Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Funkengroovin Wednesday

Sometimes I wonder how I get my Funkengroovin post together when I have a dearth of information at hand. This week is not one of those - too many cars and too much news. "When it rains, it pours." I've encountered so many vehicles this week, I have to save one for next week's post, due to the number of photos. First, I found the insane VW Bus here, as I was leaving Metro Market on Road 9. It stood out like a sore thumb. It's pretty unusual to see something like this in the States, unless you're at a car show, but my guess, even rarer for Cairo. Unfortunately I could not track down the owner, so enjoy. The last photo of a bug, which was parked near the Maadi Police Station, almost got me arrested, again. A traffic cop started running and screaming, "No Photos! No Photos!" And then there's the crashed Blue Metallic Bug, which is for sale. For other photos gathered this week, check out my flickr page, where you'll find my VW Photos Set.

I've included quotes and links to:
  • an article about traffic in Cairo, from The New York Times.
  • a link to a video of Cairo traffic, which I previously posted;
  • an obituary for the maker of Matchbox Cars, Jack O'Dell;
  • an article about a trek across Africa in a VW Bug;
  • an article about a photographer of VW Beetles , Hans G. Lehmann;
  • an article on the anniversary of two books on cross country (U.S.) travel.

Stepping Boldly Off the Curb, With a Wave and a Prayer

"The traffic in Cairo, and the army of police officers who try to manage it, tells much about modern Egypt.

CAIRO, July 13 — Ahmed Hussein may well have one of the scariest jobs in Egypt. Every morning, about 7 a.m., he takes his position in the middle of some street, somewhere in this city of 2 million vehicles, and attempts to direct traffic.

This day he is staring down the barrel of Talat Harb Street, in the heart of Cairo. He is facing five rows of cars squeezed into three lanes of traffic, a scene intimidating in sight and sound. His assignment is to make sure the cars actually stop at the red light before barreling into a traffic circle. In Egypt, red light, green light, it’s all the same.

The traffic here, and the army of police officers who try to manage it, tell much about modern Egypt in ways big and small. The first seems to be that no matter how crowded, and it is beyond crowded, no matter how chaotic, and it is beyond chaotic, Egypt functions.

Drivers almost never look behind them. And they rarely look to the side. Instead, the whole flow of cars moves like a school of fish, straight ahead, then weaving, darting in unison. The traffic stops, usually, when a traffic officer steps into the road.

Over all, the Egyptian system seems to function on three basic principles: Every man for himself; when necessary, offer a little baksheesh (cash); and accept that money and connections go first.

There are 6,000 traffic police officers in Egypt, and in Cairo alone the police estimate they manage as many as two million cars squeezed into a system designed to accommodate a half-million cars at any one time.

The police at each intersection are divided by rank, and the men with long black sleeves are at the bottom of the ladder.

Mr. Ahmed, 21, was wearing a plastic reflective vest, long black sleeves over his long white sleeves. He is a military conscript paid the equivalent of $26 a month. He must serve for three years. His sole duty is to step into the street to stop traffic, then wave it on when it is time to go.

Mr. Hussein was higher on the ladder. He was wearing a light, short-sleeved shirt and carried a walkie-talkie, the universal symbol of power in the Middle East. Anyone can carry a gun, but a two-way-radio represents being part of something bigger, something with power: in this case, the Egyptian police."

For a video of Cairo traffic, from a previous Funkengroovin post look here.
Or on YouTube, here.

A friend translated the writing on the back of the bus to:
By the name of God and by God's will.

Jack O’Dell, Designer of Matchbox Cars, Dies at 87

An invention spurred by his daughter’s mischievous habit of taking spiders to school in a matchbox led Mr. O’dell to create Matchbox Toys.

Andover man racing across Africa — in a VW Beetle

As a participant in the 18-day Africa Beetle Marathon, Lewis, a University of Massachusetts Lowell professor, will venture through South Africa, Namibia and Botswana — complete with camping supplies and a team of mechanics traveling close behind him.

"It's not as adventurous as it might seem," he said before he left. "I definitely have faith in the old Beetles."

Lewis has owned Beetles his entire driving life, and during the summer months can be seen driving around town in a VW bus.

Pet Cemetery
The rise and fall of a German legend in America

The Volkswagen Beetle, the first real import car to win the hearts of Americans, is finally turning into an endangered species on American roads. The transatlantic love affair for this pet car is heading for the scrap yard after more than 40 years.

Editor’s note: Hans G. Lehmann, one of the world’s top automotive spy photographers, keeps an eye out for VW Beetles, wherever they may hide.

Don't forget to check out the photo gallery, accessible from the article page.

Kings of the Road, from The Nation compares Jack London's The Road with Jack Kerouac's On The Road:

The Road depicts an industrial America in which hobos and tramps are an integral part of the system--"a reserve army of the unemployed," as Marxists have called it--who help keep wages down. On the Road describes a postindustrial America in which cars are everywhere, almost everyone can afford a car, a radio and a television, and the mass media shape the lives of American citizens. For Kerouac the way to break out of American conformity was to drop out, of course, to reject material possessions, embrace spirituality and seek out the "fellaheen," as he called them--the indigenous peoples of the world.

Instant Karma - John lennon


  1. Oh, you too have a great blog. You guys are making rich blogs with lots of functions and graphics beside the great contents.I am still in my first steps here. I heard about you in Egyptian chroncles but I didnt know you are a lady
    well, nice knowing you
    Dr SR, NY

  2. Since you are fan of the VW beetle then you will enjoy this pic


  3. sr: Thanks for the compliment, although I still feel pretty inept at this myself.

    Anonymous: That's one butt ugly VW. I'm not sure I'd want to be seen riding around in it, either. Thanks though, I needed a bit of humor.