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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.

 5- Breaks.

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.

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.

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