This one, then, will be about Egypt.
I have to admit that I loved public transportation in Egypt. It was always an adventure, and my Arabic was still at the "barely surviving" point and so it was always fun to try and communicate what I wanted to the driver of said public transportation. I don't think I ever rode a public bus in Egypt, but while I was there I rode in tens of taxis, a sleeper train, a regular train, and the metro.
I rode a "regular" train to a day trip to Alexandria. This was really fun except the riding on the train part. First of all, I really don't like long trips in shaky vehicles, and the train was hot and smelled like urine. Oh, and it was a 2.5 hour trip--both ways! We had seats but I stood up most of the time, memorizing scriptures in Arabic. It was awful (the train ride, not memorizing).
I also rode a sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor, and then the next night I rode the same train back up to Cairo. They call them "sleeper" trains but I didn't get much sleep. I was quite sick both trips and the disgusting toilet did not help matters. The sleeper train went something like this. There were ten "rooms" per car. Each "room" had a couch that folded into a bed and another fold out bed on top of that (like bunk beds). A stowed ladder gave one the ability to climb from the floor to the top bunk, where I was banished because my roommate was sicker than me.
In addition to the two fold out beds, the room also came equipped with a fold out sink. It was in this small sink with 8% water pressure that my roommate washed her hair and I shaved my legs.
On a moving train.
I thought it was pretty impressive. This is the same kind of train that I rode last year when I was in Egypt, with the annoying "yalla" train man who I wanted to strangle at four in the morning. My train man was not quite so annoying this time, but he was getting pretty friendly with me when I first got on and asked if I was married.
I told him I was engaged, and the conversation stopped there.
A train-like experience that I enjoyed a lot more was the Metro. The metro in Cairo is, I am sure, just like any other metro in any big city, with stops at main cities along the route and crowds of people pushing to get on before the door closes (oh, and it only costs 1 pound--about 20 cents).
The one in Cairo, though, has a special feature--the women's car. Men are not allowed in this car, and if they accidentally forget to look on the outside of the car and step in, they immediately step off and run to another car. This is one thing that I love about the Middle East--women can ride in the other cars, but if you don't want to ride with the smoking, harassing, sweaty men in the crowded cars, you can (if you are a woman) ride in the women's car.
Needless to say, I rode in the women's car every time. It was wonderful. (And I took this picture without any one knowing. I don't just take pictures like a tourist!)
Finally, my favorite experiences came while I was riding in taxis. Taxis in Egypt, and Cairo especially, were something special. I think that there was a requirement that a car cannot be a taxi in Cairo until it is at least 20 years old and falling apart. Several times I was afraid that I would have to get out and push the taxi up some of the hills that we went up. Another time, our driver kept his window rolled down and every 3 minutes had to reach through the window and shut his door from the outside, because it wouldn't stay closed.
Haggling with taxi drivers was also fun. I felt quite confident in my Arabic haggling ability and usually got a good deal. I would flag down a taxi driver, tell him through the window where I wanted to go, and ask how much it was. He would say "20 pounds," I would say "Are you kidding me?! I am not paying more than 5" and then walk away unless he accepted my offer. One time, however, I was with a student who seemed to be having problems with his Arabic numbers. I finally agreed with the taxi driver on 10 pounds, when said student jumps in with his own price--"20 pounds!" I yelled at him and we had to get another taxi.
My favorite experience, though, was when our taxi driver pulled over (this is the same one who had to keep closing his door from the outside), got out, and offered to let my friend drive.
In the middle of Cairo.
I quickly starting arguing with him, since my friend did not speak Arabic, and finally got him to get back in and drive by telling him that my friend was a horrible driver and "this is my life on the line!"
For how much I detest public transportation, I am sure having a lot of experience on it here!