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Monday, July 12, 2010

Living in Cairo: Water

Cairo is like all other cities outside of first world: number one rule is don't drink the water.  Last time we were here, we just had cases of water delivered like most other ex-pats and most likely littered the desert with the empty bottles.  Now we have the benefit of a water filter in the kitchen.  As a result of this, Kathleen has acquired a skill that few of her American peers have: filling up cups from the water filter faucet.

We keep a bottle of water in the bathroom for drinks, but everyone brushes teeth with the tap water, and both Sophia and Kathleen may or may not have had a drink of bath water from time to time.  Edwin goes for it every bath.  I don't get to worried, however - we call it inoculation.

In addition to not drinking water from the tap, we also have to deal with a lesser-known hazard of third world water supplies: water pressure.  Most denizens of Cairo live in high-rise apartments.  The government isn't in the business of supplying water pressure, just the water itself.  And so most apartment buildings have cisterns on top that are filled with the building water pump. 

The problem with individual building pumps is that they can easily be shut off for some reason that is only known to... somebody.  We still haven't figured out who it is.  And when somebody decides to shut off the pump, they don't tell anyone else.  They also don't tell when they're going to turn it on again either. 

 I've had several morning showers where I've noticed a decrease in pressure and had to jump double quick to get the shower in before the water was shut off completely.  One notable morning, I noticed the water slowing, got in and got my hair damp before having to take the shower head off the wall and just settle for scrubbing off the morning run sweat and taking another shower later.  While getting dressed, I noticed that the tap was running somewhat promisingly and so got back in the shower and crouched in the tub while getting my hair mostly washed and mostly clean.  

To water the plants that day, I just left the tap on over a bucket and let the bucket fill as it wanted to, with the water shutting on and off at random.  I have a friend who keeps large jugs of water in all of her bathrooms to flush toilets when the water's being fidgety.

In addition to building water outages, there are also periodic and completely random neighborhood outages.  I've heard that they're announced over the loudspeaker at Friday prayers, but there aren't any mosques nearby and I'd be surprised if even the Egyptians understood anything coming from them.  

And so, you never know quite when you will and won't have water.  Every now and then, however,  circumstances line up just right and the water's out during dinner preparation time.  So I have no choice but to just order in.  Life is hard sometimes.


UnkaDave said...

One of the many great things about Cairo, it would seem, is the plethora of subjects about which one can productively blog. Be grateful; it's boring here in Raleigh where you can drink the good water reliably straight from the tap - until your mother goes up on the roof and messes with the cistern again.

Unknown said...

My favorite part of Egyptian bathrooms is how in some older apartments, the shower is actually just a showerhead in the middle of the bathroom, so you constantly have to take a broom and sweep the water into some hole before you flood the place.

Just one more thing to enjoy, I guess.

PaulaJean said...

Living in Cairo does put a new twist of emergency prepardness. You can actually use your water storage!

Bridget said...

I love your last point!

Egypt is by far the most reliable water country (in the Mideast) that I've been in, though. We used to go for days in Jordan without water. It gets old, fast.