Saturday, March 15, 2008


"Unable to account for the extraordinary success of his book which has sold some 35.000 copies in half a year, Khaled al-Khamisi is well aware that he has spoken to something deep in Egyptian society at the moment. In small reports from conversations with taxi drivers in 2005-06, Khaled shares some of the wry and burlesque humor of the drivers he has met. But he has a vision for a cultural renaissance of this country. That, he says, is the only way to save it.

A scion of a family of well-known leftist writers, al-Khamisi was destined to become an author himself, but it was only in his 44th year that he finally published a work of his own. The taxi-drivers helped him, you might say. But the work stands out for its simplicity, its frankness, and its social commitment, even if it does not seem to offer the classical revolutionary solutions of the left." Click here for the complete article.

I envy Khaled. Well I actually envy of all writers, novelists, singers, actors, and musicians for the telnet they possess, but I am extremely envious of Khaled for thinking about writing a book about his conversations with taxi drivers. I wish I thought about this before he did. Although his book is truly entertaining and it candidly reflects the nature of the Egyptian people, yet I still think that had I collected my family's experiences with taxis in a book, I would have made a fortune.

If you don' believe me, let me give you a taste of some of my taxi stories:
  • My husband, his brother-in-law, and I were in an extremely old taxi driven by an extremely old driver. A plastic egg was hanging from the rear view mirror. Since the taxi was going no faster than 25 Km/Hr (for obvious reasons) "7oda" decided to start a conversation with the driver. He asked about his name, and the cute driver said: "My name is Badawi, but everyone calls me Hagg Batta(duck)!!!" Hearing this, 7oda(with his excellent sense of humor) held the egg and said " I see, and this must be your picture when you were a baby!!!"
  • Upon his arrival in Cairo, my husband's friend took a taxi from the airport to his hotel in downtown. The driver asked for an outrageously high fare. The friend, looked to the driver in the eye and said:"I need to warn you, I am a sorcerer and am capable of hurting you, so don't make me cross with you." Smiling, the driver said:"Fair enough. Proof it to me, and I will only charge you 10 pounds." The friend said: "Let's see. Your name is Abbas."Impressed the driver said: "Not bad, what else?" Continuing he said:"You took part in the 73 war and you have two kids, a boy & a girl." Astounded, the driver slowly moved his wide open mouth to say: "Give me my 10 pounds and get off please." After paying him, the friend got off, and talking to the driver through the open window he said:"By the way, your name is written on your key chain. Every Egyptian man your age took part in th 73 war, and I noticed the pictures of your kids on the back of your car's sun shades. Salam ya 3ibs". Outraged, the driver shouted: "YABN EL (son of) ....................." (assume the worst), then he quickly pressed the gas pedal speeding away & looking for a new customer.
  • Finally, how about when my husband & I forgot our 2 year-old son in the Taxi??? Eat your heart out Khaled. I bet can never beat that!! (I will not write this one since my son is still traumatized by the experience, but I will include it in my book)

p.s. If you are wondering, the driver did return our son but not before my husband & I almost killed each other. Seriously, those 15 minutes, the time between the taxi leaving our house and returning back with our son, were the worst and longest 15 minutes in my life. And since the second story portrays a greedy driver, I have to mention that this kind & honest driver refused to take any money for his good deed. Thank you Mr. Taxi driver.


Mo said...

my favorite thing about egyptian taxi drivers is how they all say "khalee khalee" when you are handing them the money...i even had a driver once who was telling me to khalee after he had already taken the money from my hand and was putting it in his shirt pocket..

Anonymous said...

HAHAH mo.. so true..