"A tale of two cities" Egged's historic line to Cairo

The peace agreement with Egypt in 1977 made many Israelis dream about a bus trip to Cairo. As always, Egged was in charge of the national task and made this dream come true. Efraim Netanel, a member of the Egged's negotiation team, take us through memory lane.

Photo gallery

Shortly after the completion of the agreement with Egypt, egged inaugurated negotiations aiming at creating a bus service line from Tel Aviv to Cairo. The bus line was a part of the effort to turn the formal agreement to reality and effect all Israelis and Egyptians.


The plan was to cooperate the line: egged for the Israeli side and East Delta for the Egyptian side and to share the operational duties between the two companies.


The negotiation between egged and east delta started in Tel Aviv and then the teams went on to Cairo. The negotiations were challenging, but the diplomats helped both parties to overcome the challenges, and the agreement was signed.


The Israeli government was eager to normalize the bilateral relations and to boost tourism to make the peace agreement come to live, while the Egyptians were a bit more reluctant to do so. As a result, while the Israelis wanted to make the bus fair as affordable as possible, the Egyptians wanted it to be high. Luckily for the negotiators, since the public transportation fairs in the two countries differed, finding a price that will suit both parties was easy.


Egged's negotiation team included three representatives: Shlomo Levin, Itche Menachem and myself since at the time I was in charge of the financial agreements with the government and a native Arab speaker.

We had a draft of the agreement, drafted by the Egyptian team, that needed some clarification as far as fares and other logistical issues.


During I raized our suggestion regarding one of the issues and our counterparts discussed it in Arabic. I then realized that they misunderstood my proposal and jumped in to explain in Arabic. Needless to say that they were amazed.


When we discussed the bus ticket, I had to draft is and write all details in Hebrew and Arabic. Slowly but surely, I found my lost mother tongue and wrote a few words in Arabic.


After lengthy negotiations, we had a final draft for the agreement that was typed and printed. Only then we realized that we didn't address one crucial issue – what happens if one of the two parties decides to raise the bus fare. Since I proofed the agreement, I added a close, that was approved by both parties the next day.


The Tel Aviv – Cairo bus line received a significant number – 100, and Egged members were all eager to drive it since it meant a free visit to Cairo.

A year or so after the agreement was signed, the Egyptians wanted to raize the bus fair and sent a formal letter with one of Egged drivers, who put it in the internal mail. The envelope got to Tel Aviv and was then forgotten in someone's drawer.


A month passes and the Egyptians, who did not receive our answer, informed us that they are raizing the price, as agreed in the agreement. The change suited Egged at the time since the actual fare ice was challenging as far as operational costs were concerned.

Since Egged knew that the Israeli ministery of transport would not approve changing the bus fairs, the Egyptian decision was the best one for Egged.


The ministery of transportation moved the operation of the Tel Aviv – Cairo line to the Dan company after a while and then returned it to the capable hands of Egged. Sadly this was never a profitable line but a prestige one. The demand for the line diminished along the years, and the drivers were less motivated to drive it since most of them already visited the Egyptian capital. All of this led the two companies to stop the service.


Memories from the first drive to Cairo

The "havereynu" internal newsletter published a celebratory article to celebrate the historic dire. Let's see what the reporter wrote at the time:


"it is a routine by now. Every morning Egged's finest buses embark on the journey to Cairo or Tel-Aviv. After seven and a half hours drive, the passengers arrive at their destination after crossing national boundaries and continents. The orange-white buses became a part of the scenery in Egypt, and so did the Egyptian buses in Israel.


However, the inauguration of the service line, that turned the formal agreement to a peaceful reality was a real adventure by all means.


On April 29th, 1982, at 07:00 sharp the ministers of transportation and tourism, all members of Egged secretariat,  the Egyptian consul to Tel Aviv and other distinguished guests gathered for a brief ceremony and the inaugural drive.

The hart worming greetings were met with emotional reactions and even teary eyes of some of Egged's veterans that took part in the history of the corporation and the state of Israel. All participants were thrilled to be a part of the drive that will cross the boundaries between two enemies that turned to neighbors.


The drive to Cairo embarked at 07:30 and although the arrival was scheduled at 15:30, it took no less than 19 hours, 11 of which were spent at the borders checkpoint in Rafiah and the banks of the Suez canal.


The passengers on the bus were ministers, parliament members, reporters some ticket buyers who had to get to Cairo ASAP. The demand lead egged to assign two coaches for the celebratory ride. The overwhelming delay on the way to Cairo, made the company decide to send one bus back to Tel Aviv the next day, less than seven hours after the arrival, while the other bus stayed another day in Cairo and let its passengers enjoy the Egyptian capital for a whole day."


Efraim Netanel