The controversy of which taxi service to use has been a hot topic of conversation in Egypt this past week, especially in the wake of the protest organised by white taxi drivers against Uber and Careem, accusing them of unfair competition and illegal licences.
Uber and Careem, both mobile application-based taxi services, provide a modern way of commuting by allowing the rider to order a car directly to their location through the power of GPS. The applicationd even tell you how long the driver will take to reach your location, as well as estimating the fare and arrival time.
“When I first used Careem, I couldn’t believe that such a reputable service existed in Egypt! It saves us from the troubles we face using regular white taxis,” said Salma El-Sherif. “When I order a ride, it comes right in front of my house; I used to have to walk to the nearest main street to find a taxi. The first time I rode with Careem, I could hardly believe that the driver was not staring at me in the mirror or sexually harassing me.”
Many passengers have decided to switch to Uber and Careem, as an alternative to traditional white taxis. Taking a ride with a regular taxi driver can often be inconvenient as many drivers turn away customers if the location is far away, or the route is crowded, or even simply because the driver does not wish to go there. Even though white taxis are provided with a matre, many drivers intentionally say it is broken, in an effort to extract a higher fare from customers.
“I was once heading home with my mother, it was around 8 pm,” Salma recalls. “We took a taxi and the driver refused to turn on the metre. After a while, he told us that he’s going to take triple the usual fare because the road is too crowded. My mother started complaining, and then asked him to let us out and she’d give him half the fare a normal metre would total, despite not getting even half-way to our destination. He started yelling and cursing, saying the most awful things I ever heard in my life! Then he started shoving my mother hard, trying to force her to get the money out of her purse, and telling her that he’d hit her if she didn’t.”
After the altercation escalated, people gathered, preventing the driver from hitting her, “and even though we took the cab’s number and filed a lawsuit, the driver was never found and he wasn’t served justice.”
Laila, another white taxi customer, found herself stuck on the ring road with a driver forcing her to listen to stories of his sexual adventures with every woman he had known in his life.
“I found myself sitting by a man, who I didn’t know, while he’s boasting about the positions he uses to guarantee himself the most pleasure, and the large number of women who were, apparently, so lucky to get the chance to sleep with him,” she said. “There was no way I could get out of the taxi on the Ring Road, it would have been so hard to find another one on the motorway, so all I could do was pray that I would reach my destination safe and sound.”
The Uber and Careem applications provide riders with a photo of the driver and the car’s licence plate number to ensure the highest possible level of safety and accountability. The applications also give family members an estimated arrival time upon the passenger’s request. However, this technology does occasionally have its fair share of downsides.
“Uber’s application went down; I had to wait half an hour for the driver to arrive when he was actually waiting for me a just few metres away. However, neither of us could know that without the application,” said Nouran Zaid. “After getting into the car, once the driver made sure that the application really wasn’t functioning, he started acting just like any other taxi driver, taking the route he wanted while complaining about traffic.”
“He also started smoking and turned the radio up loudly, even though I was studying. This incident confirmed for me that these services’ drivers are just like any other drivers in Egypt, only they usually abide by the company rules – otherwise it’s their job on the line,” she added.
If the internet connection is poor or the application is down, clients find themselves having a hard time communicating with drivers, which leads them to question the efficiency and reliability of the service.