I’ve always wondered how one would explain the unspoken rules of Cairo traffic to a non-Egyptian trying to learn how to drive on the roads of our everyday craziness. Egyptians drive for years in Cairo and eventually get a feel for what must be done in order to arrive safely at our destination in the shortest possible time with minimal scrapes and dents to our cars and minimal loss of life. It’s not an easy feat. But we eventually get there.
My British khawaga husband Colin is spending a full month in Cairo for the first time. We both decided it would be good for him to learn how to drive here. In the process, I’ve discovered that itis possible to put our unspoken rules into words that are inevitably shouted out. I thought it would be useful to share my all-encompassing wisdom on Cairo traffic with a larger audience so I jotted the rules down.
Colin has an odd tendency to drive in one lane and to stay in it. He’s a khawaga. What can I say? His natural inclination is to keep driving at the same speed as long as he believes he has the right of way. With my eyes rolling, I have had to teach him rules number 1 through 3.
The concept of “right of way” is practically unknown in Egypt. If you drive on our roads using this concept you are likely to kill at least a dozen people before you reach your destination. We do have our own local version of right of way though. Larger vehicles have right of way over smaller vehicles. Pedestrians already walking across the street, despite the fact that they look like they are on a suicide mission, have the right of way. Cars that beat you by filling the gap in traffic you’re aiming for with the front of their car have the right of way.
ALL LANES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. There is a reason why one lane is moving particularly slowly. Do not feel loyal to your lane. If you do, you are an idiot. Get yourself into the moving lane no matter what it takes.
I have road rage. I openly admit to this. My road rage only ever appears when I’m driving in Cairo, though. And I’ve driven in many places in the world.
My father had road rage. Growing up, it made me proud to watch him get out of the car on a narrow road and block another car heading in the opposite direction and not letting him get by. You go get him, Baba! I’d think to myself. He’s a mouse, that man! An ant! He’s unworthy of this road upon which you treadeth! I wouldn’t even know why Baba was blocking his way. And I wouldn’t care. It was great entertainment. I loved every minute of it.
My Baba has a well-known story that I was not witness to but I can see it in my head as if I were. He was driving in front of our house in Cairo and a bus driver, upset with something related to his driving, yelled out an obscenity to my Baba insulting his beard. Wohohoho. That idiot had no idea what a big mistake he made. My Baba maneuvered his car right in front of the huge, red bus and prevented it from moving further. He got out of the car in a rage, moved toward the trunk, opened it, pulled out the jack, and rushed towards the bus driver’s door with the intent of smashing his head in. He opened the door and started pulling the driver out of his seat. But by that time people had gathered and started pulling my Baba away (as people here are accustomed to ruining the best Cairo street fights this way).
As you can see, nothing actually happened here. There was just the threat of something happening. Usually here in Cairo, that’s enough to calm us down. There are always enough bystanders willing to intervene to prevent anything from actually happening. Maybe that’s why we feel so secure in our road rage. We know nothing will really happen no matter how ugly we get.
Anyone who has been in a car with me, my children especially, knows that I am my father’s daughter. (more…)
I am not going to beat around the bush in this blog post. Egypt’s Ministry of Transportation deserves to go to hell. And Egypt’s Ministry of Interior deserves to go to hell for too many reasons, but one of them is the appalling performance of its traffic police.
I am absolutely sick and tired of feeling I want to be shot in the head with a gun every single time I drive in Cairo’s streets. The problem is that so many of our traffic issues can be solved if there were people with heads on their shoulders who were actually working.
Let me give you a few examples from my daily drive out of and into my neighborhood of Al-Haram. (more…)