I sit here writing this from a hotel balcony in Gisa, Egypt with a view overlooking two of the pyramids. It’s warm and balmy, with the temperature sure to rise from it’s current 22 degrees. I can hear the birds twittering, the background roar of traffic chaos and general city life… and I keep telling myself that, yesterday, I was brushing off the snow from my Tomcat, getting ready for a 100-mile drive in what the UK press like to think as being ‘treacherous’…
However, as nice as all that is, I still can’t get over the cab ride from Cairo airport last night. Put it in simple terms, I am still grinning from ear to ear from the other-worldliness of it all. The cab was nothing special (sadly) – a 1990s US minivan – although the driver did his best to show me its handling and braking capabilities as well as just how narrow a gap it can squeeze through at an indicated 80km/h. Our ‘walls’ either side on one occasion were a pair of elderly trucks – one I noted, none too steady on account of being so overloaded… I guess I shouldn’t have kept egging him on to go faster – but it was just so funny.
Egyptian drivers, though… on the whole, they’re far more aware of what’s going on around them than we are; but I guess they need to be. Although our stretch of Motorway was wide and, on the whole nicely surfaced, the road markings were obviously to be treated as optional. Drivers made their own lanes, lazily overtook, undertook, weaved, ducked and dived – all while hooting and flashing. At one point, there were five indistinct lines of cars speeding along – on a three lane stretch. Although it was 9pm and dark, some chose not to have their lights on at all. Still, that was a nice contrast to the taxis, which seem to have sprouted flashing blue LEDs from every orifice.
But that wasn’t what caught my attention really. It’s no worse than Kiev, Paris or Naples in that respect.
No, what really made the journey a real neck-craner;one that me giggling like a nervous schoolgirl was the mix of cars. The typical car in Cairo seems to be a 1978 Fiat 128. Battered, bruised, but still capable of excellent speed despite wonky suspension. But it doesn’t stop there – on my half hour odyssey, I spotted, Polski-Fiats, Polonez, a couple of Moskviches, Ladas of all ages, Peugeot 504s, Renault 12s (or were they Dacias?). Then there were the Fiats. I lost track of how many different types I spotted – but I rememeber Stradas, 127s, 133s (okay, so they’re SEATs), 147s, 131s, 132s – even a couple of 1800s. Amazing – I will obviously have to get busy with the camera as soon as I can.
Then there were the elderly ex-European cars – BMW E12s seem quite popular – but not half as much as the Mercedes-Benz W123. Many still wearing their German number plates tucked behind the Egyptian ones…
Of the modern stuff, it was primarily Pacific rim – with Daewoos seeming quite popular alongside Mitsubishi Lancers. Although newer, most were still generously dented. There are a number of Turkish-designed Tofas scooting around, too – although these are easily mistaken for a Fiat Mirafiori.
But I do now find myself aching to get behind the wheel and have a go here myself. It looks fun and terrifying in equal measure. Not only that, but even more, I’m now finding myself harbouring this silly desire to buy a Cairo cab and drive it home…
Would any of you care to join me?
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