Commuters escape Cairo’s clogged roads for Nile taxi

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Whatever their social or political differences, Cairo’s residents agree on one thing: the traffic is a nightmare.

Increasingly desperate to escape the gridlock and pollution of the Egyptian capital, more people are now using the Nile for their daily commute to work.

A new taxi service that uses speed boats to whizz passengers up and down the river has proven the most exciting alternative for many stressed-out Egyptians.

It’s fast, it’s fun and most of all, it gives passengers a quick break from Cairo’s commotion.

“I get to work relaxed – I’m not stressed, I’m not nervous,” says Ahmed Amin, 43, a father of two who used to spend nearly four hours a day getting to work and back before discovering Nile Taxi.

A 20-minute ride from the taxi’s southernmost stop in Maadi to Ramlet Boulaq further north, shoots past office towers and Renaissance-style villas – too fast to dwell on the murky river’s flotsam or the dilapidated shacks dotting its banks.

At 30 Egyptian pounds ($4.3) for a one-way ticket, the service is beyond the reach of many Egyptians, 25 percent of whom live in poverty according to government figures.

But it is a relief for those used to taking road taxis at roughly the same price, or those tired of driving their own cars through traffic.

Amin, who works in the finance department of a Cairo-based international organization, says the boat trips have cut short his commute by about 30 percent, “not to mention the effect it has had on my mood.”

“My performance at work is better than when I was driving,” he says.

From the boat, Cairo – a city of more than 18 million people – feels green, orderly and breezy.

But just a few steps from the makeshift boat jetties, the traffic is so bad and the heat so stifling that motorbikes take to the pavement and taxi drivers switch their engines off.

“Let them ride boats. Frankly I’d be happier with fewer customers if the streets were less congested,” says cab driver Sayyed Ali.

“On many days, I just go home after two or three hours because I can’t take these conditions anymore,” he tells AFP.