Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cairo Traffic

I am very appreciative of my pal, jaquandor over at Byzantium Shores for pointing me in the direction of a blog by another guy who just returned from Egypt. I've enjoyed reviewing his impressions of the trip and comparing them with mine. Greg Burgas had this to say about Cairo traffic.

Cairo is a huge city. It's packed with 20 million or so of Egypt's 72 million people, and each one of them is either in a car every second of the day or stepping off the curb in front of those cars with absolutely no regard for the few tons of metal bearing down on them. I suppose the feeling is mutual, because the drivers have no regard for the fragile bags of flesh zipping like dragonflies among their behemoths. Of course, "behemoths" is a relative term, as most automobiles in Egypt are tiny things, the better to maneuver through tiny spaces in the traffic. The biggest vehicle I saw there was a Jeep Cherokee. The country was packed with Renaults, Fiats, Peugeots, Kias, and other small cars with maximum scooting power and minimum protection from every other car. Those quaint lines on the road that mark lanes in the United States were mere decoration to Cairene drivers: they regarded them as if some ancient pharaoh had painted them as part of his temple and had no direct bearing on their modern lives.

I can relate. However, I interepreted the same events quite differently. As I commented over on Greg's blog: The first day there I too literally felt I was taking my life in my hands to be on the roads of sheer chaos. Yet in all the time we spent there I never witnessed a single fender bender, something I can't say for an equal amount of time spent on busy US roads. I also did not see ANY "road rage". YES it es extremely congested with camels and cars and little kids hawking Kleenex all jumbled together. But it seems to occur in an intricate dance of human interaction that the local people understand well. I once took ballroom dance lessons with my husband and learned how to move here or there based on the slightest nudge of a hand at my back. Likewise, the people of Cairo have an amazing level of awareness of when to go and when to wait that is not at all based on street lights (which are practically nonexistant there) or lane lines (which are mere suggestions there). Instead they base their understanding of right-of-way on DIFFERENT (not less valid) means that we urgent Americans.

To expand on that a bit; I owe many thanks to our marvelous driver, Whed, whose calm, humble demeanor and excellent skill as he transported us not only all around Cairo, but also clear across country to the land of the Sinai, made the trip even more remarkable. Many blessings to you my brother, you shall not be forgotten!

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