2008 April 27 Sunday
Cairo Egypt 85 Decibels Average Noise

The 18 million population of Cairo must suffer from hearing losses.

This is not like London or New York, or even Tehran, another car-clogged Middle Eastern capital. It is literally like living day in and day out with a lawn mower running next to your head, according to scientists with the National Research Center. They spent five years studying noise levels across the city and concluded in a report issued this year that the average noise from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is 85 decibels, a bit louder than a freight train 15 feet away, said Mustafa el Sayyid, an engineer who helped carry out the study.

But that 85 decibels, while “clearly unacceptable,” is only the average across the day and across the city. At other locations, it is far worse, he said. In Tahrir Square, or Ramsis Square, or the road leading to the pyramids, the noise often reaches 95 decibels, he said, which is only slightly quieter than standing next to a jackhammer.

Why is the noise so bad? People hit their car horns a lot. But also, industry takes place pretty much out on the streets because the people are too poor to conduct industrial activities indoors.

In a nation where about 40 percent of the population survives on about $2 a day, people understand the struggle to feed a family. In Rhode al Farag, men worked on cars in the street, butchered meat in the street, blasted radios and turned up television sets. Like shellshocked war veterans, residents sat out on the street, sipping tea, oblivious to the cacophony.

Even when it came to the shop run by Mahmoud Faheem, people did not complain. Mr. Faheem rents out concert-sized speakers, and he displayed his speakers on the street, offering the entire block a never ending thump-thump of dance music. “Let him eat bread,” said Atef Ali, 45, the owner of a food shop next door, using an Arabic phrase to explain why he did not complain, even while he detested the music.

Human overpopulation is a bad thing. The article makes no mention of that fact. But overpopulation is one of the root causes of the Cairo noise problem. In spite of the high level of noise they keep making more babies. To what level will human instincts sink the human race if left unrestrained?

That the Egyptians can't manage to raise productivity much is another cause. But the resource demand on the world would be enormous if the Egyptians and other poor people could all raise their productivity up to First World levels.

Update: My guess is the 85 decibel noise level refers to on a street and not in houses. It seems hard to believe for an entire city. Anyone know what percentage of vehicles on Cairo streets are cars versus scooters and motorcycles? Also, do the Cairenes replace rusty mufflers on cars and trucks? The traffic could be very dense even though few can afford to drive since the city is pretty densely populated.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 April 27 12:42 AM  Culture Compared


Comments
Stephen said at April 27, 2008 1:44 AM:

I'm a bit doubtful about this report. Cairo is not particularly noisy compared to any city where using the horn is the norm. The car to human ratio is small because cars are expensive, people aren't stuck out in dormitory suburbs and there are vendors everywhere, so people tend to walk for daily chores.

Rick Darby said at April 28, 2008 2:28 PM:

Human overpopulation is a bad thing. The article makes no mention of that fact. But overpopulation is one of the root causes of the Cairo noise problem. In spite of the high level of noise they keep making more babies. To what level will human instincts sink the human race if left unrestrained?

All the attempts to control environmental degradation, especially in places like Africa and the Middle East, through "green" boondoggles remind me of the old story of the cop who found a dead horse in Koscziusczko Street. He dragged the carcass over to Davis Street so he wouldn't have to spell Koscziusczko Street in his report.

Deluded environmentalists are forced into all kinds of absurdities because they can't spell "overpopulation."


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