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They say; “If you can drive in Egypt, you can drive anywhere in the world!” I used to laugh when I heard that phrase, but once I learned how to drive, I knew exactly what they meant.
If you have ever dreamed of being a race car driver, loved playing bumper cars at the fun parks and enjoyed playing tag as a kid. Driving in Egypt is the three games rolled in to one BIG experience!
To be able to drive in Egypt you must have the following;
1- Excellent Reflexes. (to avoid cars, animals, pedestrians, objects)
2- Balls of Steal (courage) or a Guardian Angel
3- Judgment, (speed, distance ..,etc)
4- Working Seat Belts.
If you have those five things you’re good to go! When you look at the roads from a bird’s eye view, it looks like anywhere else. The rules however are very different to most places in the world. Yes, you have the pretty traffic lights that change colour and nice white and yellow lines painted on the road, but that means SQUAT! The traffic lights are changed by a traffic Cop who is stuck in his light booth all day long. If the drivers are restless, they will inch their way forward until they have blocked the flow of cars, (who have the right of way). Their license plate numbers won’t be written down unless there is a Cop with a booklet in hand. If the cop with the booklet is accompanied by a Cop with stars on his shoulders then you are in BIG trouble. (Cops with stars on their shoulders are high-ranking officers, don’t mess with them.)
Here are some pointers to get you on your way,
Egyptian Driving Logic for Dummies
– Driving is simple, you put your foot down on the gas pedal and go!
– Your license has expired or you don’t have one? No problem, just don’t get caught.
– Don’t worry about traffic signs the majority of the population doesn’t know what they mean and if they do, they don’t abide by them.
– If your side mirrors are broken or closed that’s fine, you don’t really need them. You only need to see ahead of you.
– The speed limit in the City is supposed to be 60 Km/H, but there are those who like to exceed that and drive like bats out of hell. Drive quickly like you have some where important to be.
– Weaving from one lane to another is a popular past time. As is weaving between cars while they are moving.
– When you come to over take a car, over take from any side you please. Left or right, it really doesn’t matter as long as you are on the side you want to be on.
– When an ambulance is trying to get by, if you don’t let them pass, someone else will.
– If an ambulance is getting through traffic, follow it. You will get to where you want to go faster.
– If the road is a three lane road, you can squeeze between the cars and make it a 5 lane road. The objective is to be at the head of the pack.
– If you want the person in front of you to move out of your way, you get as close to their bumper as possible, while flashing your head lights and honking your horn simultaneously. Scare the driver, so he will move to the next lane so that you can pass.
– Indicating, is such a civil way of letting drivers know what you plan on doing. In Egypt it’s all about pushing your way to where you want to go. When you indicate, that tells other drivers they need to speed up before you move in to that lane. You have to indicate and push in to the lane at the same time; otherwise no one will let you pass.
– Drinking and driving is a popular Thursday and Friday night sport. (No Breathalyzer tests here! Hit and kill a person and you go to jail for a long time and pay the family blood money. If the person is hit and injured and the injury takes more than 21 days to heal, you go to jail free!)
– Honk at a STOP sign or any intersection. If you don’t hear a honk back then no one is coming and it’s safe to pass. You don’t even have to look to check!
– OPRAH’s ‘no phone zone’, doesn’t apply here! Text and talk while you drive just don’t let a cop catch you.
– You do not stop for pedestrians or animals. You swerve out of their way. (Just don’t hit the pedestrians, animals are ok)
– Play your music as loud as you want in the car, sharing is caring. Let everyone hear what you are listening to.
– Only break if you have to.
– Stay clear of buses! The BIG public and micro buses are the rulers of the roads don’t mess with them.
– Ask a taxi for directions while you are driving and hold up the traffic behind you.
– You took the wrong exit on the bridge, that’s ok. Just reverse and beep at the same time!
– Someone has really ticked you off and you want to swear at them, don’t waste your breath! One long blow on the car horn and they will know exactly what you want to say.
– Radar/ speed detector warn other drivers in the opposite direction of traffic by flashing your head lights.
– You see a cute guy or girl in the car in front of you and you want to tell them, move your indicator from left to right a few times and flash your head lights.
– Can’t find a parking space, just stop in the middle of the road and put your flasher on! (it may get towed, it may not)
– Park any way you like. Diagonally, horizontally be creative! (you could get a ticket on your window, but if the cop with the pocket-book and no stars is writing it give him 5Le and it will be forgotten)
Before, you go out and buy yourself a BMW, Jaguar or a Mercedes and tear up the streets with your Formula One driving skills, I think you might want to buy a second-hand car to get around in first before you buy brand new wheels. Drivers in Cairo can be ruthless and they can smell a rookie on the streets. If you aren’t fearless then say a prayer and turn on the ignition.