The ‘official’ system built through random traffic apparatus and randomly placed traffic wardens within Egypt are confusing more than efficient. In an over populated city with too many vehicles car horns don’t mean anything apart from to communicate to other drivers on the roads in an inpatient way. A language of it’s own where sirens go unnoticed, tooting is not used to direct traffic or to warn in a serious incident. This unofficial social system improvised by people with no real authority implemented can reflect a chaotic society.
To take the Corniche for example, El Gish, the highway of Alexandria, (Port city, Egypt 2016) down towards Mensheya, we are presented with firstly, the view of the sea and sky with the eastern side of the cityscape, separating the sea from the land, is the sand, and the sand from the street is an ancient wall, the wall is attached to the man made construction of concrete zone reserved for pedestrians known as the pavement, ending with a black and white painting on it’s surface, highlighting what is known as a kerb.
As the narrower pavement zones end we step down onto the zone reserved for motor vehicles, obviously known as the road, the road is wider, and there is an impression of traffic lanes painted onto the tarmac thus highlighting that vehicles / animals are guided along the road, as there are animals that share the traffic roads with vehicles. Bis ‘welcome to Egypt’, no one follows this distinction of order. No one abides by these adopted like rules; there is no system of a higher power in place. What there is though is a sense of improvisation with drivers and vehicles, it feels like a game when motor vehicles speeding over 100 mph down the highway situated along the sea front of the whole city.
As we near the middle of the road there is another separator, a narrow kerb like platform splitting the wide road (Corniche) in half so each side leads opposite directions. We are positioned in the middle of the road, vehicles in front of us heading towards Mondara and other vehicles behind us directly on the sea front, headed towards Bahari (or in either of these directions other wise). As we look across the road, past the vehicles we see people odem us waving different hand signs at the mashrous passing by, these are areas, these hand gestures signal which part of the city you want to go, and the public including mashrou drivers know all the hand signals.
[MASHROU ROAD HAND SIGNS]
- Spreading out all your fingers signing/waving a clear ‘side five’ is a3la el bahr
- Similar side five bis moving your thumb towards your palm and back again signs for shera3 45
- Waving your index finger in a circular motion facing upwards, is victoria
- Pointing your index finger down and showing a tapping motion is Sidi Bashr
- Moving your wrist from side to side is sa3