Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Arrival in Cairo

Rain lashes down from a cold and thoroughly grey sky. I dash from aeroplane to bus to airport, then to another bus and another aeroplane. We then sit on the tarmac for an hour and a half while a faulty fuel tank is isolated (not 'fixed'!) and our lame plane takes off. So much for Frankfurt.

As much as I love travelling, I hate arriving. Specifically, I hate the taxi drivers that greet you on arrival and attempt to fleece you for all that you've got. You're also at your most vulnerable then - usually tired from the journey and unacclimatised to the language, prices, currency, gestures or any of the other norms you naturally assimilate when you spend any period of time in one place.

In fact, I was so surprised when I found a driver willing to take me to town for the lower price quoted in the 3 year old Lonely Planet that I forgot all notion of trying to find a bus and let him drive me into the night. And he was only the fourth one I had asked (others had laughed off my suggested fare and offered prices 2-3 times higher). I even got the bonus of a little first-hand history - his Fiat dated from the 70s (possibly 70BC).

And then, to top it off - I gave him a note larger than the agreed fare and he actually gave me change! I was so surprised that I gave him an extra dollar anyway - I wouldn't want him ostracised by his taxi chums when they learned of his uncharacteristic behaviour and low fare.

Some vignettes of the 30km journey:

A giant Arab sprawled in the driver's seat, pawing like a kitten at a red ball hanging from his rear view mirror.

A crucifix hanging from the next car's mirror. (They are a sizable number of Christians in Cairo)

As we entered downtown, I saw a man having a necktie tied onto him by another man at a necktie stall. He then half undid it, took it off, ran across the street to what appeared to be his necktie stall and tried to sell it to the woman waiting there.

Three lanes of traffic flowed, beeped and bumped through streets with only 2 lanes marked, we then merged with another road where 3 lanes were marked - and five lanes were actually in operation. The Red Arrows would have been impressed!


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