Anwar Sadat's “open door” policy involved the forceful promotion of an American-inspired car society. This essay traces the development of Egypt's motorscape by recounting the first eight decades of automobility in Egypt. Focusing on the 1970s, it suggests that the increasing number of vehicles on the road and consequent congestion were the result, and apparently also the driving force, of politics at every level: from class and gender to geopolitics. In particular, the adoption of the car during the infitah was informed by a discourse of demographic and urban crisis that it was meant to solve yet actually aggravated. Contrasting the private car to the public bus—and stressing zahma, population control, and regulation of sexuality—brought to the fore gendered aspects of automobility and especially sexual harassment rather than issues such as energy efficiency, traffic accidents, and environmental pollution, which would describe the car as the more dangerous vehicle. This contextualization helped neutralize the immoral connotations cars carried over from the prerevolutionary era. Against this background, Egypt's motorscape was partitioned into public and private, dangerous and safe, humiliating and respectable, in a way that made the bus stand for all the former connotations and the car for all the latter.

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