Updated: Aug 19, 2020
DAREDEVIL TAXI DRIVERS GAVE ME A RATHER ALARMING WELCOME TO CAIRO.
We made the call to stay over in Cairo for a few days en route to Eastern Europe. The stopover was the most cost-effective option at the time, plus I’d always longed to see the pyramids.
I’d barely stepped out of the exceptionally efficient air-conditioned Cairo International Airport and into the sizzling Egyptian summer heat, before being rushed at by a horde of eager taxi drivers, each promising a more luxurious and affordable ride than the next.
We were a group of 12 and, uneducated as we were about other (more reasonably priced) public transport options to the city centre, decided to employ a fleet of four taxis.
Our exuberant driver ushered us to his pride and joy, an old and rather battered little black number with an absent left side mirror, multiple dents and a flimsy-looking roof rack, to which he promptly strapped some of our luggage. We eyed the vehicle warily, but sensing our dubiousness, the driver made some reassuring noises and bundled us into the old crock.
Once inside, we were treated to flashing disco lights attached to the roof, a scratchy sound system blaring out some high-pitched Arabian lyrics and a peculiar odour akin to wet dog. But our driver was positively beaming about the luxe interior of his taxi, and we humoured him with a few admiring ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.
With no more than a token glance over his shoulder, our driver swerved into traffic to a chorus of screeching tires and furious hooters, and so, the roller coaster from hell started.
With no handles to grip on to, we clutched our seats and one another, and held on for dear life as the taxi hurtled down the busy highway at full tilt. Overtaking, undercutting and sounding his hooter every five seconds to warn other road users to get out of the way for their own good, it felt as though we were involved in a Hollywood car chase.
We thought it was just our luck to get into the one taxi that was operated by a mad man, until we saw the rest of our group in the other taxis weaving their way through traffic in a similarly maniacal fashion behind us.
I had just started to calm down a bit, when the man's cellphone rang and he proceeded to answer it. He shouted into it over the music still blasting from the speakers and, with one hand on the wheel, took gaps which we wouldn't have fit through if he still had two side mirrors intact.
Shell-shocked and ashen-faced, we finally arrived at our hotel, shakily paid the still-smiling driver and vowed to take the bus from then on.