As people on the street continually tell us as we walk past, “Welcome in Egypt!” I would like to share some facts and stories that I/we have garnished so far. Two disclaimers: First, these anecdotes may or may not have any basis in our actual experiences. Second, the information herein provided has not been obtained from scholarly sources.
Item A: Is getting someone’s phone number on the metro a good thing? At least once a day it seems someone on the metro passionately writes down their number on our notebooks, insisting that they would love to help us study Arabic. My latest friend was a general surgeon who was very enthusiastic about the whole matter of our presence in Egypt. He assured me that as soon as I was done mastering Arabic I would see no other logical choice but to convert to Islam and move to Egypt.
Item B: Some days we are in “more need of protection” than others, a fact gleaned from the sporadic nature of our escorts. Some days they arrive promptly as we are eating breakfast, follow our group to language school and sit around as we study Arabic. YouTube-ing videos of Hulk Hogan seems to be their primary way of passing this time. Other days we wander freely about the city.
Item C: That hissing noise you hear, it isn’t a snake. It’s a young man trying to sell you the very latest fashion of t-shirts, which boils down to random collections of English words and well known brand names printed on the front. Examples include, but are not limited to: wild, cool, the greatest, Armani, suit jacket, vintage, and my very favorite, Shakespeare.
Item D: If you are a lover of bland food, please stay away from this country. Here there is no middle ground. On top of being very well spiced, the food varies between being quite salty or extremely sweet.
Item E: This advice will become clearer in a moment. You do not sip a sobya, you pound it. Forthright.
On a more practical note some of the things you will notice are:
- Men don’t physically bump into women on the street. Not even by accident. On the metro, even if it means pressing your elbow into your male neighbor’s windpipe. You don’t invade the bubble of space around the woman next to you. (Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture).
- One Egyptian Pound will buy you exactly one Sobya. This piece of information is of the essence. A Sobya is a drink that as far as I can tell consists of water, coconut milk, milk, and lots of sugar. It is more delicious and refreshing that I could ever describe. They come in about 8-10 ounce glasses. The juice vending shops all hang telltale bags of fresh fruit outside their. Hygiene is optional. But still gentlemen and scholars I say, a Sobya vendor is a worthy profession that keeps the morale of the Egyptian population afloat.
- Bread in Egypt: whole wheat stuff that looks like pita bread. It can be considered the fourth tool in your box of eating utensils.
- Things are best measured in terms of Sobya value. As in, I could buy myself an ice cream cone OR I could by myself 5 whole Sobyas.
One of the most usefully multipurpose phrases you will ever learn is this. AY DA! Which pretty much translates as: What’s that?!
For now, that is all.