Surviving Travel Inside Egypt – Part 1

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A Traffic Jam in Cairo, Egypt

(Editor’s note: Please join us in welcoming Robyn Payne (aka Asmaa Ahmed),’s newest columnist. She’s previously from the North State, but now lives in Egypt.)

Most people are afraid of flying. When I was young I was never afraid of flying. It was so exciting; the sound of the engines, the rush of the night as you sped to the morning -feeling like you were fast forwarding through time. Then as I grew older and started watching the news and listening to people talk, I came to the realization that planes blow up, crash or just stop flying for unknown reasons and plummet to the Earth 10,000 feet below.

So after spending 23 hours flying across the United States, parts of Canada, the Atlantic Ocean, England, Europe, Israel, Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, I was so thankful to God that we arrived safely.

I never thought I would die in the back of a taxi hurling through Cairo, Egypt like a steel ball inside a pinball machine.

If you’ve ever been in New York City and taken a cab and thought that was crazy, take that experience and multiply it a thousand times and you’ve got yourself an Egyptian taxi driver. New York cabbies have nothing on drivers in Egypt. The drive from the airport took about 45 minutes but it seemed like it took hours. My 9-year-old daughter spent the whole time with her head buried against my chest and her fingers dug into the flesh of my arms while she shook from fear. I held onto the man next to me, who is now my husband, digging my fingers into his arms the same way my daughter was to me. I spent that 45 minutes praying to God to get us to wherever we were going in one piece and vowing NEVER to ride in a cab again, but like my mother says, never say never.

Our flat is on the fourth floor of a six-story building and faces the street, and the first few days I spent a lot of time watching the traffic and the people from my bedroom window. The best way to describe almost any busy street in Egypt is to just say “frogger”. That is what it’s like here if you’re a pedestrian; dodging cars, weaving through traffic while they are temporarily stopped or not, praying that they don’t start driving or driving faster while you’re in the middle of them all. It can take you 15 minutes to cross 4 lanes of traffic on foot.

The more I watched the traffic out that window the more nervous I became about ever getting into a vehicle of any kind, and we do have many different kinds. Taxis, as you now know, are bullets on wheels, seemingly driven by blind mad men. Then there are Micro Buses which are Toyota’s version of the VW buses of the ’60’s and ’70’s. There are generally three bench seats in the back and in the front. You have a driver (sometimes tw, as they will squeeze other bus drivers who need a ride home next to them in their seat) who is smoking, drinking tea, talking on a cell phone, giving change to passengers and swerving through pedestrians, carts with donkeys, cars and other Micro Buses all at the same time with as little as 15 to almost 30 people both inside and outside of the bus. Then you h ave the farmers and merchants who are either driving down the street with carts being pulled by donkeys or horses or riding them.

Oh, I almost forgot about the motorcycles. These can be driven by anyone, and I do mean anyone, from old men to 10 year olds who are big enough to reach the handle bars and can steer them. I have seen as many as five people on one motorcycle: the father who was driving, with a 4-year-old in front of him, mom is sitting behind him “side saddle” holding an infant in her arms, and a son about 8 years old sitting behind her holding onto her lightly.

No fear. That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the way people travel here, they have no fear. But then that is explained by the belief system they have that your destiny is in the hands of God, and when it’s your time, no one can stop it. So they live for the now, not the tomorrow.

Robyn Payne (aka Asmaa Ahmed) was born in Weaverville, California and was raised in Mountain Gate. She graduated from C.V.H.S. in 1988 and has lived all over the country since then but always ended up back in Redding. A year ago she left Redding once again and now lives in Ain Helwan, Egypt, just south of Cairo with her Egyptian husband and his family. She’s always enjoyed writing stories and poems and is a “just for fun” photographer.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of

Robyn (Asmaa) Payne was born in Weaverville, California and was raised in Mountain Gate where her family still lives. She graduated from C.V.H.S. in 1988 and has lived all over the country since then but always ended up back in Redding. In October of 2011 she left Redding once again and now lives in Cairo, Egypt, with her Egyptian husband and step son. She loves to write and is looking forward to sharing more of her new country and the people and places she loves here.
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16 Responses

  1. Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

    I loved this and am looking forward to reading more about your life in Egypt.

    • Avatar Robyn Payne says:

      Thank you so much! I feel really honored to be able to open a new light on Egypt. It's been an amazing year here with so much happening but I wouldn't trade it for the world. The people here are amazing and it really is a wonderful place to be.

