One 24-hour period here has exposed me to a common piece of North African culture: taxis. The exposure I have had with taxis before North Africa is generally isolated to rides that cost both an arm and a leg. I believe, however, that my exposure is soon to be enhanced.
There are two kinds of taxis here: a “grand” taxi and a “petit” taxi, differing in both size and price. To flag one, hold out your finger(s) to show how many passengers would like to accompany the driver on his merry way. This way, the drivers can decide whether or not you will fit in their vehicle, depending upon the number of other passengers (if any). When (or if) the taxi squeals its worn brakes for you (and try not to leap out of the way), politely tell the driver where you need to go and he will determine whether or not he plans to venture to that part of the city. Also, it’s nice to greet the driver to show that you are not just a rich, clueless tourist.
I am not writing this from experience but from observation. Apparently, a key in succeeding in this culture is to act confident (regardless of how I feel). So I guess you could say that this is what I dream of doing someday with poise and expertise.
Yesterday morning a “petit” taxi picked us up and we were thrown into the morning traffic, swerving around a parked car and narrowly avoiding collision with a bus. The driver didn’t check his blind spots before attempting these distressing feats; rather, he trusted his side view mirrors, one so cracked that a chunk was missing. (I can’t imagine how that could have happened!)
The bright sun glared in the driver’s window and rather than adjust his sun visor, the driver pulled out a perfectly cut piece of cardboard and wedged it in the rubber window rim just above the open window.
Right now I am still just a clueless foreigner, but I may learn a lot about North African culture by riding in taxis.