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Worldly Thoughts This journal is a hodgepodge of assorted experiences I have had whilst traveling here and there.


EGYPT | Monday, 14 May 2012 | Views [614]



Egypt is something of a hassle. It is by no means an Indian hassle, but more of an irritation at times. Like a rash, or eczema that chooses not to go away. In six months of living in Cairo, my last three taxi rides have been, far and away, for some reason, the worst of my time here. We begin with taxi number 1. Here I am found on my way to the nearest intersection for a taxi from the posh downtown Zamalek to the expat-suburb of Maadi. On my short walk a taxi slows and hails to me. He smells foreigner. After asking for Maadi, I get in. In my broken and non-existent Arabic I ask for the corniche. He replies in Arabic that the corniche is not possible due to the protests going on currently in Tahrir. That is fine, I happen to know the protests exist, and so accept his alternative of taking the autostrade. Sadly, in my ignorance and negligence he chooses to take me far out of the way, around a settlement known as Sixth of October, making the metre run closer to fifty pounds than the normally accepted twenty-five. Lo and behold, I understand this halfway through and decide phoning my Brit-but-grew-up-in-Egypt girlfriend the best course of action. Honestly, I wonder during this whether I am in any form of danger. Of course I am not, the taxi just thought he could rip me off (which he succeeded in doing up until this point). After explaining the situation, I hand the phone to the taxi driver and listen as very loud Arabic comes through the receiver into the taxi driver’s ear. Eventually he hands the phone back to me, upset and mouthing off. I am told later this was after he was accused of being a criminal. Because come on, the accusation is offensive. I mean, he’s a Muslim, after all. So I am directed to meet my girlfriend in a specific place, and we will see what happens from there.

Parked, my girlfriend appears and hastens to once again give the driver a piece of her mind. Ah! But now we are stopped in a suburban area, with two other taxis cleaning their cars. Obviously, they come to see what is happening. Cool and collected, my girlfriend explains that I am new to Egypt, and that the taxi used a ridiculous way of getting me here. The men agree, looking at the receipt. They ask for the receipt from my girlfriend, who threateningly has been writing down his plate numbers on it, and ask if thirty-five pounds and a ripped up receipt will suffice. End.


On my way back to Zamalek that night, a friend drops me off next to some parked taxis playing loud music. After asking for Zamalek, I am offered the loud taxi and a very large bald man takes the mantle of driver. When enquiring about the metre not being on, as most are not after a certain point of night, he tells me that thirty pounds will be the cost. This being the best price any taxi without a metre has offered, I accept. Later he decides it should be thirty-five. On the way, he asks if everything is alright. He then feels my bicep, and offers his to be felt by me. “ten pee-pee” He says as he points to himself, proudly. I agree, and then he humps the steering wheel. My only thought is that he is somehow showing off, telling me either how many women he has “pee-peed”, or possibly the length of his gear-shift. The rest of the night is quiet. I am dropped off, making him drive through all of the one-way streets I would normally walk myself if metres were involved, and pay the thirty-five pounds.


The next morning I am to head back to Maadi early, but with only a fifty pound note I need change. A taxi is parked near my intersection, I have seen the one before, talking with another fellow, and I ask for Maadi. Generally speaking, white taxis are reliable… The man he is speaking with walks to his car, and offers me a ride. They are brothers, he tells me, and the taxi is busy picking up someone from the airport just now. He will take me in this unmarked taxi. How much will it cost? No problem. On the way, I ask how much it would cost for a taxi to the Airport; he tells me one hundred pounds, which is what metres tend to ring up. He gets me to Maadi quickly using the corniche and asks for fifty pounds. I tell him thirty. He says fourty, and asks if I am upset. To be done with things, because I really do not want to argue with the man I just talked with on our twenty minute ride, I pay.


Egyptians are reasonable, but are also good arguers. I am trying to learn about compassion, having come from an attitude in India which involves the notion that all beings are evil. But really, my mental state, after a minute or two, really is calmer after consciously allowing myself to be ripped off instead of arguing with a man adamant that what he is doing is not wrong. The truth is that I love Egypt, and hate being ripped off. I won’t buy that trinket they’re selling for some hugely-absurd price, and I won’t take the horse or camel ride at the pyramids that costs fifty pounds but foreigners pay upwards of three hundred dollars. But for some reason, I get scammed on my taxi rides.

I find out later that “getting ten” is slang for masturbation. And that makes taxi number 2 quite a bit creepier. We’re living in a crazy world, but hell, it is fun isn’t it?



Tags: arab, cairo, egypt, money, pee, scam, taxi, travel

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