What I Learned About Egypt From A Car Crash

What I Learned About Egypt From A Car Crash

Shattered car lights on ground

Each year, thousands of road accidents across Egypt cause serious injuries for some and reap the lives of others. In 2014, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) recorded a total of 14,403 road accidents which claimed the lives of 6,226 people and led to the injury of 24,154 others – meaning an average of 17 people die on Egyptian roads per day.

Last April, my mother and I were yet another two additions to the 2015 toll of accidents. But what was even more frightening than the accident was how little value our well being and safety had amid the corruption which proved to overrule the law.

On our way back from Alexandria to Cairo, my mother and I, along with the family driver, had just left the rest house doing a steady 90 km/hour on the Desert Road when the accident occurred. Ten minutes into our journey, another car speeding at 170 km/hour crashed into the back of ours causing us to drift off the road and crash straight into the concrete blocks on the side of the road.

The impact left the front and back of the car in ruins. My mother had flipped over by the time the car came to a halt, with her back to the front window and her body lodged between the two front seats, the drivers face and chest squeezed into the air bags and my foot wedged between the front seat and the car’s floor.

Having managed to safely pull ourselves out of the car, we stood on the side of the road trying to absorb what had just happened, and figure out what needs to be done. Eventually, people started pulling over to come to our aid.

We soon learned that the other car was driven by a young police officer who had his wife and daughter with him. The women were both transported to the hospital, with injuries from the crash.

Standing in the middle of the Desert Road, we waited for authorities to come. Meanwhile, the people around us reassured us that it wasn’t our fault.

“I saw the man coming all the way from the beginning of the road, driving like a crazy man! It’s not your fault, I saw it all!” one man said.

“Would you testify in court?” we asked him.

“I can’t,” he claimed, “that car you hit was driven by a police officer – if I testify I’ll be behind bars tomorrow.”

Although the car may have hit us bad, reality hit us even worse; you fear the people that are supposed to be protecting you in this country.

Such incidents don’t seem odd knowing that on the Corruption Perceptions Index, Egypt has scored 37 as of 2014 (with 0 being the most corrupt and 100 being the least), rising from 32 in both 2013 and 2012.

According to the 2014-2015 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, the police are perceived by public opinion as one of the most corrupt institutions of the country, with 80 percent of respondents to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) saying that the police are corrupt or extremely corrupt.

“Almost 40 percent of those who had encountered the police in the past twelve months said they had to pay a bribe,” adds the WEF report. “Petty corruption is widespread within the police and firms see the institution as unreliable and impartial.”

Given the status quo, many citizens often find themselves obliged to play by the rules of a corrupt system.

Having realized that the young police officer -who had hit us- will likely use his position to his advantage, my mother decided to play it the same way herself.

Through my uncle, my mother was able to reach a distant relative who occupies a powerful position within the police force.

Upon the arrival of a police officer to intervene, he began inquiring about the incident and our family background. Naturally, everything was made a lot easier after we informed him of our connection. The least guarantee this gave us was that the officer who hit us wasn’t going to simply get off the hook.

After finding a lift back to Cairo, both drivers involved in the car crash were sent to the police station. Aware that he was mistaken and that he no longer had the upper hand, the other driver offered to pay half the costs of fixing our car.

But it wasn’t long before the other driver’s lawyer showed up asking him to change the statement which he had made. The lawyer urged his defendant to claim we had intervened in his lane, causing the car crash.

Nepotism is quite prevalent in Egyptian society, a sad fact, but at times the one thing you can resort to. When you’re in the middle of a highway, your car in ruins, and your loved ones looking for a way home or out of a mess – you’re not really going to be thinking about right or wrong just about how the system works in Egypt.

The one thing I kept thinking about was that if this system was different and it didn’t matter where you came from or who you knew, nobody would have to, or even be able to resort to that. You would get the same treatment – no matter what.

If people were more worried about the laws than by the people controlling them, maybe they’d have respect for regulations. Maybe they would be careful if they felt that a badge and a title aren’t going to help them in a serious situation. Maybe people would stop being above the law.

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  • Ahmed M Ibrahim

    Sad to know that you and your mother met with an accident. As I have personally observed, young drivers indulge in wanton acts, like suddenly changing the lane to harass the oncoming vehicles on national highways. There is something terribly wrong with the psyche of the youngsters, which should be attended to immediately by the authorities.

    • Ikhwanii Extincticus

      It is not only the youngster! Every age drives like lunatics. I see it every single day on the roads and age is not a factor at all.

    • fatima fazal

      in uk barely single Egyptian enters they know theyre dangerous terrorists

  • Commander_Chico

    In normal countries, the driver who hits the car from the rear is at fault.

    • Ikhwanii Extincticus


    • fatima fazal

      Egypt isn’t ok isn’t normal its a 9th world filthy country full of trash corruption rape abuse murder

  • Ikhwanii Extincticus

    One of the things I learned about driving in Egypt is EVERYONE with no exceptions drives like a lunatic. It’s rare indeed to see ANYONE wearing seat belts. Cars are rarely maintained and roadworthy. Speeding and recklessness is the norm. People drive at night with no lights. Honking horns every few minutes. Speeding then braking the entire journey. Driving while talking on cell phones. Driving with babies on laps. Mothers sitting in front passenger seats with babies or young children on their laps like personal air bags. Children wandering around the back seats of cars , hanging out windows, hanging over driver whilst the driver is speeding along. Being honest we can’t blame the police entirely because everyone is at fault.

