Tuesday 20 May 2008

Taxis, Cairo

Decked out in black and white, most of Cairo's taxis are classic cars sporting dozens of dents, scrapes and scratches - the battle scars of 20 or 30 years on this crowded city's crazy roads. Inside, these ancient vehicles often lack working seat belts and air conditioning, so the driver typically winds down the windows treating his passengers to lungfuls of traffic fumes. But you won't notice, focusing instead on the white-knuckle ride through Cairo's chaotic roads. Taxi drivers typically give no quarter, hooting their horns to warn other drivers that they plan to squeeze through an impossibly narrow gap to convert two lanes into three. Turning left, which usually involves filtering into a wall of cars while doing a tight U-turn, is even more alarming. To add to the drama, pedestrians blithely thread their way through the moving traffic, narrowly avoiding being squashed into the tarmac. Although you can typically negotiate the fare down to less than 5 Egyptian pounds a kilometre, the drivers do expect a large tip and they don't give receipts. More modern taxis, known as limousines, are available from many hotels, but they also drive like maniacs and cost a good deal more. 5/10