The automobile traffic and rules on the roadway in Cairo is unlike any conventional heavy traffic.
a. donkeys, camels and donkey drawn carriages hauling garbage share the roads with cars
b. the traffic circles are a recipe for disaster as the 4 lanes of unlaned cars merge, change lanes, and exit.
c. taxis from the 80's running on egyptian sweat share the roadways with new Toyota vehicles somehow in harmony.
d. in Egypt they like to honk casually every two seconds for no apparent reason, weave in and out, merge, unmerge with no guidelines other than a pseudo flow of traffic making a lane, coming within literally half a foot of other cars
The Egyptian taxi drivers deserve a lot of credit. They work in the Cairo heat, compounded by the millions of tons of exhaust emitted into their air, for meagre wages, sweating and somehow pulling it off appearing relaxed without accidents considering the amount and difficulity of the driving they do with their cars in very poor condition. These cars sometimes do not even have side mirrors!!
Though the traffic may seem impossibly overwhelming at first, over time youwill get used to it and crossing no longer becomes a matter of life-and-death. But for those still too scared to cross on their own, stand "downstream" from a local Egyptian and just shadow him closely. To put it crudely, at least there's a buffer between you and the car if it's gonna hit anything.
On a more serious note, look for police posts. Policemen standing by a road, espcially if they are holding a baton, are on duty to stop the traffic at intervals to let the people cross safely.
Lastly, DON'T ALWAYS TRUST the pedestrian lights. Green man doesn't mean a car won't come speeding by from around the corner.
Also, having lived in Egypt for a month, I have yet to witness/hear any road accident involving collision of any kind. So don't let the surface chaos scare you too much-- the drivers actually are very clear about what they are doing. :)
Most of the tourists would put the traffic in Cairo tip under the warnings and dangers category, but as long as I don't live there and I don't have to fight with it every morning on the way to work (my Bucharest fellows know why), I perceive it more like a local custom.
One of Cairo's "charms"...
Come on, this is an 18 million people town; Bucharest has only two million and is worst...
Cairo streets seem to be narrow but this is because cars may be parked 2 or even 3 deep at the side of the road. Every area has a man/boy to manipulate the parking, so drivers never lock their cars, and leave them out of gear. If the car next to the kerb needs to leave, the man will push the outermost cars until the driver can get his car out. It's a bit like the sliding games I had as a young child, where there was only one free space and you had to move everything around to solve it.
Of couse the parking man has to get his bakhsheesh.
The system works very well.
Trying to cross the road in Cairo is a death trap. Drivers take no notice of zebra crossings, traffic lights or pedestrians. You can wait half an hour or more to cross some of the larger streets like Dawlat el Gamhouriya.
Sometimes it is easier to take a taxi for 3Epounds to drive you round to the other side of the road.
I have to say, the drivers are more ruthless than in Delhi, the difference being in India, the traffic never gets up that much speed! I generally look for a group of buxom veiled matrons as they would absorb any impact. After a few days, you really do not notice it anymore.
When crossing the street, follow the locals. There are few traffic lights and all kinds of transport. You'll see a Mercedes Benz side by side with a donkey cart, a truck, anything...and they're all going at a mad speed. So find an Egyptian who's crossing the street and try to follow by his/her side!
Traffic in Cairo is sheer chaos and probably only understood by native Egyptians. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason how they drive and they use their horns to excess. They are able to fit their cars into the tiniest spaces and park in the most unbelievable ways. They also don't use their lights at night! Crossing the street is an adventure in itself. Best advice is to follow a local, you'll soon understand how to dodge the traffic. I was quite proud at my adeptness at this after only my 2nd day in Cairo.
To cross a street in Cairo is a good test to see if you will survive this city. The traffic is rather chaotic.
Tips for crossing busy streets:
Move with locals