    • Scorpius

      the Police is not to be blamed entirely. You are right about that. It’s the whole system that should be at fault here especially the traffic and driving-license issuing authorities.
      how can you really blame anyone if just anyone is allowed to do anything?
      Bit by bit, you’ll be obligated to “break the rules”in order to just barely get by.

      Authorities are made to manage and control the mass. this IS their job and nothing else.

  • Ikhwanii Extincticus

    How did your mother spin around if she was wearing a seatbelt? You were all wearing seat belts obviously. My second question is who measured the speed of the car at 170 kms P/H ?

    That would be one of the things used in the court, the speed of each car. Did you go ahead and take the driver to court? What about your insurance company? Did you instruct them to take the case to court? You are insured obviously so surely the insurance company deals with the legal side of it all.

    • Scorpius

      Wearing a seat belt is a personal safety measure. Not wearing does excuse the hitting driver from fault. Seat belts are deemed safer option but does not guarantee safety! and FYI, back in 1991, my father escaped with his life from an accident because he was not wearing one
      if you worry so much about that, yes then, the dear author and her mother must be punished for not wearing one. Each has to pay LE 50 fine.

      about car speed, yes you can deduce the car speed from your own speed, it’s an approximation. I can tell which speed a pass-by car is going.
      If you can about technicality: Speed = distance / Time. get the distance and the time spent crossing it, you get the average speed, Getting those is not difficult.

      and I really do not understand, what the insurance thing has anything to do with this article? this article deals with corruption and how Human lives are worthless on the road in Egypt and how this system is corrupt ..bla bla yata yata … can you really explain for my own sound-of-mind’s sake how is the insurance technicalities is related? huh Mr. Police-officer defending his fellow officer?

      1st rule to fight corruption in any institute or even make it look like so, is to admit mistakes. hitting a car from behind, crossing speed limit and reckless driving endangering other people is punishable by law.

      • Scorpius

        Correction :
        Not wearing it [the seatbelt] does NOT* excuse the hitting driver from fault.

      • Ikhwanii Extincticus

        1. Seatbelt wearing is the law and it has been proven they have drastically reduced mortality rates. As a trauma nurse who I can also declare that they cut facial and chest injuries to an absolute minimum so your dad is a very very rare exception indeed.

        2. Absolute nonsense. The driver in the car in front has absolutely zero idea the speed of the car that hit them from behind. The nearest you will get is a very very rough approx speed if it passed you. But then your concentration shouldn’t be on the speed of other cars passing you. Gauging and calculating the speed of a car passing you as you drive along would be the least of your worries driving.

        3. In normal countries! it is the job of the Insurance Company to deal with the police and court case and injuries and compensation. The driver needs only to exchange details and pass them on to their Insurance company. IF your car is insured then that would be what you would do. Call the insurance company.

        4. Even in simple things Egyptians have a problem admitting mistakes. Dishonesty is rife. A whole change of culture is needed.

        • Ramez Magdy

          That is the military police state of sisiland. What do you expect, you rat face? … in a brotherhood country like Turkey, the police is respected by the people and there is no corruption at all.

    • fatima fazal


  • Carole Talaway

    Have you sent this to Sisi’s email account? I was a passenger in a rearender about 2 months ago. Our friend was driving. The driver of the car that hit us immediately called a cop friend of his who showed up pretty quick. No one was badly injured but there were little kids in his car with no seat belts sitting on granny’s lap and the wife in front. Life comes cheap in Egypt. People have no sense of safety for their passengers or the other drivers. The police do little about it. They rarely stop speeders nor do they ticket families of 5 on motorcylces. Until the traffic police start doing more than checking registration and license at checkpoints this will not end. And now with all the new roads being built we can expect to see more of this kind of thing.

    • Ikhwanii Extincticus

      Completely agree Carole. There is something very abnormal in the brain of Egyptians who think driving without seat belts and with kids jumping around the seats is okay etc etc etc .
      In Canada a traffic cop stopped an Egyptian who was reversing up a highway. They send him for a psychiatric report for the court case. In Egypt no one would even think this was a problem. There is something clinically or psychologically wrong with the minds of many Egyptians when you see the things they do.
      About a month ago I watched a guy come out the mosque get in his car and his two 7-10 year old sons sat on the BONNET/HOOD of the car and the father just pulled out the side street at the mosque and speeded down the main road in front of my eyes. No one batted an eye lid.

      • fatima fazal

        don’t go to Egypt period the people are brainless and I don’t think they built the pyramids no beauty in them no sense no honour idiots

      • fatima fazal

        cos hes on kawkabi maajoun


    This not fair for the people od egyptian, today. unless you drive safe no one safe in the land


Farrah El Essawi studies Multimedia Journalism and Psychology at the American University in Cairo. She has always had a strong passion for social issues and animal rights and jumps at the opportunity to write about either.

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