Cairo is a truly fascinating city.
It is an immense jumble of everything: people, vehicles, concrete, animals, junk. If you are a first-time visitor, not familiar with how things go in Cairo, the city mercilessly attacks your senses and overwhelms you. Cairo shocks you. If you recover from the initial sensory whack, chances are that Cairo will reel you back in with its “charm”. Such fuzzy charm can be attributed to qualities that trace to the things that create the Cairene urban madness itself. It is a charm that big cities share, but which differs in its flavor and the intricacies that gives it its local colors.
Contrary to popular belief, Cairo is not an ancient city (at least not in a country where history is often referenced in the thousands of years). There is a lot of history in Cairo, but then there is also a lot of history in Damascus, Athens and Berlin, Delhi and a host of other Old World and New World (if such labels are still in common usage) urban centers. A key element to Cairo’s special flavor of “Big City charm” is its set of stark contrasts against a backdrop of historical mashups.
If asked about how they feel about their city, most Cairenes would say that they absolutely hate living here; they hate the chaos, bad traffic, bad roads, bad planning, bad everything. Then they would launch into the clichéd tirade about what is wrong with Egypt, bloviating passionately and comprehensively about everything that is wrong that you are led to anticipate they’d begin bloviating passionately and comprehensively about how they believe things should be corrected. How to bring Cairo, and maybe Egypt, to its old glory.
But it almost never happens. Those who ramble about what is wrong are way better at being descriptive than the prescriptive. The guy tearing his hair out in front of you in a rant about how dirty our streets are will flick a cigarette butt on the floor to make full use of his arms in his very animated rant, but only after blowing the last exhalation of smoke in your face as he talks, then he’ll lob his crumpled, now empty pack of cigarettes out of his car window as he waves goodbye.
There is a weird alienation between what Cairenes want and what they are willing to do. It is some sort of social schizophrenia that makes this one of Cairo’s starkest contrasts, and one of its most intractable dilemmas. I know you are tempted to make the argument that it is an issue of a “hierarchy of needs”; that the affected majority is too busy securing their daily bread than to worry about fixing the world around them. “Need breeds apathy” is the essence of this argument.
“People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief of the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.” ~Eric Hoffer
With all due respect for your interpretation of Maslow’s theories, I believe this is an overly simplistic, even naïve, analysis. One which dilutes this issue to a single element among a multitude of other more “actionable” ones.
Describing how things are is only useful to the extent it provides value to actionable steps that define how they should be. Otherwise, being descriptive has zero value. Scratch that, it might even have a negative value in the way it impacts latent intentions for action.
The quest for a universal overarching remedy for everything that is wrong with Cairo (and elsewhere) is futile.
Think smaller. Much smaller.
Think about fixing the broken windows. Figuratively or practically. It starts from there.