Cairo expatriates have reported an alarmingly high rate of TSIs – Taxi Shouting Incidents – this week, as they come face to face with the frustration felt by Black ‘n’ White cab drivers over rising gas costs.
TSIs are on the rise across Cairo, already known for its traffic volatility and passionate drivers.
In a recent SMS survey, more than 85 percent of respondents said that taxi drivers were charging higher fares and that many journeys were ending in TSIs.
In the wake of reforms by the central Government and rising production costs; bread, cigarettes and fuel have all seen price increases that have hit Cairenes in the back pocket.
The most immediate impact on foreigners has been the hike in taxi fares.
The usual cause of a Taxi Shouting Incident is when a foreigner objects to the fare charged for a journey that he or she knows rather well. Add to this clash of cultures an indignant driver, who is only asking for a fare increase equivalent to a British first class postage stamp or two, and the expletives start flying.
For the expatriate, it is a matter of principal. Many foreigners pride themselves on their worldliness and are damned if they pay tourist prices in a taxi.
Given the potential level of civil unrest that TSIs could lead to, I am going to break a cardinal rule of expatriate life, by revealing truthfully, what I pay to the Black ‘n’ White taxi drivers of Cairo.
I am budgeting for a 10 percent increase on short journeys and a 20 percent increase on longer trips.
For me, this translates to LE 3.50 for any trip on Zamalek; LE 7 when I leave the Island to go swimming at the Nile Hilton or see a film at Nile City; and I’ll pay LE 13 to travel over to the BCA in Mohandiseen next week to watch Chelsea beat Manchester United.
My rate is creeping up to LE 15 for a trip over to the Khan al Khalili and from Zamalek to Maadi or CityStars; I would now pay LE 30. If the traffic is particularly heavy, LE 35.
Further a field, LE 60 in a Black ‘n’ White to the airport, though Blue Cabs round trip to Ain Soukhna is unchanged at LE 540.
No doubt some readers will think I am already paying tourist prices. But like airlines, the golden rule always is: Never reveal what you paid for a ticket, because someone else has always paid less and they can’t wait to tell you.
Gas prices are not my only daily expense to be hit by price hikes either.
I took a straw sample of fast food chains on Friday; Pizza Hut, Hardees and KFC have all increased their prices since the 2008 edition of the Cairo Dinning Guide hit the streets in March. For example Hardees 5 Star Burger was LE 14.54 and today it is LE 16.75.
Cairo has always been a haven for smokers. As the smoking bans take hold in the Western world, here in Cairo, fags have been a cheap way to die. And of course, you can smoke whilst queuing in the bank, going down in an elevator and even next to the no smoking sign inside the airport.
Marlboro Lights are now LE 9.50 a packet, a rise of LE 2.
Beer thankfully has so far proven to be inflation proof, but it is only a matter of time before the knock – on effect at the pump is felt at the bar.
Milk has been hit with a LE 2 mark-up, a big box of Nestle water has also jumped from LE 20 to LE 22 and the Friday brunch at the Giza Four Seasons is now LE 190 plus tax.
Officially, inflation in Egypt is 16.4 percent. An astounding figure when one considers that along the Nile or across the Middle East for that matter, inflation has never been an issue. Inflation was yet another Western plot.
Thinking that inflation didn’t exist in the Middle East is a myth. The pseudo socialist or command economies have been able to subsidize people’s basic needs for awhile and keep prices stable. But as economic growth pumps more cash into the monetary system, greater demand for goods and services has inevitably led to higher prices and higher wages.
But as for the humble Black ‘n’ White taxi driver, well bless ’em and the Lada, because they my friend are a national treasure, an icon and a few extra guinea may well save us all from the rope when the revolution comes.