Authors / photo source: Pexels/Freepik.
- A chorus of horns and lights: the unwritten rules of driving in Africa and the Middle East.
- “Be patient” and “give way”: a universal gesture on the roads of Africa and the Middle East.
- Driving like local: behaviour on the roads of Africa and the Middle East.
If the official traffic rules in the countries of Africa and the Middle East are practically no different from those generally accepted around the world, then the unspoken driving rules here are completely unique. From specific headlight flashing patterns to the length of horns, they help drivers communicate on the road. To understand when you are asked to give way, and when they warn you that there is an elephant around the corner, get acquainted with the peculiarities of national driving in Africa and the Middle East.
Authors / photo source: Unsplash.
In Arab countries, from the moment you arrive at the airport, be it Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt, you are immediately greeted by the familiar symphony of car horns. This welcoming chorus is not limited to any time of day, accompanying all residents both day and night, on city highways or even in quiet corners of tourist areas. In the Arab East, as in many Asian countries, constant use of the horn is an integral part of the driving culture.
In addition to sound signals, light signals are also used, especially in southern Africa. In South Africa, drivers have already adapted to communicate with each other by blinking their headlights. A short flash of the headlights can mean gratitude to the other driver or be a signal of readiness to let him pass. While repeated short flashing of the headlights can express dissatisfaction. A single blink of medium duration indicates the presence of a police patrol or a speed camera nearby. However, if this signal is repeated many times, it may indicate an obstacle or danger on the road ahead.
The short blinks of the left or right turn signal on an oncoming car are interesting. This is a warning for large wild animals on the designated side of the road. Indeed, in South Africa you can see zebras and rhinoceroses at night, and this signal is important for drivers.
Authors / photo source: mego-studio/Freepik.
Constant gesticulation is another characteristic feature of Arab drivers. Just clench your fingers into a fist and shake them — and you will definitely be noticed on the road. This gesture is popular among both drivers and pedestrians. The gesture known to every Arab is called “usbur”. The word translated means “be patient,” however, in the context of road communication, this gesture has many interpretations. It can express a request, for example, “let me through, please,” or uncertainty, “I don’t know how to get here,” and also have a more rude connotation, “wait, finally!”
Authors / photo source: Unsplash.
Another feature of the Arab driving style is the constant attempt to hurry the car from the front. All methods are used here: honking horns, trying to overtake on the right side of the road, and sometimes even pushing the car from behind while driving. Also, drivers in these countries may simply ignore red lights, rarely look in the rearview mirror and almost never use turn signals. Driving in oncoming traffic is considered normal. Despite this, serious accidents do not happen here so often: local drivers are simply accustomed to this style of driving and even in complete traffic chaos they feel like fish in water.
If you have a licence and are planning to rent a car for travel, be prepared to learn not only local traffic rules, but also unwritten rules of behaviour on the roads. If you want to relax and not learn driving rules, you can book a holiday transfer that will quickly take you to the right place. When booking, you indicate the point of departure and destination, and the driver will choose the optimal route, avoiding traffic jams and blocked areas. At the airport you will be met with a sign, escorted to your car and helped to accommodate you comfortably, so you can relax on the road. Book a holiday transfer from Intui and travel around Arab countries without the hassle of transport!
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Petrichenko Rimma & Intui travel