Cairo: The chaotic, traffic-clogged streets of this metropolis is a curse for locals and foreigners alike. With a population of more than 15 million people and with roads jammed with the cars for most of the day, Cairo is one of the most overcrowded cities in the world. But this bane has turned into a boon for the dissemination of culture.
A local bookstore has launched an initiative to encourage people stuck inside taxis on the roads of the Egyptian capital to read books. "We started this project nearly four months ago," says Wael Abdullah, a public relations manager of the Alph Bookstores, which initiated the move. "We thought of doing something simple to help spread culture in Egyptian society," he told Gulf News.
"We reached an agreement with some taxi drivers who are interested in reading to put some books inside their cars so that passengers can read them during their rides," he said.
Launched under the theme "the knowledge taxi", the initiative started with 50 taxis plying Cairo streets. "These books are easy to read. They may include short stories or poems," said Abdullah, who asserts that the drivers of "knowledge taxis" do not get paid for agreeing to put books in their vehicles.
"After embarking on this initiative, we started to receive requests from more taxi drivers for such libraries in their cars."
According to him, this move is unique not only in the Arab region, but in the rest of the world. "We browsed the Internet for such an idea in any other country. But we found nothing. Thus Egypt takes the lead in conceiving and implementing this idea."
Saeed Mansour, one of the taxi drivers, enthused about the interest this move has generated and said that it has received a positive response from the public. "Most of my clients have welcomed the idea, though some have made sarcastic comments. Women are mostly enthusiastic than men about having books to read inside taxis," he said.
"I think, children's books should also be added to the collection so that mothers can read to their children too." Mansour thinks that the project has another merit for the cabbie community. "It proves that taxi drivers are not as talkative or cheaters as portrayed in films."