Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

A Taxi, an accountant and his four sons


By Edmund Blair

It was a simple question but it touched a raw nerve.

Mohamed, my 46-year-old taxi driver, had been wondering where I learnt Arabic. So I explained that I had been based in Egypt a few years ago and had now returned to take up a new post in the Reuters bureau. So, I asked, how’s life these days?

And then it began. He launched into a tirade about an economy where the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer,a government that only seemed concerned about staying in power and the difficulty of paying for the education of his four sons — the eldest of whom he is now supporting through university.

Taxi drivers are an all-too-common sounding ground for foreign journalists and the kind of rant I listened to is probably not so unusual the world over. But what made Mohamed’s comments striking is that taxi drivers in other countries probably aren’t, like him, fully qualified accountants.

“There are doctors, engineers, teachers, all of them driving taxis. They just don’t earn enough otherwise,” he told me, grinding to a halt as a pick-up tried to do a U-turn in the middle of a narrow road. “This government doesn’t even provide order.” It’s hard to argue with that point on the streets of the capital where even the newest cars have scratches and dents, testimony to traffic rules that seem to be regarded — at least to any visitor — as optional.