From standing on the balcony of my parents apartment building and watching from the window of my flat in Cairo, I have come to the conclusion that there is an ‘ART’ on how to cross the roads in Egypt and on top of that it is also of entertainment value if you are a voyeur
This summer I have had the pleasure of being in the United Kingdom for almost three weeks for my summer holiday and during my time there I have noticed many things that are very different to how things are done in Egypt.
One of the many things that caught my attention, (it wasn’t that hard to notice if I’m going to be completely honest) is how people are able to cross the roads safely!
I still can’t believe that the drivers in England would break for pedestrians and not speed up when they see someone crossing the road or when the traffic light turns red. They actually stop before the marked yellow line and at a zebra crossing and politely wait for you to cross the road safely to the other side. How Bizarre!
I have grown so accustomed to the chaos and reckless driving of Egyptians that I can’t help but be filled with anxiety when I come to cross any road any where. Even, when I come to a country where I know and I’m comforted in knowing that there are STRICT traffic laws, I can’t help but look at the drivers with distrust because I can’t get used to the fact that they really won’t attempt to run me over.
When I cross the streets here I use a technique I like to call ‘the owl’. As I’m sure you already know an owl’s neck can rotate almost a full 360 degrees. When you come to cross the road here, you have to be prepared for anything coming or going in any direction. Owl vision helps you see the traffic from all possible directions and be prepared for the unexpected. On many occasions you will find that a car may come in the opposite direction of where it shouldn’t be coming from or an anxious driver has forgotten where his breaks are and has pushed down on the gas pedal as you happen to be crossing. Some drivers will drive will even speed up while your foot is in mid-air between the curb and the road and you will swear blind that he or she was aiming for you.
You are probably wondering how to use this technique of mine. Let me tell you. Your head can only turn as far as your neck will allow. So, you have to rely on other senses not just sight. Your hearing is very valuable, because like a driver you have a blind spot, your ears make up for that by picking up the sound of the wheels on the tarmac roads and the revving of the car engines. Your eyes and ears give you a 3D CineMax experience. So, if you have your i-pod in your ears when you walk the streets to avoid hearing the buzz of the city or the harassing comments, pause the tunes when you come to cross the road. If you don’t you will put yourself in jeopardy and ruin the CineMax experience. (Honestly, I some times wish I could strap a camera to my head just to show people what it is I am trying to describe)
The Rules of crossing the road in Egypt are quite different. For people who have never been to Egypt this will probably be one of the biggest shocks you get when you first arrive. The best way to describe it is ‘taking your life in to your own hands’. If you are a risk taker or a dare-devil, you may get some enjoyment out of this but it won’t compare to sky diving.
Most people are familiar with the rules of crossing a road at a designated area better known as the zebra crossing, standing on the side-walk and looking both ways before crossing the road and wait for the light to turn red so that you can make it to the other side safely. Those you ‘may’ use here but that doesn’t mean it will always work and that the drivers and other pedestrians will abide by them. People in Egypt cross the road at any given time, even when the traffic is at its busiest and cars are rushing by at top speed. They will step off the side-walk and walk across the road without a side ways glance at the incoming traffic. They will even stand in the middle of the road as the cars whizz by them as they rapidly and mentaly calculate the speed, distance of the vehicles approaching and the time they need to make it safely to the other side. They have it down to a fine art. Watching them makes my blood turn cold, but I have to admit that they do have balls of steel. Personally, I would much rather wait for a BIG gap in the traffic before trying to cross the road. So, please don’t attempt it!
I have also noticed that when the pedestrians walk across the road, they have no fear in their stride or in their eyes. They walk across the street like they own it and that the cars are the ones who are intruding on their domain. That is a look that you do need to have down pat because the drivers here smell fear and if they think you are afraid they will not slow down, they will intimidate you by speeding up.
You need to make eye contact with the driver and stare them down so that they know that YOU ARE GOING TO CROSS THE ROAD AND THEY ARE GOING TO SLOW DOWN. Think of it as a kind of Wild West show down.
Another tactic is to stand near a local who is about to cross the road and move with them as they cross. It will guide you and teach you how to make it across to the other walk path safely. Like everything you do in life, it takes practice!
I could spend all night trying to describe the scenes along with various methods of how to cross the road but the only way you will understand or believe me is to see it for yourself.