Having just returned from Lamu, Kenya, where there is no other way to travel but by boat (or plane or donkey), it seems strange to me that it has taken modern Cairo this long to come up with the idea of a water taxi. But there you have it. Cairenes weary of knotted traffic jams that suck the marrow right out of their bones now have a new way to travel and it’s not that expensive: Nile Taxi.
“We have been working in the industry of ships and the sea since 1986,” Nile Taxi CEO Magdi Kirollos told Daily News Egypt. ”We also own boat franchises so we know the business inside out.”
Kirollos and partner Amr Abou El Seoud have been toying with the idea of a water taxi that crosses the Nile River for about six years, but didn’t seriously start pursuing a business until three years ago.
Bad timing for them, given the political turmoil of those years, but after persevering, they have finally received the necessary license to do what the ancients always did: transport people from one side of the river to the other by boat.
At present the company uses mostly speed boats that travel between Maadi and Shubra, the longest journey, which costs 35EGY ($5). That is roughly $1 less than it costs to take a regular taxi, which also comes with road rage, carbon emissions, noise pollution, and could hours if there happens to be an accident or blocked car.
Lorna Gow, a bellydancer who lives in the capital, recently used the service for the first time and tweeted her enthusiasm.
“Nile taxi- today for 1st time,” she tweeted. “I travelled across Cairo by speed boat! What a fabulous way to go!”
On its way to Shubra, the taxi makes 18 stops at crucial points along the way, including Giza, the upscale neighborhood favored by expatriates, Zamalek, and Nile City. And certain partnering hotels have arranged customized services for their guests.
In time, Nile Taxi plans to operate a 15 passenger boat, and everyone who travels this way is covered under the company’s insurance program.
“It saves time and effort and reduces stress, Kirollos told the paper. “You also get to see another very different Egypt, a beautiful one. It is a completely different environment and you see another face of the country.”
Albeit a brilliant solution to the city’s horrendous traffic, which the World Bank estimated drains four percent of the country’s GDP in lost production and accidents each year, we can’t help but see a future full of racing yellow boats vying for the money of commuters.
Images of Nile Taxi via Shaimaaka Flickr