Egypt is one of those places that is on the bucket list of nearly everyone I know. The first time I visited Egypt I was immediately drawn in by the friendly, cheerful people. Everyone always seemed to wearing a big toothy smile. But more importantly for me (at the time) was the scuba diving. The Red Sea is just phenomenal. The wrecks, the fish species, the coral, the crystal clear waters. Amazing. I spent most days on a boat, diving at least twice a day. I spent more time out on the water (or under it) than on dry land. One day however was my first time I ventured in to the local town.
It was late afternoon so it was still sunny and bright but not that uncomfortable sticky heat as it was during the day. I hopped in to one of the cabs hanging outside the hotel. The car wasn’t in the best condition but they all seemed that way so it didn’t raise too many concerns.
The cab jumped and kicked like a bucking bronco as it headed on its way. The road leading away from the hotel was a dusty trail, no tarmac and nothing more than a sand dune and camel in sight. Quite pleasant really.
We then hit the main highway in to town. What seemed to be a three lane highway (at best), seemingly and suddenly became a banger racing track. Five/six cars abreast jostling for position at speed. It was the most chaotic ballet of cars you could imagine. Horns honking in harmony, the odd gesture from the driver and I’m sure an Egyptian swear word or two. From start to finish I think I blinked once, didn’t move an inch and drew a single breath. It was an experience for sure.
Leaving the cab, placing my feet on firm ground and taking a wide eyed big deep breath I headed deeper in to the local town for some tea and haggling.
The sun had long since disappeared and after several hours of tasting the local delicacies it was time to head back. It wasn’t something I was overly looking forward to. I hopped in to a cab and showed the driver the hotels card. He nodded in acknowledgement and away we went. He pressed firmly on the accelerator and his beaten up car belted down the road. It wasn’t until we moved further away from the lights of the town I realised the driver didn’t have the headlights on. I thought that he maybe just forgot, we’ve all done that I thought. We continued at pace, street lights becoming fewer and fewer. The headlights still not on. It wasn’t until I suddenly seen other cars heading our way that I realised they also didn’t have their lights on.
I took that long, slow deep breath accompanied by that sort of slow blink in acknowledgment that I should call my family and tell them I love them. I’m staring at the driver, clinching to anything in the car that isn’t rattling, glancing at the speedo realising that isn’t working either. I’m not religious but in that moment, I looked up and uttered the words, “please, God…”. I don’t think I’ve ever come closer to shitting myself.
We arrived back at the hotel and the driver turned and gave me a huge smile. All I could do was turn around and say “thank you” followed by a tip!!!
Needless to say, that Egyptian night is something I do not ever want to repeat but I have been back many more times, white-knuckled it through traffic and even used taxis after dark. See you again soon, Egypt.