Monday, 30 March 2009

Egypt - a tourist mother's guide #1

Yes, we've arrived. Despite the post that follows we're having a fabulous time. There's so much to write about I hardly know where to begin, so I'll start with this...

A short guide to taxi journeys from Cairo Airport

For the taxi driver:

Hang around the arrivals lounge at Cairo Terminal 2 late in the evening for the London flight to arrive.

Scan the passengers for potential fares as they arrive. Pay particular attention to families who look as if they were rather expecting to arrive at Cairo Terminal 1, where there is a state-sponsored taxi-stand. Narrow that down to families with small children and a buggy, who really can’t face the shuttle bus between the two terminals, and hang around incessantly offering them your services until they give in just to shut you up.

If you have prepared properly you will have parked your car in the furthest ‘close’ car park, which can only be reached by a seat of precipitous steps. The reasons for this will become clear shortly.

Of particular importance is to be able to quote a well-known marque when the fare asks you what type of car you drive. Peugot is a good one. No need to mention that it is 30 years old, falling apart, and does not posess rear seat belts until you all reach the car at the far side of the car park and they can’t face the walk back to the terminal with their luggage and buggy. The all important steps are of particular use here in helping them reach the right decision...

Ensure you treat all road signs, traffic signals and lane markings with cavalier disregard once your journey begins.

Should you yourself have a seatbelt pay no attention to it. In fact, the fashionable option seems to be to let it hang carelessly out the bottom of your door as you drive along, in 'Yes, I have a seatbelt, but why bother to use it?' kind of a statement.

Pay no attention whatsoever to the supersized rear-view mirror taking up most of the width of your windscreen.

Use your horn to indicate your intention to change lanes –indicators are for wimps or Europeans.

Similarly headlights; sidelights are all you need, it may be 1.00am but dipped headlights are only required when you want to flash the sucker in front to move over to make an extra lane so you can rattle past.

For the older child in the family

As you climb on board be sure to ask, wide-eyed, if you are going to die in this car because there are no seat belts.

For added impact, ask this loudly and in your father’s hearing (your mother will reward you later).

Then fall asleep and snore as if you have not a care in the world.

For the younger child

Stay wide-awake throughout the 45 minute drive to the hotel, asking repeatedly and at pertinent moments why the taxi driver is driving ‘like that’. Why, mama, why?

For the father

Preparation for this trip began weeks ago. No matter what your beloved spouse suggests, hold firm to your view that booking a taxi from the airport to the hotel is expensive and unnecessary. There is, after all, a government sponsored taxi stand at Terminal 1, Cairo airport.

Ignore her gentle reminders of similar situations in the past when you have ended up in death-traps disguised as taxis on Barbados and Mauritius, on one occasion being pulled over by the police and having them lecture you on the irresponsibility of taking a cab without a child-seat. You knew this. Why did they bother to tell you if it wasn’t to embarrass you? It’s not like you’re going to do it again...

On arriving at Cairo, fortuitously forget your previous telling off from the police in Barbados and in the absence of the state-sponsored taxi rank, find yourself a helpful local guy who offers to take you to your hotel for a cut-rate price in his limo.

On realising that to call the taxi a 'limo' is an act prosecutable under the trade descriptions act, decide to go with it anyway. You know there’ll be hell to pay with the missus but it’s late, you’re tired and what else are you going to do?

Ignore her muttered curses and exclamations as she holds tight to her children whilst the taxi driver weaves through the traffic and you sit safely in the front with your seat belt on. There is nothing you could say to make it better at this point, anyway...

Although if you do decide to open your mouth about the situation, the statement 'They drive like maniacs in Cairo. In a controlled way, of course.' may not be quite what it takes to get you out of the doghouse.

The Mother

See the taxi.

Realise that you have been proved right yet again – and that you should have booked the damn cab via the hotel yourself...


  1. Sounds hair raising....glad you arrived safely.
    actually just reading your post brings back bad memories - I have been conned by several bogus taxis in the past, and we were once mugged by a 'taxi driver' in South America, rendering me terrified of any unofficial taxi for life. So be careful, PM (as I'm sure you will after that experience....).

  2. OMG! I think I might have walked all the way back to the terminal rather than ride in that taxi! Having had a rather loud and angry exchange with my Father-in-law many years ago over why we were not going for a ride in his lovely new car (because he had no fittings to which I could attach our precious only son's car-seat) you can see I mean that.

    Glad to hear everything is great other than that ;-)

  3. OMG please be careful. I really enjoy reading your blog, and it would be such a shame for it to end abruptly...

  4. Have a lovely time! How gorgeous to be somewhere hot.

    Happy Easter.

    BM x

  5. ooh dear; it can only get better. Taxi drivers...yeah, be careful, dont tackle another one alone, in a hurry or stressed....i had no idea you were in cairo, must go back and read your posts

  6. Hilarious.

    We once got a taxi from Barcelona airport from a man who had a bdgue in the front seat. He took us all the way round Barcelona before dropping us at our hotel and then demanded extra money for the 'tour'.

  7. Oh, poor PM, and you had to hang on for dear life to those precious children! In other words, some Egyptian taxi drivers are maniacs and we are forewarned. Are the state sponsored ones more sane?

    Husbands can be such idiots, can't they? Especially the Dutch variety, because they are so stubborn. You go ahead and always book a taxi from now on, PM.

    Anyway, I hope the rest of the trip is fun and not so fraught with danger, but I guess we'll hear all about it. Right?


  8. When will we learn? They may be our husbands but they don't know everything and they are NOT in charge. I know it feels good to sit back and say "I told you so", but sometimes it would be nicer to have ignored him and just gone ahead with the arrangements anyway.

  9. I've heard many tales of Cairo - Egypt...the pyramids.

    All I can say is good luck girl!

  10. For the Mother:
    Never ever ever listen to the father again, wrest all control of any plans for remainder of holiday from father and when he starts to complain just hiss TAXI? at him. Then continue as planned.

    Glad you're all still alive. Have fun for rest of trip.

    My husband EXACTLY the same.

  11. Glad you're OK. I would love to go to Egypt, but hubby will not go, because of danger and things like that!

  12. Glad you are enjoying yourself.

    Tagged you here:

  13. Late comment (followed your link frm your highlights of 09), but had to add one, as I'm having flashbacks to the time I had to physically hold the door of my Cairo taxi cab closed, as it was only barely attached to the car, while sharing the cab with a man with a chicken on his lap. That Cairo traffic is madness.


Go on - you know you want to...