A Travel Nightmare in Cairo

Getting around Cairo in a car was an experience. No city that I have visited thus far would compare. Most of the street lanes were unlined, and drivers somehow turned two lanes into four. Cars were going in the wrong direction, and it didn’t appear that anyone obeyed the light signals. Honking was continuous, and traffic was around-the-clock. Donkey carriages and pedestrians battled with cars for the right of way, and small scooters squeezed between cars and sped ahead. I was amused by it all. Thankfully, I had a skilled personal driver included in my tour of Cairo, so everything went as smoothly as it could have in a city of 20 million people where four million cars are on the road. Things were hectic, but I felt safe in the back seat with my driver handling it all.

On my last day in Cairo, I had a free day to explore on my own. I decided to spend my day in the Zamalek district visiting a few art galleries, doing a bit of shopping, and having a nice dinner with Nile River views. Uber and Careem were available in Cairo, so I used those apps to get to Zamalek instead of a regular taxi since I feared getting ripped off or having to argue forcefully with a regular taxi. Careem seemed to take longer to arrive, so I used Uber both times.

On the way to Zamalek, I had to close my eyes and believe I would make it to my destination unscathed. It was a long and excruciating drive from my hotel in Giza. At some point the driver entered onto this weirdly designed ramp that looked like it was a one-way. I stared ahead confusedly as he drove up the curved ramp only to see two large trucks speeding down the ramp toward us. I immediately realized the reason the ramp looked like it was weirdly designed. We were ENTERING the highway from the one-way EXIT ramp. Had we gone in the right direction, it would have looked perfectly normal. Somehow, we avoided a collision and the driver entered onto the main highway and proceeded like we didn’t almost die.

That wasn’t even the worst of it.

For some reason, that experience didn’t make me think twice about using Uber again to get back to my hotel at the end of the day. This driver arrived quickly in a silver Mitsubishi Lancer, and we said our niceties as I grabbed a seat in the back. He drove through Zamalek traffic and onto the main highway, and I began scrolling through my phone to make the commute go by quickly.

The driver was on a busy highway when he pulled over on the side of the road for a moment, said something indistinguishable in Arabic, apologized, and further said, “One moment, sorry.” He pulled the release lever to unlock the hood of the car, scooted out of the driver’s seat, and proceeded to work on the car. He then went to the truck to grab some oil. After a few moments of banging and fumbling under the hood, he came back inside the car, apologized again, told me that he was going to have to cancel the ride because he was having engine troubles.

I KNOW YOU LYING!

This had never happened to me before. I’ve had a few technical difficulties with Uber, but I’ve never been broken down on the side of the road in a foreign country. He canceled the ride, and stepped out of the car an onto the side of the road. I fumbled with my phone nervously as I tried to book a ride back to my hotel.

There I was, somewhere on 26th of July Corridor, sitting with three shopping bags on a broken piece of a cement boulder next to a bunch of sewage in the middle of the night. Was this life?

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Homie was having a rough day, but I wasn’t planning on letting him off. I was going to dispute the ride, but I didn’t even bother after realizing the cost was $1. Instead, I sat there awkwardly for about 20 minutes waiting on another driver. By the time I arrived at my hotel, I was mentally exhausted. and ready to fly to my next destination.

Thankfully, I purchased a SIM card with data so I could use my phone. Oftentimes, I go to another country and simply rely on the wifi at hotels and restaurants. I don’t know what I would have done if I were in this situation without a working phone, so my lesson from all of this was to ensure that I had a working phone with me at all times as well as my portable charger. The portable charge will  take a bit more effort from me, though. I always travel with it, but I usually forget to charge it, deeming it useless.

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