Skinny Jeans and Fava Beans: Crosswalk perils

Deborah Levinson

While AUC worked to avoid cancelling the semester, I took advantage of my time off and spent a few days in Alexandria. My first overnight excursion out of Cairo was definitely worth it, though it certainly led me to compare Alexandria with Cairo.

The beauty of the Mediterranean definitely beats out the Nile, and I immediately noticed the lack of smog and the large number of ambulances that drove by. I think I’ve seen one ambulance so far in Cairo, so that was certainly a notable difference.

But there was one thing that was sadly quite similar. Roadkill. Human roadkill.

I’ve now been in Egypt for about six weeks, and I’ve seen more car accidents and dead or nearly dead people than I have in my entire life in the United States. This really shouldn’t be all that surprising to me.

I like looking up facts, so even before I came here I knew that Egypt is consistently ranked as one of the countries with the highest number of traffic fatalities.

Driving here is crazy. Traffic signals are really just suggestions, I’m pretty sure the lines on the road are for decoration and the only cars that have both side mirrors are for sale at the dealership.

Pedestrian laws are nonexistent. Cairo in particular has far more cars than the aging city can deal with, so driving is just generally a mess.

Mopeds and motorcycles weave in and out of cars, and vehicles always have a few too many passengers. I’ve already been in a compact car with seven other people, and I’ve seen four adults and a baby on the back of a motorcycle.

I’m especially impressed when I see women in Burkas riding sidesaddle. Oh, and I’ve never seen someone get pulled over. Police aren’t really a thing.

During my first week in Cairo, I was warned that crossing the street here is a life or death decision. And it is. I was reminded of this when I saw a woman plastered on the pavement in Alexandria. I had already seen a few pretty bloody scenes on the highway in Cairo, but they all involved multiple vehicles.

It’s definitely sobering to see a crushed motorcycle, its driver, and both passengers surrounded by a puddle of red as you drive by. But I don’t drive a motorcycle.

I am, however, a pedestrian. I constantly dart in and out of traffic, just as the Egyptians do. Seeing an Egyptian woman splayed on the road in Alexandria, a much calmer city than Cairo, was an important reminder that even with my awesome jaywalking skills, I’m not invincible.

This is a rather unfortunate reality of life in Egypt. People die in car-related incidents all the time. It’s normal. It’s even becoming normal to me.

As much as my friends and family in the USA worry about protests and riots and political instability, you’d think that was the most dangerous part of my life. That stuff isn’t really even a part of my life, but I do cross the street numerous times a day.

And I used to think the College Ave crosswalk was a deathtrap.