Day of Rejection

Today has been a day of rejection and I’m just trying to keep my spirits up. Some of us expats have been sharing tales of recent taxi incidents, and they’re not the old fun taxi tales, these all reflect a change in attitude and fares. Ron had an incident the other evening where he grabbed a cab after work and agreed on a fare of 10LE before he even got in (typically I pay about 6-7LE, so you can see that this was already a nicely padded fare). During the ride, Ron was chatting to the driver and the driver admitted that the fares triple when someone is going to or from one of the nice hotels (keep that in mind, travelers). When he got to his drop off point the driver suddenly insisted on 15LE. He even went to far as to get out of the taxi and follow Ron asking for the additional 5LE. Out of pure frustration and annoyance, Ron gave him the 5LE and he went away. The problem is that Ron remained furious for days after (and rightly so).

We have heard rumblings that the Egyptian government is going to require that all of the old black-and-white taxis be taken off the road and replaced by the new yellow, clean, air-conditioned, and metered taxis (when, we don't know, and frankly we'll all be a bit surprised if it actually comes to pass). There are two primary reasons for the drivers to be miffed. First, the meter fares actually turn out to be lower than many agreed-upon fares and they certainly would remove the hotel-tripling option. Second, and this one I can sympathize with, as I’ve mentioned before, the cost of importing a new car is essentially out of reach for most Cairo taxi drivers, hence the “need” to keep these 1950-era Fiats puttering along. So we muse as to whether this is causing a wave of slight panic amongst cabbies throughout Cairo.

Regardless, something’s in the air. I grabbed a cab to the embassy to drop off some more packages today, then walked to Tahrir Square where I intended to grab a yellow cab to the Khan for a bit of shopping. I went to two yellow cabs, sitting in a line, and both refused to take me to the Khan using the meter because there was too much traffic. What?!?! Yes, there was a lot of traffic… it’s Cairo!!!! Essentially they wanted to charge me double what the meter would say. So I walked away and grabbed an ancient rusty black-and-white instead. And yes, it took longer than usual to get there, but so be it. He never asked about fares, so I overpaid him happily. I did my shopping, went back to a glass blower’s shop that I had stopped in last week but didn’t buy anything, and this time bought a pitcher and a vase, and as a thank you for returning, he let me pick two glass ornaments for free (this is very typical of shop keepers, to give a free gift to returning, or high-quantity, customers – it’s a nice treat).

Once I finished my shopping (can’t go into too much detail, gifts and all), I went back out to the main street and tried to get a taxi. I literally got into and out of two taxis because they were quibbling. The first really did himself in as he asked for 20LE to go to Zamalek (I actually had 40LE in my pocket ready to go, knowing that we’d be dealing with a lot of traffic). So I agreed to the 20LE but then suddenly he foisted me off onto another driver. I got in his cab and told him 20LE, as requested by the other driver, but this one refused. So instead of agreeing to pay more because of his fussing, I just got out and walked down a bit to find another taxi. Now, I really had no other options but to take a taxi, as there’s no metro out there and we’re forbidden to ride the buses (and I’m more than happy to comply), and it’s too far to walk home. But the good thing is Cairo is teeming with taxis, especially around the Khan. However, did have to flag down taxi after taxi after taxi with each one saying no when I asked for Zamalek. What I find amazing about all this, is that they’d rather drive on, or sit there, with no fare, than take mine because of the traffic. Silly. Anyway, I finally found one and wedged myself, my bags and my deeply wounded pride into the back seat and had a very long ride home. But I did pay him 40LE, so hopefully it was worth it for him.