The Green Cross Code

Here’s the breakdown: Walk from pavement to pavement and hope that the cars miss.

Besides that, there isn’t much else to say except that I don’t know what the pavement is for because no one uses it anyway. Khaled’s amazing piece of advice, to walk on the road, wasn’t a joke after all! Jay-walking isn’t a crime here: Everyone seems to be an expert at it.

Normally that would make things more complicated but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone mowed down by oncoming traffic or a even a serious accident. Sure, there have been instances of small minor knocks from bumper to bumper which has resulted in drivers removing themselves from motors to inspect the damage in the middle of the road. They aren’t oblivious to the rest of the traffic, just nothing else matters enough at that point to be courteous to others.

Now that I’ve reassured you that it’s safe enough for a toddler to cross the street, let me hit you with the truth. Egypt would be the bane of every pedestrian if there were a survey conducted about road-crossing by those marketing geniuses around the world, Gallup. 

When standing on one side of the road, the street seems like something out of a cartoon sketch, you know the one: Coyote and Roadrunner. Cars spring into the vicinity only when you tread on the tarmac, they appear from nowhere. Tip-toe, Bunny hop or crawl, drivers will sense you out and charge at you like a rampant bull snarling towards a matador. Strangely, even though you’re not goading the car or driver, the fact that you want to share the road with them, vexes them immensely (Meep Meep.)The method of crossing the road has evolved no doubt, just as tempers have raised- it’s a game of Chicken. Facing your fear of getting run over needs to be combated or you’ll never get across.

So why did the chicken cross the road?!

There is enough space in the road for two lanes, so needless to say that there are three rows of cars. Once you’ve successfully negotiated the first row, you need to weave through the second and the third in the same way. Make like a break dancer, dodging between cars as they slide and scrape against any offending backside that may be protruding a little too far south. On other occasions if a driver comes too close, he’ll shout at you blaming you for crossing the road and not that he’s a plonker-himself. Ignore them, I don’t- I curse at them, but my advice is to just ignore them.

A driver will not slow down or stop, the sudden burst of speed that occurs when they see a pedestrian is in the hope that the walker will retract their feet out of the path. Sometimes, you need to stop, think and listen, though the listening part is redundant. Hands are surgically attached to car horns which have a variety of tones more diverse than a cell phone ringer. The classical ‘meep-meep’ doesn’t work then! It’s frightening stuff when you have to stop in the middle of the road and put your trust in the oncoming driver, fortunately it’s worked thus far and all my limbs are intact.

There is another trick, pressing all your fingers together the same way you would if you shoved your hand into a sock puppet. Think Italians who obsessively plead innocence, gesticulating famously with their hands the same way- in Arabia it means patience. Cross the road and do that little action, moving the hand back and forth beside you and some cars will miraculously draw to a snail’s pace- the odd one doesn’t listen: they have psycho eyes. It only half-works, oh and never try it in front of a bus.

In conclusion, you can liken crossing the road to a dance. There’s the break dance method, where you’re popping your body to squeeze into a narrow gap between two cars. The moonwalk is when sliding or shuffling your feet until a car comes too close so you’ll grab your crotch and scream. The ethnic south Indian dance full of circling motions with the hands (like the hand in a sock!) while scuttling in front of traffic. And then there’s Jamiraquai, two steps forward and three steps back, (they may be Paula Abdul’s lyrics, but JK dances to that effect).

In every case, to get across you need to grab a partner and move to the beat.



Oh wait, there is a major exception to the rule, it’s the one road that you would only cross with a death wish, I’m not talking about Charles Bronson’s B movies (I’m doing ‘b’ movies a discredit there). Now forget what I intimated before about accidents and fatalities on Egypt’s roads, I was joking: There are actually 8000 reported incidents a year. I’m pretty sure that there are more accidents on this particular road than any other in Cairo, it’s a notorious winding, bumpy and congested stretch of tarmac.  The road is called the Autostrad, and cars whizz along at break-neck speed into around Cairo. The only other place they travel without due process of speed restriction is on the Ring Road, which is something of an M25 around Cairo: it forms a ring around Cairo… apparently. The difference is that there aren’t so many pedestrians crossing the ring road, the Autostrad is within city limits.

There’s no beat to run to here, you just have to make do like Benny Hill.