Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Taxi news: Cairo

This isn't news, but an interesting BBC story about taxis in Cairo, Egypt. It's from 2002:

    First, let's meet the Egyptian taxicab and familiarize ourselves with it. In every city in Egypt, taxicabs are a different colour. Only in Alexandria are they the trademark yellow you might have seen in the USA. In Cairo and Giza, they're black and white. The standard cab will be missing any or all of the following: headlights, bumpers, at least one body panel, hubcaps, and either the bonnet, or the boot panel. Some of these parts may secured with rope or bungee cords. The horn, however, always works and appears to be wired to the steering wheel, and the brake, accelerator, and clutch pedals simultaneously.

    If you're arriving at night, be forewarned that Egyptians consider it rude to drive with the headlights on. They remain firmly off unless the need to overtake another car arises, particularly if travelling down a two-way street and it becomes necessary to pass through a space of one-car width. In this case, the car that flashes its lights first is supposed to go through first, although the possibility that the headlights may not work (see above) makes this game all the more interesting. Egyptian taxi drivers also have an alarming habit of driving with no hands on the wheel, or of turning completely around in the seat to talk to someone in the back while the car is in motion. There is also the legendary driver who sleeps while the car is in motion, but this tends to be more of a rural phenomena.

    Despite these quirks, fatalities in taxicabs are rare. You will arrive at your destination, perhaps white-knuckled and huddled on the floor in a shaking, sobbing heap, but you will get there.

No customer riding in my taxi has arrived "at your destination, perhaps white-knuckled and huddled on the floor in a shaking, sobbing heap", but there's always tomorrow.

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