A different kind of taxi story…

I’m sure the title of this post must have suddenly made the Abu Dhabi folks perk up with some interest. But it’s not what you think. It just another little funny Tripoli taxi story.

Before I actually get into the taxi story, I just want to share something quite funny about things here. Taxi’s in Libya do not have meter, so you have to negotiate your fare with the driver. Obviously if you are new to the country knowing how much a fare would be is impossible, which is why when I arrived I asked my housemates what the normal fare from Tripoli to Janzour (where I live) is. The response I got was this “If you are lucky you can get home or go to Tripoli for five dinars, but seeing as you are foreign they will most likely charge six or seven dinars.”

So I kept that in mind and remembered my experience from Oman where taxi’s don’t have meters either. My first trip to Tripoli centre from Janzour cost me five dinars, I didn’t even negiotate. All I did was tell the driver ‘Tripoli, Medina. khamza dinar?’ (Khamza is five in Arabic). He said ‘Tammam’(ok in Arabic). There you go. My first trip and I was given the ‘local’ fare. Way to go Tony!

That evening the taxi back cost me five dinar again. Using the same intricate negotiating technique. When I got home my housemate’s first question was ‘How much did you pay?’ and he was very surprised that I paid the five dinar far.

Every subsequent taxi journey where I was the one negotiating the fare, I only paid 5 dinar. This has completely confounded my housemates as I don’t speak Arabic and the drivers usually know this within five seconds of speaking to them. My Arab housemates always pays six dinar and my Brazilian housemate who can say and understand a lot in Arabic varies between the five and six dinar fare. So they find it hard to believe that only ever pay five dinar.

So yesterday when Omar and I were heading back home, he told me to take care of the taxi fare negotiation. So taxi stops and I open the front door and say ‘Janzour, Semafro Yarmuk, you know?’ (I have a feeling the “you know?” could have given away my foreignness). He said yes he knew it and I said ‘khamza dinar?’ and he said ‘ok’. There we go, easy peasy lemon squeezy! And once again Omar was asking how I was doing this. Hehe!

Anyway so first funny moment. As we are driving, the driver suddenly pulls into a gas station and goes ‘Toilet please, ok?’ and quickly runs out to take a leak!

Second funny moment. Omar (who also speaks Portuguese) and I were discussing some things when the taxi starts talking to us in broken English, French and Italian. And at one point jus starts repeating the word ‘Si! Si! Si! Si!’. We both just kind of looked at him and had no idea what he was on about, so Omar tells him that he can speak Arabic. So the driver explained that he didn’t recognize the language but knew the word ‘Si’ meant yes. But then at moment he decided to vent his annoyance about the Tunisians not speaking Arabic properly… (I’m still trying to figure out how he went from ‘ah, si, is yes’ to ‘those Tunisians don’t speak Arabic properly!’)

So the rest of the journey was him attacking Tunisians bad Arabic, teaching us words from the Berber language (don’t ask me where the connection to bad Arabic is, but hey lets go with it), then telling us Berber are Roman descendants and that why they are white and then he finally finished off his little speech (?) by telling us that Berbers don’t like Arabs.

Taxi drivers in general are interesting characters but here they are a special kind of interesting.

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