  2. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Robyn…Good story and welcome to I think I'll skip driving in Cairo or riding with a crazy cabbie there. I've often thought some Redding drivers were wild and crazy, but they don't compare to the Egyptions or drivers in Rome Italy.

    The large cities seem to have to many people going nowhere for nothing talking on cellphones and texting while putting on their makeup and diapering the baby. Not to miss their music at 100 decibels. some can't hear the crash at 60 MPH.

    Even after driving in Sacramento and San Francisco it's always great to be back in Redding which seems mild in comparison.

    • Avatar Robyn Payne says:

      Thank you so much Budd!! It definitely keeps you on your toes!!! I look forward to sharing much more!! And I know what you mean about drivers period…I don't mind walking much now. Smiles!

  3. Avatar rmv says:



    and GOD BLESS AMERICA (and her children) :-):-)

  4. Avatar Adrienne Jacoby says:

    That reminds me of standing on the sidewalk next to a roundabout in Greciagno , Italy. Here came a man in a little Fiat, talking on a cellphone and gesturing wildly with the other hand. We wondered if there was a midget driving or maybe the car was on auto pilot. He made it around the roundabout .? ? . ? . your guess is as good as ours!!!!

    BTW . . . Naples is waaaay worse than Rome but it sounds like none of them compare to Egypt.

    • Avatar Robyn Payne says:

      There is something about Europe and Africa and the Middle East with the hand gesturing. Many women here wear hijabs to cover their heads (like the one in my picture) and will tuck their phones up in them. So the few women drivers you see here are really scary, they hardly hang onto the wheel, the kids are climbing all over in the car and they're talking and driving without a care to anyone around them. Insane…LOL It makes you grateful to be alive every day when you come home if you commute to work.

      • I love the details you report from your new home, Robyn. Few of us have ever visited Egypt, and, sadly, never will. So we are so grateful to you for being a citizen journalist for from so far away. Thank you!

        • Avatar Robyn Payne says:

          Thank you Doni for giving me the opportunity. I love the fact that you give the North State other options for finding the news. For your strength to defend the truth even when others try to slander you and belittle what you do. Be strong and I am so proud of you and all of those before me that have helped make such a success!!! Thank you again!!!

  5. Avatar haytham says:

    what a great story!!! ..thank you so much ROBYN and you are welcome here in Egypt and we the Egyptians will be always here for you and we will keep you in our hearts..really we need who can explain and say the truth about us because we had missed the honest media in some western countries which don't say the truth or at least they show only the dark corner of lighted home..and as you are American citizen originally you will be more believed than us from your people there because for along time the media there changed lots of the truth..and now i must say thanx to for giving the chance to Robyn to report her experience in Egypt here..and we wish more and more of the truth and that you show it with the bad points and the good points and not only the bad points. one day Egypt will be great and better sure and am living for that hope..we the Egyptians Christians and Muslims are united people and will be..once again thank you ROBYN or ASMAA and wish you all the best.

    • Avatar Robyn says:


      Shoukran (thank you) my brother!! I love Egypt and all the people here, you are all truly beautiful! I am honored to be here and pray I will do you all justice.

  6. Avatar Bint Shaaban says:

    Very nice and discriptive. I like writing and recently wrote about life in dar es Salaam; my city, stating that a considerable period of ones lifetime here is spent on roads. I think it can be compared to what you have written!

    • Avatar Robyn says:

      Salam Aleikum Bint, Shoukran, I hope to do Egypt proud. I love it here and if anything it has opened my eyes to having faith in others.

  7. Avatar Baron's says:


    Thank you for sharing this with us…I can actually visualize it …I thought traffic in Milano or Paris was bad, but what you describe here is almost scary.

    • Avatar Robyn says:

      Thanks Baron,

      Yes, it can be scary. Right now especially with the unrest. I have a friend visiting from England with her husband who is Egyptian and they had a time of it trying to get from Cairo to Dehab (over on the Red Sea south of Sharm el Sheik). This was before the "second revolution" and they were pelted by rocks by the Bedouins and stopped for 2 hours while the Army and the Bedouins fought on the road. They are on their way back today, so I pray for their safe return and am thankful I am here at home where all I have to worry about is cleaning the house. LOL My husband is down in Tahrir Square again today, was there all night. But thank God there have not been any more deaths there. Keep us in your prayers!!