Saturday, July 29, 2006

Taxi

My apartment block is on the corniche- every road which runs along side the Nile is the corniche- can be very confusing in taxi directions, so each day I play chicken- how to cross the road, just so I can get a taxi!! No story about Cairo would be complete without a section on the taxis. Hmmm. There are always lots of them, since not so many people can afford to run their own car (not that you'd think that when you see the traffic of course) and they can be any model of car (sometimes bits of more than one welded together!!!) and are distinguished by their black and white colouring. They are strange creatures-often temperamental, with strange habits and dress sense- the cars and the drivers! The cars interior d├ęcor is always memorable- from furry seat covers, or dashboard covers, to anything you can imagine hanging form the rear view mirror- from Koran, and prayer beads to toys and flashing kitsch. Often the driver will put photos of his whole family around the car, like you would put photos up in an office, and yesterdays cab had the photos of the drivers 2 children on the back of the each of the headrest so the passengers see the whole time…. Cute? Or a bargaining strategy to obtain a higher fare??? So then we get on to the topic of money….. How much should a taxi ride cost? Well it seems to really depend a lot on where you are from- defiantly an Egyptian versus tourist price- but what about us unlucky few who come into neither category? Foreign but not earning! That’s when things get hard- bargaining skills are honed, and you get very adept at getting out a taxi and passing whatever money you think he should get (never female drivers of course) though the window as you scurry off hoping they won't jump out the taxi shouting at you that you haven’t left enough (this does happen on a fairly regular basis!) Then of course there are the mirrors attached onto the windscreen purely for the purpose of watching you whilst they are driving- a lovely feeling having an entire journey with eyes glued on your every move- I've taken to always having a book in my bag so at least I don’t see it happening. Oh, and they all smoke. I shouldn’t paint them all bad though- the elation you feel when you have a 'nice' taxi driver is really worth a mention- someone who helps you practise your Arabic and tries to make conversation (that doesn't involved if you are married and want to be friends) not to mention having a taxi driver who knows where you are going- now that is rare indeed- no sitting the knowledge for these guys…… so if your Arabic is bad, it can be hard- esp. since many can't read or write, so even if you go to the extent of having a friend write down directions in Arabic, they often still can't get you there. So basically you take your life in your hands when you get in a taxi (but the alternative is the buses- Hmmm, or the metro- ok in women's carriage)

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