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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is your cab driver reading a book?

Taxi of Knowledge -- Reading on the Road

In the English edition of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm ("The Egyptian Today"), Steven Viney describes a most startling initiative -- to get taxi drivers reading. 

"Taxi of knowledge" is the brain child of some genius at Alef Bookstores of Cairo (flagship store is at Heliopolis), a chain that would very much like to see middle-class Egyptians reading more books. 

Back in April 2010, they set up a trial, lending cab drivers five books to keep in their cars.  Once read, they could be exchanged for others.

It has been such a huge success that they have gone for the idea fulltime this year.

"So far it's been a fantastic idea," says cab driver Mohamed Saber.  At last he has been able to hold conversations with passengers that are interesting and reasonably intellectual, and are not probings into his personal life.  Sometimes, passengers take the number of his taxi so they can hire him again, to hear the end of the story.

The books are not bookstore rejects, but loved volumes that have been donated by friends, authors, and volunteers. They cover all genres, including humor and women's health.

As of this moment, "Taxi of knowledge" has 200 cab drivers taking part.  Alef confidently predicts that by the end of the year there will be two thousand.

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