Traffic lights in Cairo appear to be merely for decoration, and the use of horn seems compulsory.
Almost all vehicles, especially the
city's 74,000 taxis, look like they
should be in a junkyard but their
brakes work perfectly.
Motorists don't believe in air-conditioning, which means if you are a car salesman here you won't be able to depend on selling optional accessories.
Despite the scorching sun, which reached
41C over the past week, no one seems to
be complaining except Malaysians.
Grim-faced senior aides of Prime
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad travelling in one van had
to remove their jackets each time
they got into the vehicle.
Taxi drivers, often with one hand on the
wheel and a cigarette in the other, do
not seem to be affected by the city's
And Cairo's motorists often disregard the one-way-street sign; a one way street
can suddenly become two way.
If you're a visitor and driving, never assume an Egyptian is turning right as indicated it's possible he is turning left.
The highway code is presumably not
compulsory for driving tests, if the
road manners of the drivers are anything
to go by.
The locals are a vocal lot and are often
engaged in shouting matches with the
Taxis come to a screeching halt wherever
they like. My driver, Mohamed, reassured me it was all right to stop on a bridge during peak hours for a shot of River Nile.
“Don't worry. You can do anything you
want in Cairo. No traffic rules,'' he
smiled as he fidgeted with my camera.
Despite the chaotic traffic system, I am
told there are hardly any fights between
Neither do they quarrel in the middle of the road over a minor accident. Just drive off and pay for your own repairs.
Taxi drivers were surprised to hear
about Malaysian road bullies. They
don't carry hockey sticks in their vehicles, only cassette tapes of the
latest belly-dancing pop songs.
Parking in Cairo is another headache. There is no multi-storey parking.
With 1.6 million private cars in the
city, it's not surprising that there is a shortage of parking lots. Nobody seems to have an answer to the problem.
Street urchins eke out a living demanding money from taxi drivers who park near shopping areas. In most cases, the passengers are asked to pay the children.
Some of these children sell newspapers and bread at road junctions. Others wipe
the dusty windscreens of taxis and cars for a “small fee.''
If you choose to catch a bus, you'd have
to be agile. Most of the city's 7,500
buses do not stop long enough for
passengers to get on board safely.
Another road sign that is a mere
decoration is the zebra crossing. You
can wait all you want, no motorist will
stop for pedestrians. You have to
Bad driving is not just confined to the
city. During a trip out of town, the
taxi driver told me I wouldn't have
problems enjoying the countryside.
He said the trip would be smooth because
of the freeways.
The “freeways'' turned out to be dusty
roads, and we had to stop several times while donkeys, sheep and camels crossed the road.
Taxi driver Mohamed wanted to know if
one could drive from Kuala Lumpur to
“Do you have such roads in Malaysia? Can you drive to Singapore? Is it far?'' asked Mohamed, whose only excursion
out of Egypt was a trip to Saudi Arabia.
He would probably knock himself out if
ever he gets to drive in Malaysia.
For first-time Malaysian visitors to Egypt,
my advice is don't “just walk like an
Egyptian'' you may have to drive like one to get around Cairo.