetarian Glue
Jeff was the one who started off the whole rat frenzy. He bought a trap back in October when he realized that someone (or something) was eating his apples. For a few days in a row, he had come home to half eaten apples, and he was the only one living in his apartment. Jeff had left other types of food out-bread, cheese, nuts, and the other thing that the rat would eat was apples. He came to the conclusion that this little bastard was a vegetarian.
He went on a serious hunt for a rat trap and couldn’t find one anywhere. Each place he went to had never heard of a rat trap before; they had only heard of “rat glue”. Apparently you are supposed to take this rat glue and put it in corners of the kitchen (or whatever room the rat has made his new home). The rat then steps in the glue and ventures off… and then like Spiderman he scales the walls and ceiling and becomes Super Rat… until he gets stuck and cannot move. Jeff didn’t end up purchasing this amazing product because he couldn’t quite figure out what to do with the rat when his feet became glued to the wall… would he take a pot or pan and smash the thing until he was dead? Would he capture it and hope that the rat didn’t bite him and give him rabies? Jeff finally found a rat trap and caught the rat a few days later. We decided to be the rat champions and invite as many rats in as possible, but we began to have what was the start of a Rat Epidemic. More rats than we ever thought we would see in one apartment! We have now caught something around six rats. It was an adventure.
Splish-Splash I was takin’ a bath…
Dad awoke one night around 2am, when he heard a “Splish-splash…splish-splash” sound while he was sleeping. He got up and tip-toed cautiously over to the bathroom. The “splish-splash, splish-splash” sound is getting annoying. He looked in the bathtub and found nothing; then he peeked into the bowl of the toilet. There he was…. a rat about the size of a small puppy, splashing around in the toilet bowl. Unsure of whether to flush it (as it may clog the toilet and how sickkkk would that be to have Egyptian toilet water spilling up and running all over your bathroom floor) or try to kill it. He just slammed the lid of the toilet, put a heavy weight on the top of the lid and went back to bed. In the morning, when I got up to go to the bathroom, I opened the lid and thank heavens the rat was gone. He must have swam down the toilet and found his way out somehow. But it was only us who thought he was gone. Later that day, I went into the kitchen to get a drink and once again, King Rat was staring at me while sitting on the stove. Now I know I was pretty damn quick as I grabbed the pan that was beside me and ran over to him to give him a good smack- but he jumped up! (4meters or so) and chewed a whole threw the screen window and was out free again. I am still very nervous every time I go to the bathroom because I’m afraid that some rat is going to jump out of the toilet and bite me!
Subway is my favourite sandwich in the world. Maadi, the district in Cairo I live in, just opened one the other day. My girlfriend Jenn and I were walking home from her place one afternoon and saw that it was their “grand opening” and there was a buy one get one free promo. So we got a footlong Veggie (and then one free), and it ended up being 50 pounds as we were forced to buy a drink, cookie and bag of chips in order to get the promotion. Frustrated, we took the subs home and put them on the kitchen counter. We started chatting in the living room and a few hours later we were hungry for Subway. I went into the kitchen and saw that the freaking King Rat was eating our subways. The whole area was a mess of vegetables and plastic bag scattered from a hungry rat eagerly chewing his way through to eat our subs. how angry I was so angry when I saw this hairy black rat look back at me with his yellow little beady eyes and a big piece of sub in his mouth. I screamed and threw a pan at him, but that hole in the screen is his escape route and he quickly evacuated within moments of seeing me.
Shut up and Drive, drive, drive
“Probably an accident”, I said, shuddering at the memory of the watermelon truck accident I had just been a victim in. Our bus was barely moving as we were stuck in a traffic jam. Nobody wears seat belts or helmets and road deaths kill far more people than Islamic extremists have ever done. The number of cars that break down a day is uncountable; overcrowded buses drive into the Nile, bricks fall off semis in the middle of the freeway, tomato boxes roll off the top of a cargo truck and land in the middle of the freeway, speeding, poorly maintained roads, and a total disregard for both the law and personal safety make Egypt’s roads the most dangerous in Africa. This is part of the driving test system. I have a good friend who is an Egyptian and we were chatting the other day about the rules of the road and drivers’ licenses. She told me what are the news with regards to the way one goes about to receive a driver’s license which (surprisingly) you need to drive here. The practical test in Cairo consists of a short drive a few metres forward, then in reverse. She told me that when she took the test there were so many cars waiting in line, that after a couple of hours, the examiner took pity of them and issued everyone in the cars a “pass”without actually seeing any of them drive at all!!! After one got his license, there were a few things that he will do such as paying documents and writing paperwork. Finally, came a check of the vehicle’s road test. The road test meant an inspection of the car boot to see whether was a fire extinguisher inside, since a law had recently been passed stipulating that all vehicles need to be equipped with one. Whether your car had lights, brakes, mirrors or indeed anything besides your four wheels and a fire extinguisher truly had no importance.
Policemen wander aimlessly back and forth crossing the street and patrolling. Really, they are traffic patrol police, but are wearing different uniforms and are much busier than policemen, as policemen usually just hang out on a street corner in their little box, sleeping with their guns on their laps, texting/chatting on their mobile phones or eating mushy cheese and pita with their other partner who is working just as hard as he is. The guys aren’t really trying to control the traffic and are only looking like crazy musical conductors as they wave their batons chaotically and attempt to impose some sort of order. For a man who is paid a monthly salary of around 10 US bucks, (which probably includes room and board too), these guys are overly brave and hard-working. The health consequences of extreme exposure to traffic all day long can kill anyone. I read about a survey of Egyptian traffic policemen conducted by the faculty of medicine of Cairo ‘s Ain Shoms University found those levels of lead and other heavy metal toxins in their blood were all above average. Additionally, an estimated 10-25,000 people die each year in Egypt from particles and lead in the air and pollution costs kids who grow up in Cairo 4.25 IQ points. Good stuff I read here.