An Egyptian Taxi from Hell
I have lived in Cairo for two years. I speak the language. I drive a vehicle to work daily and am familiar with the roads, the culture, the religion, the people and the meter rates. Although I’m used to driving myself everywhere, when a girlfriend from Holland decided to visit, I chose to take an Egyptian taxi to City Stars Mall with her so as to take a break from the traffic and stress of driving all week. After our time spent in City Stars, we took a taxi parked at the taxi stand that promised to go to Maadi based on the rates from the meter.
It wasn’t long before we realized his meter was rigged and the rates were going up too fast. By the time we reached home, the rates were more than double what we had paid to get to the mall in the first place. Familiar with taxi drivers who attempt to cheat foreigners, we exited the vehicle before handing him the correct amount of money, not the tripled amount he was demanding.
He grabbed my arms and when I fought back, refusing to follow him, he stepped on my foot and barricaded himself between me and the door so that I could not move further.
We walked away and soon discovered the taxi driver at our backs where he followed us inside our building. Once alone he snatched my wallet from my hand and grabbed onto my bags and then proceeded to shout violently at us before he dragged me outside back towards his taxi. He grabbed my arms and when I fought back, refusing to follow him, he stepped on my foot and barricaded himself between me and the door so that I could not move further.
In Arabic, I told him to return my wallet so that I could pay him the amount he was demanding. He was not convinced and turned towards my friend, intending to attack her and grab her wallet as well. I shouted at him that she was foreigner and did not have any Egyptian pounds on her and to leave her alone. He seemed very angry and turned his attention back on me. Finally I grabbed my wallet from him and paid him the money he demanded. After having received his money, the taxi driver slapped me across my face and pushed me against the door.
I take kickboxing classes four times a week and ride 1,000 pound horses professionally for a living. I was not at all intimidated or scared, and when he hit me, I became furious and chased him to his taxi with the intention of getting revenge. The man panicked at the idea that a woman would actually fight back; it was obvious that he had previously physically assaulted other women and bullied them for ridiculous amounts of money. However, he had clearly never run into a woman like me.
My friend was clever enough to take his photo, and a picture of his license plate along with a video of him bullying me before he ran towards his taxi. We both realized that the man was grabbing a weapon, perhaps a knife or a gun and so we turned on our heels and ran inside the building, saving our lives.
It was obvious that he had previously physically assaulted other women and bullied them for ridiculous amounts of money. However, he had clearly never run into a woman like me.
I reported the Egyptian taxi driver to the police as well as the embassy. Most importantly, I want to spread awareness to solo women travelers so that worse does not occur in the future. More than half the women who report similar crimes, drop the report due to pressure from locals or the police. Many taxi drivers, such as this man feel like they can get away with crimes such as these because they go unpunished and can easily scare and dominate women.
In my two years in Cairo I had taken many Egyptian taxis and have never had such a violent encounter. However, my story goes to show that you cannot let your guard down or be too comfortable in an environment. Always go with your gut instinct and remember that your safety is far more important than a few pounds.
Top photo credit: Guillén Pérez