typical taxi troubles in egypt• 22 comments •
When we got in a taxi near our hotel to visit the Giza Pyramid complex, we expected the ride to take 5 minutes. Thirty minutes later we still hadn't arrived at the gates to pyramids, our taxi had left us, and the sun was mercilessly hot. This is how it all went down:
Not long after arriving in Cairo, we observed that there are far more taxis driving around than passengers. Some drivers would say 'no' to a fair price and drive off, but another taxi would quickly pull up and eventually one of them would agree to the fare.
Our plan for getting to the pyramids was simple: offer the driver 5 LE (Egyptian pounds) for the ride. Now, we know that offering a taxi less than $1 might seem absurd, but the locals pay less than that amount, and it was a short ride straight up the street.
Our daily strategy was to walk about 100 feet away from the hotel and then hail a cab driving by (avoid anyone hanging around the hotel lobby). An older taxi pulled up (the newer taxis always wanted 3-4 times as much) and the negotiations began. English was not widely spoken by most of the cabbies that we dealt with, so we would hold up the actual bills that we were going to pay with to ensure that there was no "confusion" about the fare.
Describing to the taxi driver where we wanted him to drive us necessitated pointing in the direction of the pyramids and making a pyramid-like shape with our hands. Eventually we were confident that the price and destination were understood and off we went!
After a few minutes of driving, with the pyramids looming in front of us, a man from the street jumped on the back of the cab. An argument ensued between the cabbie and the man (while the taxi was still in motion). The cabbie stopped and the man got into the front passenger seat. He began telling us in English that the taxi was not allowed to go further into the pyramid complex and that we would have to continue on his camel into the site. We had heard of this scam before and firmly denied his offer. He continued to repeat his lies, but the cabbie pushed him out of the taxi after we yelled at the man to get out.
The taxi continued on, but the driver began saying something to us in Arabic. As he pulled the cab over we understood that one of the tires was flat. He got out and spent a few minutes changing the tire.
The pyramids looked so close at this point, we really hoped this was the last delay in the ride.
No such luck. The taxi turned off the main street and began driving through back alleys. We could still see the pyramids, so we weren't too worried, but something didn't quite seem right. As we rounded a corner we saw 5 men sitting in the alley ahead. When they noticed the taxi they stood up and the cabbie stopped. They came over to the cab and told us the taxi couldn't go any further and that we had to continue on their camels into the site. This time the taxi driver seemed unwilling to proceed (the men were physically blocking the alley). We left the cab (reluctantly paying him the agreed fare) and walked away from the men.
At this point we were in what looked like a residential area. Even though the pyramids were right ahead of us, we weren't quite sure how to get to the entrance gate and the 35+ Celsuis (95+ Fahrenheit) weather wasn't helping the situation.
An Egyptian boy yelled at us and gestured for us to follow him down a narrow corridor between 2 buildings. We initially ignored him (since another kid had earlier tried to sell us a camel ride) but with no other viable option in mind we decided to head down the corridor.
When we finally emerged at the other end there was no sign of the helpful kid, but what we did see was tour buses. At last, we had reached the gates of the pyramid complex. We still had to endure a few more frustrations before finally seeing the Great Pyramids...