If I really need to go somewhere, I can always call a neighbour in an emergency. There aren't any cabs out here, but on a casual basis there is always Zuzu's cart. Fresh cut forage is a basis of the feed for my horses, donkeys and water buffalo, so I invested in a cart that a steelworker made for me and that my daughter and some friends spent a hilarious afternoon painting last summer. My daughter is the arm at the right of the photo, her friend Rana is helping to pull the wagon, and Ganja, one of our baladi dogs is supervising. Driving that cart is one of the supreme joys in my life, believe it or not. I am the occasion of a great deal of mirth for my neighbours, since who ever heard of a foreigner driving a donkey cart? And every kid who sees the cart has to ask to hop on for a ride...I don't mind. I just tell them that it's 50 piastres from my house to the mosque and they all fall over themselves laughing. Zuzu is a white donkey who came to me skinny and covered in sores about 18 months ago. She's now sleek but with a bit of a belly still after the birth of her son, George, who appeared a snowy white, but has mellowed to a dusty beige. She trots along on automatic pilot, knowing the way to my friends' homes and staying to the side of the road so that the huge dump trucks full of sand don't run us down.
We have to share our roads with all sorts of creatures here, a wide variety of vehicles as well as the usual livestock (camels, donkeys, goats, sheep, horses, chickens, ducks, geeese, and dogs...plus children!) and Zuzu and my horses have learned to handle a myriad of situations that many other equids would freak out at. It's currently wedding season, as most village weddings are held outdoors in the summer, and every so often we encounter a parade of trucks...pickups, dumptrucks, you name it...all loaded with men, women, children, and the furnishings of a newly wed couple's house. Horns honk, women sing...it's a joyous occasion and one that almost sent my mare and I into a canal the first time she saw it! But country drivers are much more courteous that city drivers and they slow down for beasts. There are five geese down the road that I swear wait to cross only when a car is approaching...and we all slow down so that they can go for a swim in the canal.
Driving in Cairo proper is not for the faint of heart. As many visitors to Egypt have noted, Egyptians are warm, friendly, welcoming people....until they get behind the wheel of a car. Then the monster within awakes. Actually, it isn't really their fault I believe. Most have never formally learned to drive. The rules of the road are not published in neat little handbooks to study but are mysterious pieces of esoterica only for the initiated, whoever they are. Cairo traffic reminds me of those shots of fish schools on the Discovery Channel. You can never see what the signal is, but they all change direction at once. Well, sometimes the signal for the cars is the horn, but often you have to ponder the fact that there are much fewer accidents than one might expect with such creative driving.
One of my most terrifying experiences was that of having my son and daughter finally reach the age at which they could get a driving license. They were thrilled and I chewed my nails to my elbows. I had taken quite a bit of time teaching them both to drive, but what could I do about all the others on the road? So far, so good and they both seem to be good drivers. The trick is to assume that everyone else on the road is a homocidal/suicidal maniac who is probably going to do something to kill himself/herself while taking out as many others as possible. Cairenes are by necessity amazing defensive drivers.
But for two days, I can relax and depend on my own two feet or Zuzu's four.