Banning the donkeys
THE SECOND day, after a huge breakfast at Beau Site's open buffet, I prepared to visit the beaches in Marsa Matrouh. During my taxi ride, I passed a donkey-drawn rickshaw but Ahmed, the dri ver, quickly reminded me that it was against the law. Ahmed, 65, began telling me how only 10 years ago Marsa Matrouh was a rugged place of untouched natural beauty, however, it was more like an undeveloped village, he said, lacking many basic services. The only means of transportation was a fatigued donkey pulling a karetta (wooden rickshaw) packed with tourists, and causing endless traffic problems.
But then came former governor Mohamed El-Shehat (2001-2007) who banned rickshaws from the streets, compensating their owners with small loans and free licences for new motor taxis. Although El-Shehat is no longer governor, traffic remains much smoother, stated Ahmed. Today, Marsa Matrouh boasts a fleet of white and blue taxis, similar to the one I am riding. Nonetheless, some rickshaws still operate in remote areas.