DOKKI – Heat, billowing heat and smoky gray and tan air ahead. No wind above, no breath below.The desert is the city. Traffic swells and taxis scamper like small black flies, finding places to squeeze in, to squeeze by, to slide by where there’s no room.
Eighty-thousand taxi drivers in Cairo slither through the tightest openings on the road and in life. Eighty thousand squeezing by and by. Read “Taxi: Tales of Commuting,” by Khaled al Khamisy, www. shorouk.com.
As we slice through traffic ricocheting like a cue ball, the driver begins singing. This hasn’t happened before. I am going to be late. Look at the traffic ahead.
Sometimes they shout or scream or sit sullenly or laugh or joke. But he sings before the cassette begins and sings all the way through. Love songs. Deep, rich dramatic songs about life. He sings as he flips the cassette and sings what’s on the other side. Middle-aged. Balding. Worn, sweat-stained shirt.
In between he hums. Traffic is pulverized. It is hotter than a laundry iron pressing down on a shirt. The horn dancing is reaching a crescendo. No one wants to be here. I don’t see anyone else singing.
His car is a tiny black worn-out, beat-up, wobbly, overheated, suffocatingly hot tin can with a heater that doesn’t turn off and a broken door that doesn’t open and cracked windows that do not roll up or down. It is a relic. It belongs in a museum: like almost every other taxi on the road in Cairo.
“Do you read newspapers?”
“Do listen to the news on the radio?”
“So when do you rest?”
“Fridays after prayer. For a while.”
He sings on and I wished I had sung too.