Driving in Turkey, Egypt, & Saudi Arabia
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 97 17:13:00 -0800
Subject: Driving in Turkey, Egypt, & Saudi Arabia
[Two accounts of driving in the environs of the eastern Mediterranean... -psl]
Forwarded-by: Matthew Kleinosky <email@example.com>
Cairo Driving Rules
(originally titled: Subject: Mister John's traffic rules in Turkey !!!)
but apparently NOTHING is lost in the translation?
1. The first shall be first, and the last shall be guilty. If you are
entering a main artery from a side street, simply step on the gas and get
there first. After the accident the police will survey the car. If the
damage is anywhere behind the headlights, you are innocent.
2. Always use your horn, not the brakes. Horns rarely wear out. Blow your
horn with or without provocation-it wards of evil spirits.
3. Always aim directly at a pedestrian crossing the street. If you slow down
or swerve right or left, you will ruin his timing.
4. Ignore stop signs. If you stop, you will be rammed from the rear.
5. When you go through an intersection, don't look to the right or to the
left-otherwise you may be expected to give testimony later.
6. A one-way street simply means a narrow street. Use it in either
direction. If you encounter a car coming at you, hold your ground or you
will lose face. Turning off the ignition and reading a newspaper is very
7. If you approach a traffic light which is red, stop ONLY if there is a
policeman hanging arround. If you are the second car to approach, pull in
front of the first. If you are the third car, pull in front of both. If
you are the fourth car pass on the right and pull in front of all of them.
8. If you sense something is going wrong with your engine, keep going until
smoke starts pouring out of the hood and the car brakes down right in the
middle of the road. It is not necessary to pull off the highway since there
are no shoulders. Get out, open the hood, pull some wires, and then abandon
it. Be sure to put a circle of rocks around your car to protect it.
9. When approaching an on-coming car at night, dim your lights at the last
endurable moment. This is a form of "chicken". Then, seconds before you
pass, flip on your high beams so that you can see the road ahead.
NOTE: Spot lights may be used in conjunction with this maneuver.
10. If you have to abandon your car at night (breakdown or out of gas),
don't leave your parking lights on as this will run down the battery. Don't
forget, however, to put a circle of rocks around the vehicle.
Forwarded-by: Paul Bailey <MEF3006@KAAU.EDU.SA>
[I am out in Saudi Arabia ... The following story is from an article that
someone gave me, which is quite accurate in describing the joys of travel
in the magic kingdom. -PB]
Before you start your car in Arabia for the first time, sit in the
driver's seat, hold the steering wheel, and say to yourself; `I am the only
driver on the road and mine is the only car'.
This may at first be hard to understand, especially after you've seen
the traffic during rush hour, but thousands of Arab drivers believe it and
so can you. You had better; you won't have a chance unless you have this
faith. Remember, your car is THE car; all others are aberrations in the
Next, examine your car. It is essential that two of the controls work,
the accelerator and horn. Anything else is optional. If for example you
intend to drive at night you may find headlamps are an advantage, but do
remember to set them to high beam, then break off the dip switch in case
you should accidentally knock it and dim your lights.
You should only have rear lights if you consider yourself to be a person
of such little consequence that somebody should catch up with you.
Brakes are considered to be a sign of middle class snobbery. If you
have them and at some point decide to use them, it is important to consider
your social standing. Gentle braking would indicate that you were a
Braking should be left until the very last second then applied with
gusto and verve. If you manage to skid or at least squeal your tyres, all
to the good.
Lastly examine the coachwork. A dent indicates that you are not only
a Person of Consequence, but have proven it in combat, so obviously they
are important. But don't worry if you haven't any yet, you will soon
acquire some. (Use of a hammer is considered cheating and is bad form).
Now you are ready for the road.
As elsewhere, there are rules in Arabia about stopping, crossings,
maximum speed and so forth, but in Arabia these laws exist only as a tests
of character and self esteem.
Stopping at the stop sign, for example, is prima facie evidence that
the driver is an impotent cuckold; contrarily, ignoring a stop sign is proof
that the driver is a Person of Consequence. This is why the Arab driver
who is stopped by a policeman goes red in the face, beats his forehead with
his fists, and upbraids the officer. It isn't the embarrassment or the
inconvenience, it's the implication that he is not quite important enough
to drive the wrong way down a one-way street.
The basic rule in cities is to force your car as far as it will go in
any opening in the traffic. It is this rule that produces the famous Arab
Four Way Deadlock. It would appear that the Deadlock could be broken if
any of the cars would reverse, but this is impossible because of the car
right behind, and the car behind that, etc.
Anyway, if a driver did reverse, he would become an Object of Ridicule,
for this would suggest a weakness of character and a lack of moral fibre.
The impossibility of reversing accounts for some of the difficulty in
parking. You will find that when you stop just past a vacant space and try
to back into it, you can't because another car is less than six inches
behind you, hooting away. You can give up and drive on, or you can go back
and try to convince him to let you park.
This you do by shouting Personal Abuse into his window. One of three
things will then happen: (1) he will stare sullenly ahead and continue
blowing his horn; (2) he will shout Personal Abuse back at you; or (3) he
will get out of his car and kill you; subsequently pleading Crime of Honor,
which automatically acquits him in Arab Court.
Since Arabs usually drive head-first into a parking space, every third
of fourth car has its tail-end sticking out. Driving is further complicated
by double parked cars and the Arab style of leaving a side street by driving
halfway out into the near lane and then looking.
The way to deal with these hazards is to blow your horn and accelerate
around them. All Arab drivers accept the axiom that anything you do while
blowing the horn is sacred, unless, of course, they happen to be blowing
their horn, in which case they take precedence.
