One of the first things that one must figure out when they move to a new place is how they are going to get around. Discovering the easiest, quickest, cheapest and safest way to get around can present a lot of challenges, but also make exploring all of your options so much more fun. Cairo definitely has a unique set of options for navigating the city. Since Cairo has one of the highest populations per square mile, it means that people here have gotten very creative with how they get from point A to point B. Cairo’s unique blend of modern and traditional aspects have also had a big influence on all the options Cairo has to offer for transportation.
There are many different ways that people in Cairo get around the city. One of the most common and convenient methods of transportation is using a taxi. Taking a taxi in Cairo can be a much different experience than you and I would normally experience in the United States. To begin, you must tell the driver to turn on their meter (the device that keeps track of how far you have driven and how much money you owe the driver) and sometimes they will refuse! If a driver refuses, you are supposed to get out of the cab and catch a new one to avoid debating over the price later. I use taxis whenever I have to go somewhere that is too far to walk, as I do not have a car here. Many taxis are also decorated with tons of stickers and some even have different colored lights on the inside and outside that they turn on at night! Even though every taxi is either white or black, they all look different due to their unique decorations.
There are also public buses and microbuses that local people use to get around the city. Have you ever taken a public bus before? If you have, you probably know that these buses have specific stops, and you get on and pay the driver in a very orderly fashion. In Cairo, however, you can get on a regular public bus, or a mini bus, wherever you want! These buses are also so overcrowded that the doors often cannot close, and people hang on in the doorway! There is also a metro system that is very popular among the residents of Cairo. It costs only one Egyptian Pound to ride and it is a terrific way of avoiding the large amounts of traffic that is almost always present in Cairo.
Another thing that is different than what I have noticed in the United States is the large number of private buses. Many schools have their own bus system that picks up and drop soff the kids and teachers all over Cairo. My university even has its own bus system that I use daily. These buses are very nice because they are reliable, clean and very safe. Many of the public methods of transportation are not usually so nice, which is why there is a large variety of private bus services.
Since we are discouraged from using many of the public transportation services such as minibuses and public buses, I have not had the chance to use either of those two options. It is very different living in a place where I have to be very careful about how I get travel around the city. Especially because I am not from Egypt, many taxi drivers may try to charge me more than normal for a taxi ride. This is why you must be very assertive when asking them to turn on their meter. Generally, taxis are very safe if you follow a couple of important rules. One of them is being aware of the meter and being with a couple friends is always a better idea.
The easiest way of getting anywhere is when I can use my university’s bus system. I always know that they will leave on time and that they are very safe and very nice. They have air conditioning when it is hot (which is very important in Egypt!) and they are never overcrowded.
It can be a hassle sometimes dealing with traffic and difficult taxi drivers, but these are just small inconveniences. All in all, as long as I take care and listen to the advice given to me, I know I will be safe and get where I need to go!
In Egyptian culture, especially in the crowded city of Cairo, I have noticed that personal space is viewed differently here than it is in the United States. This is definitely reflected in the various modes of transportation where people pack themselves onto buses and in taxis, ignoring rules that Americans usually strictly follow. Piling on each other to all fit in one taxi or car is not an uncommon sight and on the metro there is very little space between you and another person. For this reason, there is also a women’s only car on the metro.
Another mode of transportation that is noticeable in many parts of Cairo is the use of animal drawn carts and donkeys. This way of transporting supplies and getting around is very traditional, and it is representative of the blend of modern and traditional aspects of Egyptian life. Although Cairo has some of the newest and nicest cars on the road, they share the road with those still using these more traditional methods of transportation. This represents how both modern and traditional Egyptian ways of life have been sustained in Cairo, not only concerning transportation, but in all aspects of daily life.