Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 87

The taxi drivers of Cairo

by : 
Kate Wym

This summer, I’ve spent four months living in Cairo.  It’s a city unlike anywhere I have ever visited and it has its own unique character – unique, but I won’t say bad or good!

When I look back on my stay, a weird aspect of daily life stands out in my mind:  taxi rides.  Yes, one of the most mundane, every day activities, but taxi rides, in particular the taxi drivers themselves, have been one of the recurring factors of life in Cairo, along with the heat and cupcakes.  As with these two other things, they’ve been there through the ups and downs and have contributed to some of the best and worst moments.

Of course, the bad times are usually all along the same lines.  What begins with a few innocent questions about where I’m from and what I’m doing in Cairo often led to telling me I’m beautiful and giving me their business card, ‘to see the sights, go anywhere anytime!’.  I think I might almost miss the daily compliments I get here; a new one recently has been that I’m ‘cute’ – I really think they must misunderstand the word, because there’s no mistaking the scowl on my face…

There are also the drivers who accept to take you somewhere that they have absolutely no idea how to get to.  I really do appreciate their enthusiasm but honestly I’d rather they admitted they were lost.  Because when I have no idea where I’m going, I quite often rely on their ‘Knowledge’.  Then again there are other times, when you know exactly where you want to go and exactly how to get there and even about how much it should cost.  When these three factors do not fall in to place, I just know it’s going to be one of those days.

Sometimes drivers happily chat to you throughout the journey, not concerned if you really understand, but sometimes trying really hard to help you – gesticulating with both hands while turning round to talk to you face-to-face while speeding down the road…Thanks! Politics has naturally been the most popular topic while I’ve been here.  People don’t hesitate to tell you who they voted for or didn’t, and why. 

There is mild peril even for guys who sit in the front seat, because quite often the driver takes it personally if they put their seatbelt on.  Never mind that it is actually a legal requirement in Egypt, but it seems that putting your seatbelt on means you don’t trust their driving skills!  The last time I heard this exchange, we actually bumped into a motorcyclist (very lightly).  The driver did have the good grace to laugh at the irony of this.

I can’t finish without mentioning some of the incredible decoration and personalisation that goes into a taxi’s interior.  I’ve been in one with Mini Mouse headrest covers, one with a Barcelona FC flag pinned to its roof inside (there’s no accounting for taste!).  My favourites have to be those with disco lights and drivers who change the radio station several times to find music which seems to please us.  We’ve had some very fun and dangerous drives through Cairo, but you almost have to be immune to the driving style sometimes.

Basically, day-to-day life without the taxi drivers of Cairo would not be the same.  Some of the short conversations I’ve had have been my greatest achievements in Cairo.  These are real people trying to make a living and most of the time they provide an excellent service.  The prices are a tenth of British fares and, although this is because the natural gas they run on is much cheaper than petrol in Britain, it means you can definitely afford to forgive them for the odd detour or unsubtly rigged meter.  No journey is ever the same twice and sometimes quite literally, you don’t know where you’ll end up!

Language level: 

Do you ever travel by taxi? Have you ever had an unusual taxi ride? Tell us about it.


piku99's picture
piku99 28 April, 2016 - 07:14

I Need to sometimes time travel by taxi in my school. I am really like taxi driver. Because They are very friendly and quite person. I never forget to give tips taxi driver.

30 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 28 March, 2015 - 14:31

When I visited a small pacific ireland with my friend, we traveled by taxi. The driver was very friendly and he was very proud of guiding visitors through the land. While driving, we chatted about the locals and when I just asked about traditional local food, he said his family would fix us dinner! On top of that, the next day, we were invited to his daughter's coming-of-age party! Thanks to the driver, we got an unexpected chance to be a part of the locals…!

28 users have voted.
dzeni's picture
dzeni 27 March, 2014 - 13:48

Yes, many times. Taxi in my town is always comfortable so I never had unusual taxi ride and I hope I won`t.

23 users have voted.
justcricketforme's picture
justcricketforme 21 September, 2013 - 10:01

I sometimes have to when the ccar isn't avalible. Taxi drivers can be a real help for tourists because they tell about places in the capital and you don't need a guide if you've got a talkative driver! :) No, I've never experienced something unusual!

27 users have voted.
KLEA B's picture
KLEA B 16 August, 2013 - 14:35

No i haven't traveled by taxi because my father has his own car but sure i would like to try it

26 users have voted.
annahedd's picture
annahedd 17 June, 2013 - 17:49

In our small city, I've never traveled by taxi , and even when I go to bigger cities I use the bus most , but sometimes I find myself obliged to travel by taxi...It's really useful.

33 users have voted.
hayaalhams's picture
hayaalhams 10 June, 2013 - 10:58

i don't like to travel by a taxi ... it makes me feel booring ... but some times i have to travel by a taxi when i meet my friends

32 users have voted.
Ash'Oosha's picture
Ash'Oosha 15 March, 2013 - 22:23

I live in Egypt but not in Cairo. But I think drivers and taxis have this same system in my city. Taxi drivers believe they own the taxi. So they decorate it the way they want...with green and red lights, things related to their favourite teams or people. So, when you are in a taxi, you are in their place. Don't argue with them about what they are talking about or complain about what they are playing on the radio because mostly it won't end the way you want. All you have to do is to know how to go with it and it will be really easy and fun.

27 users have voted.
klodi-lodi's picture
klodi-lodi 5 March, 2013 - 06:50

Yes, I have traveled many times by taxi ...
I have never had an unpleasant experience and I think taxi is the most comfortable means of transportation .... I have traveled by train is better to travel by taxi ..

28 users have voted.
liza marsheh's picture
liza marsheh 1 March, 2013 - 10:42

yes I've travelled by Taxi in many countries including Egypt but I've never had an unusual ride :(
I would like to have an unusual ride because I love advenures

27 users have voted.
Red's picture
Red 26 January, 2013 - 16:59

I Sometimes drivers happily chat to you throughout the journey, not concerned if you really understand, but sometimes trying really hard to help you

27 users have voted.
Ilda G's picture
Ilda G 24 January, 2013 - 19:47

Yes I have travelled a lot of times by taxi...
I haven't had an unpleasant experience and I think that taxi is the most comfortable mean of transport

36 users have voted.
m.tayyab's picture
m.tayyab 12 October, 2012 - 11:03

Yes i travelled by taxi in Islamabad which is our capital city. Most of the time the taxi driver tells you about the special things which are easily available in their city and I had never ever had an unusual taxi ride.

36 users have voted.