What you are about to read are just a few random things I noticed in this country, some I love and some I hate but what I can say for sure is that each and every point has touched me in some way and has affected me in a way or another, if you’ve lived here long enough you’ll know what I mean.
Here are some outstanding and creative Egyptian innovations:
1) The ELEVATED basket: Those things are just perfect, all you need to do is stand in the balcony and call “Ya Mohameeed” (the supermarket guy or the porter’s son depending on where you live) and put him some money and a piece of paper with your grocery needs in the basket tied to the rope tied to your balcony rail, dangle it down bit by bit till he gets them and then when he’s back he’ll put the groceries in the basket and you can pull it back up… that simple!
2) The BEST Point of Sale EVER: People who work in the marketing/Advertising field like myself or people who work in the media spend so much money, time and effort trying to figure out what is the best selling media to reach out to consumers, what’s the best message to give out… when 1 Egyptian person thought of selling sun shades on the most crowded hump in Nasr City (probably a lot more other places right now) facing the sun just before sunset!! Seriously how innovative is that? You’re driving your car, you MUST slow down at the hump, the sun is exactly in your eyes and there he is; standing there on top of the hump selling sun shades for your car, and much cheaper than the ones you get at the gas station mart. There you go, the 5 P’s of marketing from someone who probably didn’t go to school in his life! BRAVO!!
3) The refillable soft drinks bottles: Remember when we used to go to Agami or Marina or wherever our parents would go buy a whole basket of soft drinks, and they would scream at us if we didn’t bring the empty bottles back. You finish your drinks, fill up the basket with the empty bottles and go exchange them with new filled up bottles, very economic.
4) El Sham3edan and Katakeeto: Who can EVER ignore those??? For those who don’t know what they are, El Sham3edan are chocolate waffers that come in a red package and have the word “El Sham3edan” in Arabic written with waffers, and Katakeeto are also chocolate waffers but covered in chocolate that come in an Orange wrapper. I can buy a whole carton of them and stuff my face with it till they get me off it! Ta7ya Masr!!
5) Foul and Ta3meyya… TOGETHER!!!: This is amazing to me, people eat foul and ta3meyya (falafel) together in 1 meal. It’s like “lunch today is steak and kabab 7alla”. I am included in those people by the way and I love itJ
6) The Microbus and “The Signs”: Has anyone ever concentrated with some of the microbuses on the streets? The ones with the guys hanging from the door OUTSIDE the bus? They have all those signs that only they and the people who use them understand. Like making circulating movement with the hand means “Midan” (Roundabout) and bending the hand upwards mean “Kobry” (Bridge) and many others. I find that really fascinating.
Going deeper into the culture:
7) “Abu El 3orref” or “Mr. Know it All”: Of course you have all been through this; driving and trying to find a specific address so you stop to ask someone… so the first thing they say “where did they tell you it is?”, but right after that question they HAVE to give you directions and 90% of the time they are wrong. Or when you go to fix something in your car and you tell them that there’s a loud sound and you don’t know where it’s coming from, so then 5 different people come up and say “That’s the motor clips” and another says “No no, that is from the tires” and the 3rd says “of course not, it’s from the gear box”. Who will you trust? So you end up checking all 3/5 suggestions and after you’re done and drive away, the loud sound is still there!!
8) It’s impossible: This is another very insightful thing about Egyptians; if you go to any governmental institute for any reason, sometimes they would tell you “No no… this is impossible to do, you have to go get some papers from the “Whatever office” downtown then you need to get your parents’ birth certificate then you need to come back and get it stamped and then you need to wait for 3 days then get it signed from the big guy upstairs IF he’s in a good mood today!! If you were me 2 years ago I would have just cried and walked off back home, but if you were persistent and asked someone else who is a little bit nicer he would cut down the above steps a bit, then ask a 3rd person you will find out that you don’t need to go anywhere and that you can get all the papers and stamps done in the same place you’re in and you don’t need any other documents. I don’t know why they do this but I think it is to either get you off their back for a while or to make you feel like they did you a big favor so you give them a bigger tip.
9) English with an accent: Why is it that when we meet any Egyptian or watch an Egyptian on TV speak in lousy English we make fun of them? Has anyone heard the French people or Italian people or any other nationality speak English? They are the exact same or maybe worse, but to use it’s like music to our ears “Wow… that French lady’s accent is so cute” or “that Italian guy’s English accent is adorable”, (well they are honestly) but still seriously, give Egyptians a break, our mother tongue is NOT English so let them be… at least they are trying! I’m discussing the accent here and the “b” with the stick upwards and the “p” with the stick downwards!!!
10) Again about “Egybshan” English: Yes in my previous point I’m trying to ask people not to make fun of Egyptians’ English, but seriously, if they really can’t speak it and really don’t need it, then why do they??? Why does a girl have to come up to me at the mall and tell me “El Shoes El Samra beta3tik 7elwa awi”? Why does a waiter have to tell me “Tasteaha gameel awi” (as in It’s taste is really nice), why tasteaha? Why can’t he say “ta3maha”?? Why does a supermarket sales person have to tell me “e7na 3amleen offar gedeed” (as in Offer)? Seriously we really will understand what you’re saying when you speak in simple Arabic, you don’t need to make an effort to speak in English. I really appreciate the trying but don’t try TOO hard… pleaseJ
11) SOCCER: Yeah perfect timing huh? After the whole
12) Ahmeds and Mohameds: Why are ALL our men named Ahmed and Mohamed?? If it’s not the first name then it’s the 2nd, the middle or the family name and usually there are more than one in the SAME person’s names!! Be creative people and oh… stop the whole “ism morakkab” thing (double name) and the whole same naming as in “My name is Ahmed Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed”… seriously!!! (No offense to the “Axis of Evil” Ahmed Ahmed… I love you no matter what) J
13) The empty spot is the WINNER: Of course there’s SOOOOOO much to say about driving in Egypt but there is one thing that really gets to me and I’ve always said I’d write about it someday… here’s my chance ….MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH (EVIL LAUGH) 😀 OK there are lanes on the streets, imaginary ones (keep an open mind… AND eye), you’re driving then get stuck in a traffic jam as usual, so your eyes start to roam around your car to watch the people around you. So you take a glance at your mirror and find a man trying so hard to turn his steering wheel and going back and forth in a space of 2cm from the car behind and in front of him (which is you), then when he finally succeeds to move his car, he comes and stuffs himself in the same BLOCKED traffic jam but only 50cm ahead of the spot he was stuck in at first… now what??? “…AND THE WINNER IS… MR.BLUE DOGAN IN A YELLOW SWEATY SHIRT!!”
14) “Koll sana wenty tayyeba ya ostaza” ALL YEAR ROUND: I was in mohandesin the other day and found a parking spot (yaaaaaaaay), then suddenly there was this guy who was just walking by and dressed normally just decided to make some money and keep himself busy and work as a sayes for 2 minutes!! He came up to my car and started doing all the hand signs as if helping me park (bare in mind that I had ALREADY parked), then when I got out he’s like “Koll sana wenty tayeba ya ostaza”!! A lot of that at different places like when you go to a bathroom at a restaurant or hotel, or just walk into a mall, you’ll get all the occasion-less greetings!
Writer’s Note: Egypt just grows on you… despite all the sarcasm… this Woman called Egypt is one of a kind; discreetly beautiful… sexy yet conservative… confident yet needs some appreciation and acknowledgment every now and then!!!