There are hardly any traffic signals in Cairo.
Egypt is experiencing political turmoil, which has negatively affected its tourism industry. Nonetheless, Cairo remains a must-see travel destination for anyone interested in the Middle East. Cairo is an enchanting, but difficult city. Tasks that are usually mundane and simple in America–like crossing a street–can be challenging and difficult in Cairo.
There are hardly any traffic signals in Cairo, a city with 20 million residents and almost twice as many cars. With the highest rate of automobile-related injuries in the world, it’s generally recommended not to drive during your stay. However, you will have to cross a street at some point, whether to visit Cairo’s museums, opera house, or to get a shawerma sandwich from one of the multitude of vendors.
Without traffic signals there are hardly any designated crosswalks or traffic police to enforce driving laws and assist your crossing. Jaywalking is the norm and cars will never stop for you. Crossing a street can seem like an impossibly dangerous task, but it’s normal life for Egyptians and, if you follow a few tips, it will be for you, too.
1. Treat each lane of traffic like a separate street.
Crossing a street in Cairo is like playing live-action Frogger. You need to time crossing each lane of traffic. The most manageable way to cross a street, especially multi-lane ones, is to cross each lane one at a time. Luckily, man of Cairo’s busiest and widest streets have lane markers and drivers generally respect them. Lane markers are islands of safety for pedestrians. Like Frogger, you hop from one lane marker to the next. Just make sure to time your hops well and make sure oncoming cars aren’t changing lanes.
2. Cross in groups
The larger the group you cross with, the easier it is for drivers to spot you. The best thing beginners can do is cross near or alongside native Egyptians. Egypt’s traffic system is just like America’s: cars drive on the right side with steering wheels on the left side of the car. So, if you find a group of Egyptians crossing the same street as you are, stand on their right-hand side so you can see both them and the oncoming traffic.
3. Don’t hesitate or stop in the middle of a lane
That’s how you lose in Frogger.
4. Be extra careful at night
Most busy multi-lane streets are well lit at night, but Egyptians typically drive with their headlights off. So, be extra careful walking along and crossing smaller, darker streets.
Article written by Joshua Alvarez.