Thursday, December 30, 2010

Egypt School of Driving: Redefining the Right-of-Way

Just because I got my driver's license in Kentucky doesn't mean that I've got this driving thing all figured out. Egyptians take driving to an entirely new level, and I think it's high time I share the notes I've been taking about how a *real* Egyptian should drive.

Be forewarned, however, that driving in Egypt is not for the faint of heart.

And if you're like me and you've only ever ridden as a passenger in Egypt, well, prepare for the ride of your life.

To show a real comparison, however, between the way we drive in the States (namely, Kentucky), I have decided to do a comparison between the "rules of the road" according to the official Kentucky driver's manual and the "rules of the road" as they play out on the streets of Cairo.

Let's take a look first at the Right-of-Way.

Point 1: Pedestrians
"By law, drivers must yield to pedestrians under the following conditions, (1) when pedestrians are in a crosswalk or at an intersection and there is no traffic light and (2) when turning a corner and pedestrians are crossing with the light."
Pedestrians are a driving obstacle. Every good driver in Egypt knows that the object is to get as close as possible to a person walking in the street without actually knocking them over. And if you get too close, don't worry - they'll just lay there for a second groaning in pain (surely it's not THAT bad) and get right up and go again.

*This includes mothers walking with babies in strollers and older persons trying to cross the street.*

If you're concerned with their safety, honk the horn real loud right before you pass them. That way they can jump out of the way in time before you run them over. At night, be sure to substitute flashing your lights for the honking of the horns. This is particularly true for foreigners walking in the dark because they're foreigners, they understand exactly what you mean.

Point 2: Turns
"Drivers turning left must yield according to oncoming vehicles that are going straight or turning right."
"If there isn't a police officer with a pad & pen in his hands ready to take down your license number, feel free to turn left at your leisure. Don't worry about the cars coming straight towards you. They'll appreciate the fun in swerving to avoid hitting you at the last moment.

Point 3: Traffic Circles / Roundabouts
"Drivers entering a traffic circle or roundabout must yield right-of-way to drivers already in the circle."
A roundabout (called a "midan" in Egypt) is no fun when there aren't any cars in it. So please be sure - regardless of how many cars are already packed into the midan - to force your car into the stream of cars. It's best if you take the extreme left and go straight across to the extreme right - that way you stop more cars in the process.

Point 4: Minor Roads vs. Main Roads
"Drivers on a minor road must yield to drivers on a main road."
Who cares what the difference is between a minor road and a main road is? If you're driving straight, people should stop for you. If you're turning left, people should stop for you. If you're turning right, people should stop for you. And especially if you're going the wrong way down a one-way street, the rest of traffic should come to a screeching halt and get out of your way because you have extenuating circumstances which mean you have to drive the *wrong* way.

Point 5: Intersections
"At a 4-way, 3-way, or 2-way stop, the driver reaching the intersection and stopping first should go first."
Regardless of how many streets are intersecting, the only reason to stop is if another car's nose or tail is in your way and you can't find a way to inch around it.

I know you're itchin' to do a little driving in Egypt yourself now, right?

But seriously, I have been studying this whole right-of-way concept in Egypt for years now, and I'd say that it's all basically a matter of being completely fearless. If you're shy and timid and don't get the nose of your car out there to enter the stream of traffic, well, you'll be sitting there for a while. You have to just get out there and do it - leaving your fear in the cloud of dust behind you.

My husband and I have been discussing lately whether or not I'm ready to begin driving in Egypt yet. And I'm telling you (just like I tell him) that I'm ready.

Just ask my grandma who taught me how to drive. When it came time to merge onto the interstate highway that first time - a time when most people gradually accelerate to move into the oncoming stream of traffic - well, I floored it.

No fear here!

So I think I'm ready. What do YOU think?


  1. yeah,driving in Egypt can be very frustrating to anyone who's new to it

    because there aren't any rules really,you just go with your heart,unless there's a police officer,you try be as polite as possible in order not to get a ticket,or worse

    drivers here tend to drive this way because roads in Egypt are way worse than they are or they'll ever be in Kentucky

    there's not even a single road in Egypt that doesn't have bumps here and there,and they're always full of surprises,glass,nails,....etc.

    drivers tend to give more focus to objects on the road more than they give other cars,because nobody wants to get a flat tire anyway,if not worse

  2. Start on quiet days, like Fridays during the Muslim Friday prayer, you'll find it so quiet (around 12pm) since all the men are praying in the mosques (ha! they should lock them there and steal their car keys too!) I've driven around that time and loved it. I also started driving in the local area which is nice and quiet, just to get my feel of a new car, driving on the opposite side as well (in the UK we drive on the right) and getting my confidence...Then one day I hit the road during the rush hour and made it home in one piece (including the car)!

    So good luck:)

  3. Thanks Mahmoud. I'm not driving yet but yes, I realize that the potholes in the streets take precedence over the lives of people.

    However, I can't say that I agree 100% that the streets in Egypt are worse than they'll ever be in Kentucky (have you ever TRIED driving on a KY backroad that's only gravel straight up hill?). Although I will definitely agree that they don't do a very good job of maintaining them in Egypt.

  4. Londoneya... yes that's what I've been thinking. Still trying to convince my husband to let me try ;-) Baby steps, right?

  5. I think the roads in the US in general are better than those in Egypt,and for the most part,this is true,don't you think?

    and yeah,some people don't care whether somebody got killed or not as long as their cars are squeaky clean


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