Driving in Cairo

The roads are paved, have painted lane divisions, there are stoplights on main streets, policemen directing traffic, and the driver’s seat is on the same side as in the United States.

And this is where the similarities between American and Egyptian driving stop.

The roads are really, really dirty. There are piles of trash, rubble, discarded mannequins… (anything, you name it) along the sides of the road and floating down the middles. They are also very, very crowded. Parking in a big city is crazy no matter which country you’re living in, but cars here are parked two, sometimes three, deep against both curbs, making what was a wide, two-lane road barely passable to a single car. Vendors have set up shop on top of parked cars, in the lanes of round-a-bouts, between the vehicular traffic and the sidewalk… and all the while people dash across the roads, often stopping directly in the middle to wait out a fast moving vehicle. Imagine total chaos, and you might be able to comprehend the quieter streets.

I’ve checked: there are painted lane divisions – both dashes and solid lines. But what was designated by the Department of Transportation as a four lane road, becomes in places a five, six, or seven lane road depending on the width of the vehicles present. Most commonly drivers coast along directly atop the lane divisions, rather than between them. I saw a taxi squeeze between two other cars on a main road, and one of the other drivers was nice enough to bend the side-view mirror backward to make enough room between them (about two inches on either side).

I have only seen one working stoplight – and nobody paid attention to it anyway.

There are policemen. I have seen them. They wear snazzy white uniforms with caps and black bandoliers, and they are there because they are supposed to be directing traffic but, usually, they are not.

Oh yes: and there are donkey and horse carts. But I have yet to see a single camel.

I have not seen a single collision, fender bender, or bump between vehicles. Though I’ve been noticing a awful lot of dents and nicks on the cars around us….

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