I’ve been to a lot of countries with hair-raising traffic, but Egypt might just take the cake. My guide book says that riding a bike here is tantamount to suicide, and now I understand. Aside from the double (and sometimes triple)-parked cars along the sidestreets, the main thoroughfares are a pulsating stream of honking, weaving cars. There are no clearly marked lanes and when there are, no attention is paid to them. To add to this confusion, there are very few traffic lights; in fact, in what I’ve seen thus far, I can count on one hand the number of lights we encountered. And the number of stop signs I’ve seen? That’s easy: none. (I’m sure they exist somewhere, I just haven’t seen one yet.)
I’ll give you an example of what it’s like to cross a busy street here. First, I walked quite a distance up a busy street in order to find a traffic light or crosswalk, and when I didn’t find one, I realized that the locals were simply walking out into the middle of the oncoming tide of beeping vehicles. The problem with this is that only the car closest to you will stop—and barely just—while the rest of the tide continues to flow around you until you boldly step in front of yet another car. It’s like a medieval obstacle course as you gingerly make your way to the other side of the road. This completely contradicts my normal rules of self-preservation—you know, the one that says “thou shalt not step directly into the line of traffic.” But I learned quickly that if I want to cross the road, it was the only way. It takes some getting used to, this whole blatant-disregard-for-personal-safety thing. I’m told that there are surprisingly few pedestrian accidents here, so perhaps I should find solace in that, but I find that hard to believe. What I do believe, however, is that the person who claims there are few pedestrian accidents said that Egypt has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents (in the world? In Africa? I am not sure…). All I know is that it’s every man, woman, child, and donkey for himself. And in the event of a pedestrian accident, an ambulance crew traveling by camel would have a better chance of reaching me than one in a vehicle.