Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Since everyone I know who has ever been to Cairo has warned me about how everyone is on the take, I arrived here suspicious of everyone and everything.

The guys who met us were overly solicitous – kept taking our passports, filling out forms for us, going to get our bags – and I of course followed them around, keeping a close eye on things. I am uncomfortable when my possessions are long out of my own hands, especially in an airport with an evil reputation.

We checked into the Nile Hilton and immediately went to see the museum, which was next door. After dinner, we decided to visit Khan el Kalili. M had been before and was anxious to go back, so we piled into a taxi (after asking someone else how much it should cost) and were duly taken toward the souk.

Traffic in Cairo is madness. Every time I go abroad – India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and now Cairo – I understand the traffic chaos in Dubai a little bit better. Our driver whizzed round a roundabout and was stopped midway through by a cop demanding to see his papers. He handed them over, slipped down a side street, triple parked, and left us to our own devices, shouting into the traffic as he went. We looked at each other. He came back disgusted, mumbled about how much he had to pay off the cop and returned his papers to their convenient home above his sun visor. In hushed tones in the back seat (though why we bothered I don’t know, as the bone shaker we were in was deafeningly loud) M felt sorry for him (of course) and indicated we should pay him above the fare; I sniffed a scam and refused, later explaining that it could have been something cooked up with the cop to milk the dumb tourists out of some baksheesh. M didn’t see it, but it seemed plausible to me: cop hangs around until he sees a cab filled with blondes, stops the driver and makes him pay a bribe. The softhearted American ladies see this, bridle at the injustice that the nasty cops are hassling the poor working man and give him an exorbitant tip to make it up to him. The driver then goes back and splits the take with the cop.

Did I mention I was suspicious?


Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

Scam or not, your deal with the taxi driver was to go from A to B for an agreed number of Egyptian Pounds. Khallas. If it turns out that Mr Cabbie has broken some rule that requires that he pay a fine, then that's surely his business.

Would you expect to have to pay a Dh200 speeding fine in Dubai because the taxi driver chose to drive in excess of the posted limit? I don't think so.

Of course, any tip paid in excess of the agreed or metered fare is entirely at the customer's discretion. Am I right is inferring that Americans tend to be reasonably generous tippers?

7:59 AM  
Blogger Taunted said...

You were so right to be suspicious - everyone's on the take, both here in The Dusty City and throughout the world.

Fook 'em!

10:00 AM  

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