Random Observations

Rather than have traffic queue up for left turns, in Egypt there are U-turns every so often across the median. To turn left, just go past where you want to be and turn around. That’s great, unless it’s about a kilometer to the next turn. That’s what happened in Sharm… So our taxi driver decided instead to back up the street at full speed for about 3 blocks back to the nearest U-turn.

Every so often there are speed bumps across the highway. Since the revolution, apparently some people made their own speed bums, usually a row of gravel and mud across the road. On the road trip to Abydos, someone actually dug a speed bump between the time we went and the time we returned. Someone(s) took a pickaxe to the asphalt and made a small trench across the road!

The Alexadrai highway wa a very modern highway, and although not completely finished, a lot of the intersections seemed to be “traffic circle in the sky” arrangements.

Not just speed bumps, but whole road-side peddler’s stands… Even on the high-speed highway to ALexandria, as well as on the lesser country highways like Between Aswan, Luxor, and Dendera – you will see roadside stalls almost on the road itself, anywhere where the traffic slows or stops.

Scary thought, one of the prominent sales items on the Alexandria highway stalls was big long sticks – almost like billy clubs. Is that the must have accessory for drivers (or truck drivers?) nowadays?

Quite a few banks, checkpoints, gates, and other security places, the guards have a bullet shield. It’s a sheet of metal about 5 by 3 feet, with a tiny, thick, hopefully bulletproof window near the top. Almost every one of these, the window was badly cracked. I assume during one particularly boring shift, the guards would say “hey, let’s make it look like the window was hit by a bullet!”

I’m not sure what the real economics are for life in Egypt. Here are a few random observations… In the news, steelworkers blocked the Alexandria highway over pay rates – they got 500LE a month, and complained workers at another steel plant got 2,000LE. Considering that bellboys can get 10LE per bag, they must be in one of the lucrative jobs. One comment we heard was that a lot of the marginal jobs, like the attendants at some lesser attractions, their salary barely covers commuting; they live off tips. At the other extreme, we saw recommendations that guides should get about $20 to $50 per day tip. The last number seems high… Considering that would be 60% of a factory workers monthly wage as one day’s tip. Presumably they get paid by the tour company too, since the tour company charges their customers enough.

Where else but Egypt, specifically Sharm el Sheik, do you see someone pull up into the McDonald’s parking lot on their camel, get off and walk in?

In a number of spots we saw grafitti “GAME OVER MUBARAK” or just “GAME OVER”. It’s the one piece of English I assume ever Egyptian under 30 with even a passinge exposure to western entertainment technology understands, and an unmistakable message.


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