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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Helwan

Last Saturday, Brandon and I decided to get out and go to Egypt. For those of you who are wondering ‘Don’t they live in Egypt?’ you are right, but not quite right. Although we live in Egypt – most people speak Arabic, I pay for things with Egyptian pounds, and everything takes 10 times longer to complete – we don’t actually spend much time in the Egypt that most Egyptians think of being their home.

In fact, if one lived in the compound, took the shuttle to work, shopped exclusively at the Commissary, and spent their weekend at Maadi house, they wouldn’t ever actually have to leave US-administered locations.

Brandon having had enough of US-administered locations, we decided to visit his friend Samir in Helwan. Last time we lived here, Brandon spent nearly every day, 4 or 5 hours a day, passing time with Samir in his family’s store, going on errands, or hanging out at their apartment. Brandon liked to refer to Samir as his 35 year-old Egyptian boyfriend.

So on Saturday for old times’ sake, we dressed up the girls, hiked over to the Metro, and headed down to Helwan, a very Egyptian area of Cairo. Both Brandon and I had made the trip before, but this time we had two little blonde girls with us which increased our foreigner profile dramatically.

Unfortunately for our trip, we had not factored in the Muslim holiday of Eid-Al-Fitr, the slam-bang finish to Ramadan which involves, of course, more eating. Samir’s store being a store, it is situated right in the middle of the shopping district of Helwan.

So Kathleen got to have a waist-level tour of vegetable stalls, countless stinky Egyptians, animals, fish stands, potholes full of slime and muck, and everything else that comes with third-world markets. I looked down at one point to see her covering her mouth while commenting ‘Something smells good. It smells like poop’ (she hasn’t figured out that ‘smell’ and ‘good’ don’t always have to be linked together). By the time we reached Samir’s store, Kathleen was about to go into social withdrawal.

Unfortunately for us, she didn’t and we had a very… nice… visit that was punctuated by warnings every five minutes to Kathleen about not touching anything and Sophia crying, as of course the visit took place in the middle of their nap.

Eventually we headed back to Samir’s place around 1:30 or 2 for ‘breakfast’ which the Kathleen wouldn’t touch and Sophia ate everything offered to her, including gargir, also known as arugula grown much larger and bitterer than it ever ought to have.

We finally used the girls incessant crying and whining to escape and straggled home around 4:30 – only six hours after we left. Make sure and come back – like tomorrow – Samir told us as we hustled out of his apartment. Hmm. We’ll have to see about that.

4 comments:

UnkaDave said...

Interesting! That makes sense about 'having enough of US-administered locations.' Kind of like staying only at 7-Mile Beach in Cayman, or not going to Bobby Jan's in Bonaire, or missing the market in Bahir-Dar....er...could have skipped that last one, actually.
Anyway, glad to hear that you made contact with Brandon's Egyptian boyfriend. If you see them again, say hi from David and Paula. Our visit to their place was a highlight of the trip.

Laura said...

That smells good! Like poop!

Hahahaha! A little different from your last visit, huh?

Makes the Saturday Market here in Portland seem awfully pedestrian.

Lydia said...

Ah, Samir, how much do I (not) miss the nightly phone call at 8:30 asking for 'Mr. President'? It's like getting to the center of a tootsie pop, the world may never know!!

We've done that trip a few times with all 4 in tow. I backhanded a guy that kept feeling my backside up. Then another that wouldn't quit touching my daughter. It was fun.

Conrad said...

So another comment on "Something smells good. It smells like poop." When I was living in Heidi's basement about 5 years ago, I was on my way out the door early in the morning. I opened the door and an amazing smell filled my nostrils. It transported me to the bustling streets of Bangkok. I couldn't see where the smell was coming from. I was intrigued. What was emitting this unique smell of my birth land? So I ventured up the stairs only to discover... a garbage truck