If you make a careful in-lane stop, you not only expose your social and
sexual inadequacies, but you may also never get moving again since you show
yourself as a weakling whom anyone can challenge with impunity.
The thing to remember about one-way streets in Arabia is that they are
not one-way. A driver who has a block or so to go assumes that when the
authorities put up the signs they were not thinking of cases like his. He
drives in the wrong direction, going full throttle to get it over with
quickly and to prove that he really is in a terrible hurry.
Similarly, the roundabout, with its river-like formation of movement,
is to the Arab driver just so much exhilarating open space. He does not go
around it, he goes across it, at high speed taking the direct line from his
point of entry to his intended exit -- while sounding his horn.
In the cities, the few four lane streets become, after four or five
blocks, two lane and even one lane streets. This produces the Funnel
Effect. The Funnel Effect can be unnerving; the unwary motorist may get
trapped against one side or the other and have to wait until the traffic
slacks off around one or two o'clock in the morning.
But the Reverse Funnel is even more dangerous. Imagine the effect of
bottling up a number of proud and excitable Arab drivers in a narrow street
for a half mile or more and then suddenly releasing them. Its like dumping
out a sack of white rats.
As each car emerges, it tries to overtake the cars ahead of it, and if
possible, two or three more. The car ahead, however is passing the car
ahead of it, and so on. Thus, the first hundred yards or so of the Reverse
Funnel Effect, before the cars shake down, is a maelstrom of screaming
engines, spinning tyres, and blaring horns, often accompanied by the
screaming of tearing and bending metal.
It is important to overtake while driving, as this ensures acceptance
in all social areas; moral, sexual and political. Not to overtake is to
lose status, dignity, and reputation. It is not where you drive that
counts, but what or whom you pass on the way.
The procedure is to floor the accelerator and leave it there until you
come up on something you can pass. If the Arab driver sees the car in front
of him slow down or stop, he knows there can be but two causes; (1) the
driver ahead has died at the wheel or (2) he has suddenly become a Person
of No Consequence, which is roughly the same thing. He therefore
immediately swerves out and passes at full speed. If the driver ahead has
stopped for a gaping chasm, the passer is done for, but ... Insha'allah.
Sometimes even the lowest social orders (one rank above sheep, two above
women), get lucky on occasion and manage to pass a heavily laden truck or
donkey. So to differentiate yourself from them it is essential that you
regularly practice some of the finer variations on the theme of overtaking.
The first of these you should master is The Nearside Pass. Practise
this initially on multiple-lane highways, (you should get plenty of practice
as all good Arab drivers will habitually monopolise the outside lane). then
on single lane roads where you can drive on the desert, and finally graduate
up to using the sidewalk.
The second refinement is the Traffic Light Swerve. This comes in left-
or right-handed versions and to perform this manoeuver satisfactorily you
will have to develop split second timing.
For the right-handed version you need to find a multiple-lane highway
where the inside lane(s) are blocked by Persons of No Consequence who have
stopped for a red traffic light. You must storm down the clear outside lane
to arrive just as the light turns green (very easy to spot as you will hear
the blast of 15 to 20 horns). and immediately turn right, crossing in front
of the cars just beginning to move.
In the left-handed version you will need to use the inside lane and turn
left, or U-turn. This can be a very exacting science, as, if you chose your
spot carefully, you could turn across as many as eight rows of traffic.
The final, and most devastatingly successful method of overtaking,
providing it is well carried out, should elevate you to at least shiekdom,
and will prove conclusively that you maintain a mighty harem which you
undoubtedly service every night.
If you catch up on a long, slow-moving convoy of vehicles you should
switch your lights on, as proof of your importance, pull out, and overtake
totally regardless of whatever is approaching from the opposite direction.
If, by the awesome power you radiate, you convince oncoming drivers that
you outrank them, they will swerve off the road and allow you free passage.
(Of course, for the sake of their own dignity they will shout Personal
Abuse, but to a man of your calibre this will mean nothing).
Sometimes the oncoming vehicle will be a Mercedes concrete truck driven
by a Korean or Filipino. Beware, these barbarians have not been educated
in the finer social graces, and will assume that the mere size and weight
of their vehicle is some sort of entree to polite society.
Which brings us neatly to when (not `if') you are involved in an
automobile collision (the Arabic word for this is sedam.) The procedure,
(providing nobody has been hurt), is rigidly structured and becomes a formal
ritual. First, all drivers and passengers spring from their cars, shouting
Personal Abuse, pedestrians spring forward as eye- witnesses, stores empty
as shoppers join the crowd, and invalids rise from their beds for blocks
around to totter to the scene. Don't be afraid of this crowd even if you
are absolutely in the wrong.
Half of them will be on your side and will defend you vociferously,
shouting and gesticulating. You must make an immediate, but accurate,
estimate of those with you and those against you. Based on this count you
must make you decision whether to reimburse the other party or whether to
stand out for reimbursement yourself.
Win or lose, pay or be paid, blame has nothing to do with the actions
of crashes; it is entirely a matter of status and virility. Who cares what
happened? Who wants to know whose fault it was? That's over. The present
is what counts: the battle of dignity and manhood.
You are being watched by hundreds of pairs of eyes, alert to the
slightest loss of poise, the first retreat from savage indignation; but you
can win, as you stand there in your wilted sports shirt, straw hat and flip
flops, dying of thirst, nearly melting in the heat, comprehending little,
groggy, confused and concussed, just remember and keep telling yourself "I
am a Person of Consequence, I am! I am!"
by `A Member'
© 1997 Peter Langston