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Saturday, March 02, 2013

This taxi is not allowed...

December 2012, Cairo
Travel Diary
This taxi is not allowed...

My destination: Pyramids of Giza. A Wonder of the World. 7000 years of history. Pretty massive. Pretty impressive.
I decided to take a cab – my egyptian friend told the driver where to go - in arabic. I just nodded and looked at him. Pretending I definitely know what they are talking about.
He talked to me. In English. Ok, I should work on my pretending-skills.

Shokran means "Thanks" and not "Yes"
„Where are you from? – I’m from Europe.

Welcome in Egypt. Do you like Egypt? How long will you stay?

Do you need a guide? – Äh. No, I’m fine. Shokran.

Do you need a horse? – Ähm. No. Shokran. No.

I can organise everything. – mmh.“

I looked out of the window. The traffic was intense – scooters drove around –drivers didn’t wear helmets– people walked on a highway – a woman sat on the street and cried, her hands holding into the sky. Crowded buses – and a woman in one of those small vans looked at me. She wore a burka, but her light blue eyes focused me. And somehow I felt uncomfortable to have three seats in the back of the cab for my own while she is squeezed towards a bus window. 

Traffic jam. Daily routine. My taxi driver made some phone calls. I don’t understand what he’s saying but he’s talking with a loud voice. I watched the people next to the streets. Some sold bread, salads or fruits. Some newspapers or souvenirs. I recognised two men coming closer to my cab and suddenly they opened the doors. 

 One man sat on the front seat next to the driver, the other man sat next to me in the back. Scenarios from my travels in Brazil came up- and the voice of an old woman I met there on the street telling me “her“rule n°1: „Go out if someone unknown comes into your cab, girl.“

I tried calmly to open the door on my side. Locked. I looked at the cab driver. He looked at me, telling me „Don’t worry“ and looked again on the street. 

Mmmh. Yes. Ok. All good. Easy.
My thoughts were going mad. But ok. All good. I’m locked in a cab with three unknown men in the middle of a traffic jam in the 22million-people-city Cairo. I do not speak arabic unless you count the "Thank you, Yes, No, Leave me alone, Hello, goodbye" and I do not understand what the only people around me are talking about to each other. But OK- I DO MY BEST - I DO NOT WORRY. What the hell.

„This taxi is not allowed to go to the pyramids – the streets are closed. But I have horses. I can bring you there!“ - the man sitting in the front talked to me and smiled with big teeth gaps. My heart was bumping. I answered: „Shokran. Thanks for your help. But I won’t need it. I don’t need a horses.“ He insisted. „But it’s cheap. Very cheap. Only for you beautiful lady. And it’s faster. This taxi is not allowed to go to the pyramids. And the streets are closed.“ Now the man sitting next to me started talking to me: „ I have a camel, if you prefer a camel ride! Cheap price. Only for you, beautiful woman.“

Ok – this is going to be creepy. I feel like I’m in a really, really bad movie. 

Egyptian Hollywood?
 „I don’t need your animals. I don’t want your help. I want you out of this cab. Shokran.“

„But very cheap price, very - very cheap price!!!“

I talked (very calmly for the notes – and that was even surprising me...) to the cab driver „If they don’t go, I will go. And I won’t pay you for this fucking cab ride. Hallas.“

The cab driver looked at me. I focused him: „Open the damn door.“

„okokokok.“ – He talked to the men and they left the cab.

The traffic continued. And we continued our ride.

A similar situation will happen again – just five minutes later. I heard myself saying: „Don’t let them in- don’t let them in.“ Again two unknown men entered and were talking to me with loud voices. „This taxi is not allowed to drive on this street!“. I focused the cab driver intensively until he looked at me. I had only three words for him: Hallas – hallas- hallas. Hallas means in Egypt something like "enough now, stop, leave me". For my last „hallas“ it’s been me with the loudest voice in the cab.  And the cab driver screamed at the other men. Again for the notes: my "hallas" was pretty loud. I guess louder than his sreams to the strangers. But the people who were strangers to me didn't seem to be strangers to him. They left. The ride continued again.

„One more time and you won’t see any pound of your money."

Not alone - but lonely
I felt my heart beating fast. Almost too fast so I couldn't feel it any more. I didn't know what to think. Yes, I was scared. My eyes were filled with tears. This feeling of helplessness was just overwhelming. 
I turned towards the window and watched the traffic around me. So many people around. And you might say I'm not alone. But lonely.

Ok. Focus. Stay strong.

„We’re here.“

-       "I can’t see the pyramids."

„I cannot drive there. The entrance is just there around the corner.“ I looked out of the window and saw a few men coming towards the cab: A horse in one hand, souvenirs in the other hand.

-       "I don’t care. You will drive me up there – around the corner- to the main entrance!“

He started the cab again and we passed the waving tourists hunter with scarfs, postcards or papyrus.

The journey is the reward
Now I could see them. The Pyramids of Giza. Finally - the journey is the reward.

I heard the driver saying: „We’re here.“

I left the cab, paid and tipped the driver.

-       „Yes. Now we’re here. Thanks for the ride.“ I looked at him. Into his eyes. Nodded, tapped two times on the cab door and was turning around  -

„Sorry, mam. Welcome in Egypt.“ Our eyes met again. And this time I saw something in his eyes which made me think. Later this day I should know how to call it: Desperation.

More stories

Here they are: The Pyramids of Giza. What a way to come here, seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And I’m just a few steps away. 
And there are more stories. To be continued.


  P.S.: Read more about egyptian-cab-stories in the book "Taxi" by Khaled Alkhamissi. He wrote all his stories down. And after my crazy experience I enjoyed reading his ones.

#Egypt #Cairo #Cabdriving #Pyramids #Itchyfeetish #SevenWondersoftheWorld #Giza #shokran #taxi #Khaled Alkhamissi