The demand for human rights…..hmmmmmm.. – we all know what the basic human rights are don’t we? Well, there is one human right that has been denied the people of Egypt for so long there are hardly aware of it anymore. In their lack of awareness they daily deny that right to their children and every visitor to their country. What human right is that? The right to a good night’s sleep! The right to live free from the physical and mental illnesses caused by daily noise pollution!
Not only Cairo but in every town and village of Egypt – the day starts with the muslim call to prayer (around 4am depending on the time of the year) then there is the man selling barrels of gas by banging on a gas barrel with a spanner, the fruit and veg seller shouting his best offer of the morning, the schools (7am) with the children singing “Beladi, Beladi!”, the noise of demolition and construction, the grinders, the welders, the hammers, the cracking whips of the horse and carriage drivers, the scrap collector calling for people to sell their plastic bottles and scraps of metal to him, the fish seller advertising his catch, the neighbour’s visitor announcing his arrival and departure with a beep, beep, beepety beep of the car horn, the shouts and sometimes screaming or singing noises of the children playing in the street, the street wedding music (full blast usually until around 1am at least), train whistles….all this to the daily, continuous background honking horns of cars, trucks and buses. It is impossible to walk the streets of Cairo and have a conversation with the person walking beside you – unless you shout!
Then of course at night-time there is the addition of the continuous barking of the wild dogs that roam the streets of all cities in Egypt. They are not visible by day but you would not want to run into a pack in a deserted street in the middle of the night.
In Luxor there is a mosque (and I am thankful I am not living near it) which starts every morning around 2am and continues until the other mosques do their own calls to prayer at 4am. What is the man in this mosque doing? I have no idea – it is some kind of singing or chanting – I don’t know the reason for it and I am sure that the people who live near it have become immune to it – I am equally sure it must be a frustrating annoyance to non-muslims in the vicinity and an abuse of their human rights!
The abuse does not stop in the street – the noise attack continues INSIDE the home – VODAFONE is just one of the companies in Egypt who insist on sending advertising messages in the middle of the night to their customer base!!! AAaagghhhhh! Lets not even get into the perverts who work in hotels and shock unsuspecting guests out of their sleep with sexual talk …… and the ones who dial random numbers (this happens in daytime also but mostly in the middle of the night) who want to have phone sex with anyone willing to participate.
You could say that some or all of the above are part of DAILY city life anywhere in the world and I can go along with that but what I cannot go along with is the presence of any of the above during the night. There is actually a 1994 law in Egypt which says the noise level has to be below 35db at night but who pays any attention to that? Just up the street in the middle of Cairo two nights ago a gang of workers spent the entire night using hammers, grinders and welders constructing and erecting two massive metal casings for a new shop sign- in an area where there are hotels and homes in every surrounding street. This type of noise pollution is completely unforgivable.
Yes, there should be more specific laws and they should be enforced for the nation’s health. Laws such as prohibiting street vendors shouting between the hours of 9pm – 9am, laws prohibiting honking horns from 11pm to 7am, laws prohibiting demolition and construction in residential area between 7pm and 7am, laws to deal with the increasing numbers everywhere of starving wild dogs roaming the cities scavenging for food.
In December, the respected New Scientist magazine said that “noise kills in much the same way as chronic stress does.” It causes “an accumulation of stress hormones, inflammation and changes in body chemistry that eventually lead to problems such as impaired blood circulation and heart attacks.” not to mention ““Noise severely affects pregnant women who are permanently exposed to it. It causes retraction in blood vessels and they give birth to small babies,” Full article here
So the people of Egypt have risen against their oppressors but are largely unaware of their own deprivation of peace, quite and sleep time for themselves and their fellow citizens. For the most part, consideration of others should mean there would be no need for laws to provide these human rights to residents of Cairo or any city of the world – but in Egypt the residents have been subjected to the outrageous level of noise pollution for so long they have become immune to it – however, their bodies are not immune to the inevitable illnesses and deaths caused by NOISE.
Tourists should pack ear-plugs, “white noise” machines and sleeping tablets when visiting Egypt! Citizens of Egypt – it is only you, individual by individual who can choose to stop damaging your own health, the health of your families, neighbours and visitors.