With an ardent look of concentration, the driver steers over gravel, rocks, and sand. From the driver’s seat, the slope that he needs to drive the ambulance over still looks extremely steep, and the seats become uncomfortable to sit on long before the tipping point is reached. One of the front wheels loses grip, and there is a brief pause before the all-wheel-drive kicks in, and the vehicle moves forward with a powerful shove before righting itself. Mohamed Mahmoud translates the words of the German driver safety trainer for the driver: “Well done! Always keep moving when you’re on gravel.”
The training, introducing drivers of the Egyptian Ambulance Organisation to the new generation of ambulances, has been organised by WAS. In addition to the usual technical training courses and medical instruction, a decision was taken to include additional off-road training as part of the vehicle handover, as the new generation of WAS 300 4x4 adds off-road capability to a well-proven vehicle concept.
WAS ambulances were first deployed in Egypt in 2007. Naturally, the vehicles’ interior was specifically adapted for hot countries at the time, and the latest version also features particularly heat-resistant materials and a cohesive range of equipment to prevent build-up of dust and sand, as well as built-in, high-performance air conditioning and continuous ventilation are built in. The availability and functionality of the interior equipment have also remained almost unchanged. The decisive difference, however, comes from the all-wheel-drive with differential lock. Thus equipped, emergency services can now reach incidents in desert regions that would otherwise only be reachable with extreme difficulty, enabling them to come to the aid of inhabitants of sparsely populated areas. At the same time, the roads of the densely-populated Sinai region are also in a poor condition. The drivetrain conversion required switching from a 3.5-tonne chassis to a 3.88-tonne chassis, but otherwise, nothing has changed.
Local technicians already know their WAS 300 vehicles inside and out. They have received intensive training since 2007 and can now identify defects more quickly than their colleagues in Wietmarschen in Lower Saxony. A total of 4,000 ambulances are deployed nationwide, receiving services and maintenance every three months, and this maintenance regime is undoubtedly one of the reasons why very few of the vehicles delivered over a ten-year period have had to be replaced. Surprisingly, despite the challenging road conditions, most vehicle repairs have not been due to wear and tear: accidents in urban traffic are a larger problem. Another problem that can occur is the presence of low bridges blocking the route.
The topography of the Arabian Desert is multi-faceted and ranges from mountainous regions through to gentle hills and low peaks through to dry, sprawling valleys filled with debris and fine sand. In a contrast to Egypt’s desert landscapes, there are also regions of steppe and savannah, oases and, naturally, the fertile river landscape of the Nile, which is home to a large proportion of Egypt’s population, with only a few people living in the oases in the drier regions.