Cairo has to be the cheapest place to park out of any of the worlds largest cities, but it comes at a price. You can park on any road, anywhere your car fits. If it doesn’t fit then you can double park effectively blocking in the lucky drivers who managed to squeeze into the spot you’ve just missed. Of course if you double park there are two criteria that you must adhere to. Firstly you must remain in the vehicle, so this only works well if you have a passenger who is nipping out for a short errand. Alternatively you can abandon the car but only if you leave the handbrake off.
For those of you unfamiliar with the handbrake rule this is to facilitate the juggling around of any number of vehicles to allow a trapped driver to escape, rather like those games you played as a child where each piece of the puzzle had to be slid into position to form a picture. You can see it in evidence around the Grand Mall Maadi and on the outskirts of City Stars. It is a very professional set up around the latter venue with small pieces of rubble (freely available on any Cairo street) gently placed behind each driver side front wheel to avoid any unplanned movement.
When you return your car will be somewhere in the vicinity of where you parked it, depending on the length of your absence. Now, in theory this system works well but it is dependent on the skill of the street parkers. Considering the average age of these guys is about 12 you can see there are hazards to this system that no risk assessments have covered.
The problems arise when some members of the street parking team need to attend to other duties. These duties could include fetching a cup of tea from other street vendors, listening to the football on the radio, or most importantly, heading off for a nap. You see you need at least three on the team at all times. Two to push the car and vitally one to stop it. The team member with the stopping duty is the one who seems to be most easily distracted by these other duties.
Inevitably this results in scuffs and scratches to your bumpers all of which are irrelevant in Egypt, and anyway the dents pop back out with a kettle of boiling water freely available from the previously mentioned street vendors. At this point I would like to offer some sage advice to any of you considering buying or changing your car, get a black one.
I know, I can hear you say NO WAY, they show the dust, attract the sun, need regular cleaning etc and the colour of choice for most expats is silver. You see silver hides the dust, reflects the heat but the problem with silver is that it comes in various shades, so if you need to do a touch up on said scratches it is hard to get a match. Whereas black is black and the Manky Mall sorry, Grand Mall does an excellent line in black nail polish ( “Dior” no less) for 2 le which works a treat.
Back to the street parkers, having returned from your errands you then proceed to examine the car for any new scuffs, dents or missing wing mirrors which they will have kindly retained for you, and pay the Baksheesh/parking fee. 1 le or 10p approx is the going rate for this kind service or if I’m feeling generous and wish to try out my pathetic Arabic I may engage in a little conversation and give them a cigarette or 2 but obviously not to the 12 year olds, I keep a supply of sweets for them they have no concept of Stranger Danger.