Sunday, May 18, 2008

Travel: Noise levels in Cairo

New York Times (Michael Slackman)

This isn't a travel article but I think that it will certainly be of interest to anyone who has visited or is planning to visit Cairo. I found it fascinating. Thanks very much to Rhio Barnhart for sending me the link.

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.

“All of greater Cairo is in the range of unacceptable noise levels from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” Mr. Sayyid said.

By comparison, normal conversation ranges from 45 to 60 decibels, a chain saw registers 100 decibels and a gunshot 140. Because the decibel scale is logarithmic, every 10 decibels equals a tenfold increase in intensity.

Noise at the levels commonly found in Cairo affects the body.

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