Monday, October 26, 2009

Though Cairo's black cloud usually makes it look like we're on the verge of a storm here, today it actually rained. If memory serves, this is the fourth time I've been rained on in Cairo. I didn't mind the light sprinkles so much so long as I was able to keep myself from thinking about what kind of polluted tidbits were inside.
Beyond just the rain, precipitation was the order of the day, apparently: After spending the afternoon at the CMRS office, Erin and I planned to go to dinner in Zamalek. We marveled at the raindrops and crossed Mohammad Mahmoud and I flagged down one of the new white cabs. These cabs are part of "cash for clunkers"-esque push to get decades-old death traps off the road. Anyway, tell the driver our destination, he agrees, and we hop in. It took a couple of minutes for me to realize that we were in a "fake" white cab. There was no modern meter. This guy painted his old car white, put a new checkered strip around the side and was ready to rip off whomever he could. Ma3lesh, we thought, we'll just pay him the 7ish LE we usually give to black & white cabdrivers when they take us from downtown to Zamalek or vice versa (with a white cab, it's been beteen 5.25 and 6 lately). So, we're riding along, our driver is swerving and nearly slamming into people, something to which we have become accustomed and he gets to the general area Erin had mentioned. She told him in Arabic "right [the direction] here, please" and he misunderstood her to mean she wanted him to pull over on the right-hand side. We politely correct him and he yammered on belligerently for a few seconds as he arrived at our destination. Erin task me, as the man, with handing him the money. I went to do so and he yelled "no, ten pound". I shook my head and held out the money to him. When he didn't take it, I set it on the passenger set and turned to walk away. Every other time this has happened, it has elicited a dejected head shake and a quick departure from the driver. Tonight the man actually spat at me and yelled. Startled, I let out a few choice words. Delightful.
Erin and I got some fiteer and laughed off the man's untoward behavior. Uplifted by being able to meet with my advisor to alleviate my thesis frustrations and squaring away my post-grad school travel plans, I was pretty feeling pretty unskinable.
Apparently though, I wasn't done offending Egyptians for the day. I posted a comment on my flatmate Phil's Facebook wall that was, I assure you, completely benign, but had a passing reference to Mohammad. My Muslim Egyptian friend felt I was "taking her Prophet lightly" and told me that she could forgive me if I wronged her, but "not Him". Given the gravity of her response, you'd think I'd said something decidedly blasphemous. I wish I could reproduce the utterly inoffensive comment here to prove my point, but I don't want to risk inflaming the situation. Exceedingly respectful of other religions, I never thought I'd accidentally find myself up against this kind of reaction. Ma3lesh. I apologized only that she took offense and not for my words. It was my own little taste of a broader tension than I'd hoped to avoid.
The combination of spitting cab drivers and spats with friends weren't enough to overcome the premature nostalgia I was experience for Cairo. I'm really in deep, I guess.

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