The History of the Egyptian Tuk-Tuk, Its Controversy, and the Upcoming Government Ban
By Muhammed Aladdin
The tale of the motorized rickshaw, or as it is widely known in the land of the Pyramids, the tuk-tuk, started about a century and a half ago in Tokyo, Japan. The concept started as a human runner pulling a two-wheeled cart that seats one or two individuals. The brand new mode of transportation took the island nation’s capital by storm, and in no time, more than 400,000 rickshaws were in service.
That was in 1869; a few years later, the industrial revolution swept through Europe, and in the years that came later, it reached Southeast Asia. Motorization was at its peak, and the 20th Century saw the rise of cars, trains, and trams.
In 1934 Thailand began exporting the tuk-tuk from Japan, and sooner than expected, the new means of transportation was all over Asia, flourishing in a few of the world’s most crowded cities. Now, how did the primarily-Asian tuk-tuk came to Egypt in the late 2000s? That is the real question.
It seems that a combination of unemployment, lack of sufficient transportation through the underdeveloped parts of Egypt, and an unsatisfied market need brought the three-wheeled rickshaw to Egypt. And ever since the days of the first tuk-tuk, a heated debate has been brewing with the usual question marks.
Many throughout Egypt, including government officials, have deemed it as an unsafe means of transportation that contributes to the crowdedness of the Egyptian streets. In the early days of its existence, a few tuk-tuks had proper licensing, and to this day, the three-wheeled miniature vehicle has been limited to specific areas throughout the country, mainly the country’s hidden slums.
The next decade saw some leniency from the Egyptian government with many district municipalities offering drivers an opportunity to license their tuk-tuks. Those for the black-and-yellow ride say that it is a source of income to many in need, and banning it would be catastrophic to these people.
In 2014, Egypt set a ban on the import of tuk-tuks, putting an end to the influx of the controversial vehicle throughout the country; however, those who still had licensed tuk-tuks still had the right to operate it.
With the rising reports of accidents, traffic jams, and illegal activities, officials began looking for solutions to the issue; how to stop the tuk-tuks plaguing the streets without harming the drivers? The Minister of Local Development announced in a Cabinet statement that governorates are looking into issuing public transport licenses for seven-seater minivans as a replacement for three-wheeled tuk-tuks and plan to push the minivans as alternatives for tuk-tuk drivers.
The debate is almost coming to an end. The government is looking to replace the controversial ride with the more presentable “Tonnaya” minivan. Many tuk-tuk drivers are looking forward to the change, while others are not so optimistic. However, change is imminent, and soon enough, we will be saying goodbye to the black-and-yellow rickshaw that traveled all the way from Japan to Egypt.