Director finds echoes of Egypt in Cairo's traffic chaos

Wed Oct 30, 2013 1:10pm EDT
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By Maha El Dahan and Regan Doherty

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Someone once told Egyptian filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha that you can tell much about the personality of a nation from the conduct of its drivers.

In his 77-minute documentary "Cairo Drive", which had its premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival this week, Elkatsha follows Cairo drivers from all walks of life and sees parallels with the challenges facing Egyptian society more broadly.

While Egyptians have rarely been more bitterly divided than now - split between supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and those who favor the military-backed government - Elkatsha says the capital's inhabitants will always have one thing in common: traffic misery.

"I just started thinking about my own country and I thought that's it. That's how I can show the personality of a nation," Elkatsha said.

"Driving just seemed like the grand equalizer for me, it's one of the most egalitarian things in Egypt. Whether you're driving a donkey cart or a fancy car, everyone has to get from point A to point B."

In Egypt's teeming capital of 20 million, the only road rules worth following are those made up by drivers who have suffered decades of long delays.

Getting behind a wheel to navigate the busy streets means shifting from one lane to another to occupy a coveted empty space - what Egyptians call taking a "ghorza", or stitch.

It also involves familiarizing yourself with the language of flashing headlights and horns which may translate into anything from a polite request to pass to a biting insult.   Continued...

Cars are stuck in a traffic jam in downtown Cairo September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh