Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Drive from Sharm el Sheik to Maadi, New Cairo

Hi all, 

Hope you are all doing fabulously :) 

We just made the eight hour trek from Sharm el Sheik, which is located near the southern tip of the Sinai, to Maadi, which is an expat area in New Cairo located about an hour outside of Cairo depending on the traffic. 

A few things that I have noticed about driving in Egypt so far: 

1 - There are no rules. Seriously. I have not seen one set of stop lights, let alone stop sign. People will randomly drive on the wrong side of the road for no apparent reason. 

2 - Seatbelts are for sissies. Meaning they are more of an accessory in the car than anything else. Kind of like the fake fur on the dashboard, the Gatineau-like coloured lights under the car, or the Arabic stencilled on the windows. I haven't seen anyone use one yet, including myself. 

3 - Truck beds are well used. Either loaded up with people, which is personally my fav way of getting around, or piled high with a ridiculous amount of stuff. Like a mountain of cushions about ten times the height of the car, for instance. 

4 - Speed limits are non-existent. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are quite a few speed signs along the road, technically, but people drive at such break-neck speeds here that it is more of a suggestion than an actual speed limit. Funny story: one of my Mom's coworkers was telling us about how he was driving about 50km over the speed limit on his way from Cairo to Dahab, and happened to pull up to a random police car ahead of him. He thought for sure that the police car was going to pull him over, but instead the police officer pulled off to the side to let him pass. Good times. 

5 - Cars have internal speed limit controls. Which are obvi ignored. It is hilarious - owners of taxi cars and vans set an internal speed limit, which makes the car start beeping if the driver goes over a certain speed. Which means that there is an incessant beeping noise whenever you are in a taxi. Which means we had a full x hour drive with full-on beeping. It became strangely comforting, and I would start questioning the driver whenever the beeping stopped. Yalla!! Let's go!!

6 - Every car can be a taxi. No matter how old, new, big or small. An everyone will ask you if you need a taxi ride if you are walking on the street. Even if you are biking ;) 

7 - Drivers reserve their headlights for signalling. Even at night, people drive with their lights off and only blink them on to let someone know that they are passing, or to signal to someone else that they shouldn't pass yet, or that they can go ahead, or to wait a sec until I go's like a whole other driving language ;)

8 - There are check points galore. It's not really a driving thang, but it definitely affects the driving here. During our drive, we went through x. Some are more lax than others - the guys running them will just say hi to our driver like they are best friends an let us zoom through. Others will take all of our passports, make our driver get out of the car to chat, and draw the entire process out while a group of body armoured guys with huge machine guns behind bullet-proof hidey-holes stare us down. Sometimes they make you wait for an hour or two for no apparent reason, or to wait for a 'caravan' of cars to drive as a group. We got it down to an art with our driver by the end - I would put my seat all the way down and pretend to be sleeping and the others in the back would draw their blinds closed so we didn't look like a van full of tourists. Which we are ;)

9 - Speedbumps actually make a difference. Drivers, or at least the ones that I've experienced, slow right down to go over Speedbumps. I don't know if it's the fact that the Speedbumps here made gibormously to the point that you think the bottom of the car will be scraped off, or that everyone is very conscious of their shocks, but man are the Speedbumps ever effective here. 

10 - Drivers pass each other like no tomorrow. Seriously, it's like a free-for-all out there. Solid lines, corners, left lane, right lane, on the curb, no problem. Just honk a bit, flick your lights and you're good to go. 

11 - Road lines don't really mean anything. There may be three lines, but it only allows for two lanes of traffic, there might be only one line but it somehow transforms into three. Go figure. Also, the whole 'keep right except to pass' concept doesn't really apply here. Slow trucks are gonna do what they wanna do, even if it means hanging out in the left lane. Or the middle. They don't give a what. 

12 - Honking means anything you want it to. It can mean hey what's up, who do you think you are, go ahead, don't be an idiot, stay where you are, see ya, hi, bye...and the list goes on. This can be done with one honk or multiple. Mostly they seem like nice honks until you are stuck in a two hour long line up to cross the Suez through the underwater tunnel and then shit gets real. Real fast. 

Speaking of which, our driver was amazing. He had the connections, so somehow got us to skip said lineup in about 15 minutes, and with a little bit of help from me - his copilot in the front - to push in the rear view mirrors to squeeze by a couple of trucks ;) 

We rent our taxis to and from Cairo, the airports, Sharm and Dahab through a guy named Bassem, who also co-owns the diving center we did our diving with, adventure diving in Dahab. Def hit him up if ever you need a reliable and cheap ride! 

Anyway, these are my impressions from my very minimal experience here so far. I have been told that driving in Cairo is a whole other ball game - I'll keep you posted on the craziness on the roads here ;)

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