Faisal’s Tobril

Or the way I see it

ACHTUNG Egyptian Drivers! I value my life.

Posted by Faisal on April 13, 2006

I don’t drive.

I should say that I don’t drive because I don’t own a driver’s license at the moment. At the moment has been a period that has extended for almost seven years now… but who’s counting. Because I don’t drive my usual modes of transportation include (limited to, actually): friends’ cars (friends included), cabs, the metro (not a lot nowadays) and walking.

Now, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you might have noticed my tendency to quote cab drivers and talk about them. I don’t know why I do this. Is it because there’s the variable constant in my life? Possibly. Maybe the reason is their way of thinking (definitely different from my clique)? Possibly. Is it because I find them interesting and fascinating, driving around Cairo all day long (or however long their shift may be), meeting people on every street and corner? Oh yes.

*Looks up*

Ok. I rambled again.

On my way home last night, at the very late hour of 10:30 pm (I was dead tired, honest!) I had three automobile-related near death experiences. This is the average number of near-death experiences one can have on a single thirty minute car trip in Cairo, so I was not overly-concerned. Because I was sleepy (Im guessing) all cars were trailed by a long streak of light. Much like the delightful Red Arrows‘ planes look during an Airshow.

In fact, the cars did look like they were performing some sort of show, albeit a land one. Drivers were twisting and turning,speeding then braking, passing and stopping, taunting and swearing and finally… crashing (witnessed a minor car accident – didn’t even look twice. Too tired.) The realization came to me then that upon entering any four-wheeled vehicle in Egypt, you are automatically placing you life in the hands of your deity (should you happen to have one. Metaphorical hands for muslims and Jews.)

Egyptian drivers (and yes, I’m generalizing) have an amazing tendency to ignore the fact that there are other drivers on the road. This was made obvious yesterday by two volunteers who willingly chose to prove my point.

First Volunteer: Un-identified Egyptian male in his mid to late fifties accompanied by his family.
Car: A Lada 2106 if memory serves me correctly.
Incident: Just before going up the two-lane Malek El Saleh bridge, my cab driver and I were introduced to our first volunteer.
What happened: The man came over all the way from the right lane (three lane road) and attempted to hijack our left lane (bypassing the middle lane in the process).
Why we think he did that: We came to the conclusion that he was either absent-minded or tired and forgot that he wanted to get on the bridge, opting for the right lane exit into Manyal. Suddenly aware of the fact that he did not, in fact, wish to do that, he swerved all the way to the left to get on the bridge.
Why it was really stupid: There was a small Toyota Mini-bus parked at the bottom of the bridge. Parked at the bottom of the bridge. In the right lane. Of course, it wasn’t parked per se… the driver was letting out passengers and letting in new ones… but it was there, stopped, completely immobile for a period of at least fifteen seconds. The man in the Lada must have known this; it was right in his path. It was really stupid of him to attempt to squeeze himself between the bus and us in a two lane road. Fortunately, my cab driver’s nerves of steel (which manifested themselves in the fact that he did not divert an inch from his track) forced our first volunteer to drastically slow down. Thanfully.

Second Volunteer: Unknown driver of a souped-up Honda Civic.
Car: Souped-up Honda Civic.
Incident: Man almost hit by speeding car and the chaos that ensued almost caused a four car pile-up.
What happened: On the Corniche, again, approaching the Sadat Academy entrance to Maadi. This is a usual station for mini-buses and, true to that, another mini-bus was parked at the side of the road. Apparently the dude (or dudete…?) in the Civic believed that you need a minimum speed of 280 km/hr before the Civic has enough speed to achieve un-aided lift-off. It’s that, or the car was being clocked for some kind of urban land speed record, because he was ‘tearing up the tarmac’. What happened was, as soon as the Civic came to the entrance, a man popped up from behind the Mini-bus… obviously to cross to the other side of the road. Screeching sounds occurred and panic ensued. The civic dude hit the brakes… though realistically, had the man decided not to stop, the civic would have hit him. Hard. He stopped though.
Thing is, when the Civic driver hit the brakes, 4 cars behind him hit the brakes. For a period of two seconds, me and the cab driver watched 4 car drivers momentarily lose control of their cars; it was magnificent (I’m allowe to say this in retrospect since no accident occurred). Four cars fish-tailing for two seconds. It looked perfectly coordinated.
Why we think he did that: Young. Into cars. Reckless. Nothing new.
Why it was really stupid: Ok. There are many good drivers out there. There are many good drivers who know they’re good drivers. There are many good drivers who know they’re good drivers and thus the usually tend to ‘push the pedal to the metal’, even during traffic jams. But basically, it’s like my grand-father says “You’re a good driver but can you vouch for every other driver near you?” Man in the Civic (i’m convinced it’s a guy, from experience) probably forgot the whole thing 4.8031 seconds later. Im guessing that’s about how long it took him to get from 0-100.

What we need to do: Two things really – hope we never cross paths with these idiots and pray like hell everytime we get into a four-wheeled vehicle. You never know… you might be lucky.

*Pause*

Speaking of road incidents, next time I write on the topic, I’ll have to mention the story of the guy and girl who chose to engage in *ahem* quasi-sexual activities in the back of a two-door 4×4 with the whole of Cairo watching them. Oh yes. They were like a pace-car in a Formula One race… no one attempted to pass them.

*Nod* Yup, that’s just the way I see it.

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One Response to “ACHTUNG Egyptian Drivers! I value my life.”

  1. it has been brought to my attn that u couldn’t quite place me! i am deeply deelpy wounded. i trust u can now.

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