03 April, 2012


Cairo taxi drivers used to pay one thousand Egyptian pounds to the authorities to have the mandatory fare meter, which they never used. Frankly the meter charges were so unrealistically low that they were a joke. I was told by some of the brighter taxi drivers that the authorities’ taxi fare was one of the ten items that the government used to produce the annual inflation rate index. That explained the low figures that the government was giving out every year for the inflation rate. I am sure that the real inflation rate was three times the annual rate released by the government.
The names of his six daughters and only son.
In the last four years the Egyptian government introduced a scheme to replace the old taxis with new ones supplied with electronic meters giving a realistic fare but still some of the drivers fiddle with meter pretending that it is out of order. Well you will not beat them.

In the previous article I talked about conversations with the drivers but his taxi also says a lot about him. The taxi is a moving national ID card for the driver and reveals his religion and indeed how religious he is. This is shown by the holy books on the dashboard of the car or on the back shelf and clearly visible through the rear window. Then without fail, the writing on the wings, down the sides and across the back of the car indicates the driver’s faith. Most importantly what is on the back of the taxi indicates to the drivers of vehicles behind everything about the driver ahead of him.

Many taxi drivers paint the name of their children on the back of the car or even the name of his village or district, often the car would be carry a name such as the wild lion or the eagle followed by the name of the village or district. In many ways some taxis and indeed other vehicles used to earn a living in Egypt are mobile CVs of their drivers.
The boss
I have a close friend who went to Cairo as a representative of one the Kurdish Political Parties but unfortunately he could not stick the noise made by the cars in Cairo. I worked with the UN in more than forty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and Cairo has the greatest level of noise pollution, mainly from vehicles, that I have encountered and ironically Cairo has more signs against the use of car horns than I have seen in any other city.

The names of his three childrens and his from the South
The Maadi district, where my flat was, is located in the south east of the city not far from the Nile while the FAO-UN offices where I worked were some 14km away near the Ministry of Agriculture in the central area of the city and to the east of the river. One day I had to take a taxi to go home and, following the familiar questions to satisfy his curiosity, he started enjoying himself by beeping the horn rhythmically and I knew that I had another 35 minutes of this torture to face until I reached home. To put an end to this, I offered him extra 5 EP as” ba’aghshish” if he would only stop fiddling with the horn! He could not believe it and I am sure that was the only such offer he had received in his life. He said,” You really mean it?” and laughing, no doubt over the stupid offer from the stupid passenger in the back seat of his taxi he stopped playing with the car’s horn. The horn-free drive continued all the way until we reached the turning into Maadi from the Corniche when suddenly the driver started hitting the horn and announced that my five pound agreement had expired! This can only happen in Cairo.

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