Welcome to Egypt

Hawina did a bunch of research before we came on this trip and found us a number of wonderful places to stay.  My favorite tho is the Pyramid View Inn in Giza.  The first nice touch is they sent us a driver to pick us up at the airport.

the view from our hotel

On the way from Cairo International to Giza there was an accident in the adjacent lane.  The car, which at it’s closest was less than 50? from us and still moving, completely flipped upside down and was skidding at 70 mph on the highway inverted.  Our driver deftly navigated the traffic which momentarily became even more erratic as it slowed and swerved to avoid a pile up.   The westerners in the care were stunned and silent for a few moments.  Our driver also said nothing.

When i asked about it after a few moments, he was dismissive of the event saying simply “it happens all the time”.

I’ve been in a lot of wild traffic.  I was in Managua Nicaragua in 1975, where i could swear that the only functioning controls to the taxis were the accelerator and the horn.  We had to jump into and out of cabs which never came to a complete stop.  In 1991 in Shanghai China i made the mistake of telling a cab driver that there was an extra $5 in it if he got us to the train station on time.  The driver immediately got off the road and started driving down the bike path which pedestrians and bike riders had to leap out of his way.  But i have never seen traffic like Cairo and Giza.

The faded lines dividing lanes on the highway are all but ignored.  Cars tailgate at high speed.  No one seemed to use turn indicators for switching lanes.  Not more than a few seconds would go by before we passed someone or someone passed us, frequently honking and they moved into lanes of closing traffic opportunities as others were jockeying for position.  Not a game for the faint of heart.

When we arrived in Giza, Hawina and i went for a walk down the crowded busy streets at 10 PM.  Stores were open, people were everywhere and the traffic anarchy was even more complex, tho dramatically slower.  Kids and donkeys and tractors and cars and three wheeled partially open motorized taxis and pedestrians and horses all “shared” the road in a complex game of chicken.  Unlike the highway, it seemed safe for the people without vehicles.  But there will several times in more congested Giza it was unclear to me which of the 3 or 4 vehicles all heading towards each other, including ours would give way to the others.  We saw no bikes.

This barely captures the traffic chaos of Giza

When i IMed my new friend Mahmoud (who is organizing a speaking gig for me at the university in Luxor) of my amazement, he loled and simply replied “Welcome to Egypt.”