Friday, August 12, 2011

Tips for Ramadan driving

With Ramadan nearing the end of its second week, cracks are beginning to show in the resolve of those fasting. With this summer heat, it's not surprising that more people are struggling this year, and accordingly tempers are more quick to fray.

This can be most evident when driving around, particularly in Cairo. Driving in Cairo on a normal day is a hair raising experience. If you've ever played the game "Need for Speed," you've got an estimation of what driving in Cairo is like. [Side note - the new Need for Speed game actually has a track in Cairo for you to drive. Classic!]

Cairo driving in Ramadan increases these levels almost ten fold particularly closer to the time that the sun sets. Here are a few valuable tips that will help ensure your safety and the safety of those around you if you end up driving around Egypt during Ramadan.

1. Remember that you are not fasting. You need to be more patient with those around you. In this heat, it's not the food, but the water that really causes physical strain. If someone looks like they are trying to pick a fight or shouting at you, no matter how difficult it may be, let it go. Patience is a virtue, even more so when you are accommodating for people who are fasting.

2. If at all possible, avoid the roads from around one hour before sunset. At this time, people will be driving break neck speeds to make it home in time to break the fast. All usual driving rules go out the window at this point.

3. Expect the unexpected. This is not an unusual recommendation for people driving in Egypt. But I'm not joking when I say that the "unexpected" at normal times of the year is nothing compared to what I've seen Ramadan drivers do. Just the other day when I was out driving, I was seeing micro busses stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. Driving past, the drivers of these busses would be sat with a quizzical look on their faces wondering why and where they were. The toll of fasting showing through the cracks.

4. Especially true for Cairo: driving right after people break their fast is one of the best and safest times to be on the roads. As everyone is inside breaking their fasts, the roads are empty! Finally it becomes evident that it really should only take 10 - 15 minutes from the center of downtown to reach Maadi :p

5. If you use a driver or a regular cab and expect to be out and about during iftar, bring the driver something with you. I would bring my driver dates, water, and maybe a small sandwich if I knew we'd be at the stables when the fast broke. Of course he used to partake in the meals served up by the stable boys, but this little act can mean the world to someone.

If you can stick to these tips for driving during Ramadan, you will find the experience overall less stressful, and perhaps gain a little bit more insight into Egyptian living.

Ramadan Kareem!

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