Life From the Back of An Egyptian Taxi

You know that saying?

My life just flashed before my eyes?

It must have originated somewhere in Cairo from the backseat of a taxi.

Each time you enter the unknown charted territory, otherwise known as a Cairo taxi, a travel advisory should be issued.

Enter at your own risk. Be forewarned.

First of all, you have to negotiate. Meter, meter and meter.

However, taxi driver wants money, money and money… preferably of the easy kind from the easy foreigner who does not understand how much to pay.

When the meter has been negotiated, you now wait in solemn silence to watch as the meter begins to tick upwards praying to the taxi gods that it ticks at the appropriate rate.

Not the rigged one that unsuspecting novices might not notice.

If it is rigged, you can protest, you can demand to get out, you can renegotiate money instead of meter or you can do as we did yesterday, cut the ride short and “not so politely but still polite enough to be Canadian” fork money over and stomp away!

In any case, a taxi ride in Cairo is never boring.

Zooming down the highway, way beyond the means of a broken down beat up taxi, we whip in and out of lanes barely missing the rear view mirrors of fellow cars. Jade and I exchange looks of panic and grasp for something, anything to hold onto as taxi driver dreams of winning the race, a race we didn’t know we had entered!

Yes, there are lines on the road. Yellow, like in other countries. Someone went to the trouble of painting them on the road. But why?

Maybe Cairo wanted to be like other cities. It wanted to fit in. It wanted lines, rules and drivers who follow rules.

But this is not what Cairo is.

Cairo is Cairo. The lines look nice. But mean nothing. Not one single thing.

I think they are meant as practice. To learn how to straddle them. To learn how to cross them going any and all speeds, as many times as you can. The crazier, the better.

So lines are out. And the horn is in.

To drive in Cairo is to honk. Simple as that.

So if you want to ride in taxis, hold on, pray a little and put the ear plugs in.

Armed with our Arabic taxi, small bills and a fierce determination to fit in, Jade and I have passed the beginner’s level in taxi and have now moved onto a more advanced one. Little did we know that this level meant driving right into oncoming cars!

 

My First Egyptian Hair Cut

So it was time.

I entered with some trepidation and a bit of hope.

My hair was pretty bad. It really couldn’t get worse.

I looked around at the organized chaos and wondered if I should walk away. Another look in the mirror and I knew I couldn’t.

I sit down in a sea of a beautifully made up women, decked to the nines from head to toe. I glance at my flared jeans and red t-shirt and wonder what I had been thinking. Clearly it had not been about my wardrobe.

As I gather my wits, I glance around at the system. I am sure there is one but it is as foreign to me as Arabic is. I notice looks being exchanged as one woman “demands” something, clearly amusing to those who understand her. I wish I understood.

I am signaled and soon the hair wash begins. So far so good. I am directed to my chair and my guy shows up. He looks at me with the towel on my head and says:

Volume! Big Volume! Lots of Layers!

And I wonder how he knows when he can’t see my hair.

Off goes the towel and then the shock or is it horror is revealed.

You need to colour your hair!

I look down sheepishly and meekly say that I want to see how this goes first.

Dismayed, he shakes his head and the scissors come out.

My head is yanked in every direction as he surfaces and resurfaces all around me as he gets the right angle for each and every strand. My hair is screaming for attention and attention it receives. Almost embarrassingly so.

I wonder how much more he can cut. I wonder how much longer he can cut.

I stand up. He jumps in front of me and cuts. I sit down. He crouches down and cuts. All the time, his perfectly coiffed hair never moves and nor does his chest hair, popping out from his half buttoned shirt, perfectly appointed to reveal.

I think I am getting too old for all this.

The manager walks over. Words are exchanged. Not nicely. I think my guy has been told to hurry up.

And there is no hurrying up my guy.

The posturing begins, looks are thrown and I am no longer under the radar. In fact, I am now on center stage and I don’t know my lines!

Now my guy has slowed down even more.  The classic oppositional defiance has set in and each strand gets cut for the zillionth time.

And then I hear. My name is Mar Juana.

Seriously?!

I will colour your hair next time.

Next time?!

It appears he is done. He walks away. I sit there. I don’t know what to do.

Slowly, or so it seems, I slink out of my chair and go to pay.

Oh and the tip? I am motioned to put it into the pocket of his shirt. The final act!

I walk out, sweaty and stressed, thankful it is over.

Jade takes a look at me and announces she can fix it.

Need I say more?

 

Before Travel, I NEVER Would Have…

In honour of Throwback Thursday, I have been thinking of all the experiences that come with travelling as Jade and I get ready to venture out in the world again. I hope we miss a few of these this time around… but I am certain a few more will be added as well! If anything, travel is never boring. Happy travels to you this summer! 🙂

four camels and a coffee to go

Held on until the next bathroom and the next bathroom and the next bathroom and the next…

Thought twice about walking on a patch of grass (unfortunate habit after living in mine infested Cambodia)

Watched my maid kill the chicken on my back porch and eat it an hour later

Waited until my bags were on the bus before getting on

Checked, double checked, and triple checked that my photos are still there

Slept with a radio by my head waiting to hear if we had to evacuate in the middle of the night (Cambodia)

Slept with a bat circling my head

Asked my kids a million times if they have everything

Brushed my teeth with pop

Forced myself to close my mouth while showering – try it, it is hard to do

Worn the same purple fleece for almost 30 years

Drink hot tea on a super hot day…

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