Friday, October 24, 2008

Brunch, a Bagel Store, and a Brezel

Seeking respite from the noise and stares of Cairo, Amanda and I again found ourselves at Lucille's, this time with Erin. Among the three of us, we had pancakes and waffles with maple syrup, hash browns, fried potatoes, toast, and omelets. Miraculously, we were able to order the omelets with egg whites only. Try that anywhere in Egypt and see what you end up with, I dare you! Basking in the Americanness of the restaurant, and the relative quite outside, we ended up shopping a bit after our meal. We wandered from one grocery store and fruit stand to the next, and eventually to a German-style bakery where I scored a free "brezel" (pretzel in German). Finding a bagel store was another pleasant surprise as was the courtesy of the man behind the counter. Amanda and I invested in some carrot cake for tomorrow which we plan to eat after dinner (hopefully Ethiopian food). The weather was sublime, probably in the upper 60s. A light rain fell, the first time I'd felt precipitation in Cairo that wasn't a leaky air conditioner. As if unsure how to descend because of their rarity, the raindrops weaved about in the air crazily rather than falling straight to the earth which, despite being in an upmarket neighborhood was covered in litter and stalked by mangy cats and dogs. The whole experience was refreshing, but we were reminded all too soon as we wandered north and found ourselves back in an even more trash-dense neighborhood replete with gawking, whistling men harassing my friends, and with obnoxious drivers honking the more negative aspects of living here. Collecting the money for tickets, I went up to the counter to buy one for each of us and had the man taking the money refused one of the 50 piastre notes that Amanda had given me. It was darkened as if burned, but not to any significant degree. I peered at him and slid the bill back under the window and he shook his head and said "change." Not giving in, I raised my voice and asked, "ay da!?" (What's this!?/What do you mean!?) He kept saying change and I told him that I had none and that it was legal currency and that, therefore, he was obliged to accept it. The volume of my voice increasing proportionally with the increasing length of time I was made to stand there and he tried to hush me at one point, put his fingers to his lips. Determined not to back down, I ended up screaming to the point where I was attracting attention, had a very kind Egyptian man trade me a 50 piastre coin for the haggardly note, and purchased the ticket. This is but one example of the bizarre obsession with the appearance of banknotes in Egypt. It's as though the cleaner and more pristine they are, the more valuable. Rather than blaming Egypt again, I reminded myself that the man who delivered me from my predicament was just as Egyptian as the man behind the counter and furthermore, recalled the time when, at a train station in Rennes, a snooty French ticketseller refused a bill. Ma'alish.
I am now back at home, reading a bit more for class and catching up on the news. Below are some links, as usual, to the goings-on of Egypt and the Middle East.

American student arrested and detained in Iran
Smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza mean booming black market business
More on the man convicted for molesting a woman in the street, an exception to the rule of unchecked sexual harassment in Egypt

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