On the way home from Coptic Cairo, I took the metro downtown to get some kushari (delicious, cheap Egyptian dish – it costs about a dollar – consisting of rice, lentils, chickpeas, macaroni, and a topping of Egyptian garlic and vinegar and spicy tomato sauce).
On my way there, I was accosted by a young Egyptian who asked me where I was from. For some reason, I decided not to say Iceland (my typical response), as I had already used it numerous times that day. I humored him and told him I was from New York (close enough). The ensuing conversation went this way, as I walked toward the kushari restaurant and he tagged along uninvited:
Him: I am a student at AUC (where I work).
Him: I study American culture. I lived in Texas.
Me: Oh really? Where did you live in Texas?
Me: You lived in Minnesota? Or Texas? Or Minnesota, Texas?
Editor’s Note: A Google maps search for Minnesota, Texas found no results.
Apparently he wasn’t expecting me to question his cover story this much. At this point we reached the last intersection before the restaurant. He stopped me and said that the restaurant I was looking for was down the street to the left. I stared at him for a few seconds then looked up the street one block to where I could SEE the restaurant I was going to. Intrigued by what kind of scam I was getting myself into – and, more importantly, in a good mood – I decided to follow him down the street to the left.
About halfway down the block, he stopped and said:
Him: I just remembered, the kushari place is closed until 3:30. Why don’t you come into my store until then?
Me: Where is your store?
Him: It is right here to the left.
Me: Okay, but I have to leave to eat soon.
So we go into the store where he sells typical souvenirs and cologne/perfume. I exchange glances with a redheaded tourist clearly caught in the same trap, and we share a conspiratorial nod. Back to my new friend now, who says this:
Him: I just want to give you my card.
Me: So give me your card.
Him: Please sit down…why won’t you sit?
Me: I’m hungry; I’m going to get food.
Him: Why do you insult my hospitality?
He gives me a look like I just ran over his entire family with an SUV. I laugh and start to walk out of the store, so he runs over and grabs my arm. I whirl around, give him a menacing look, throw his hand off of my arm, and storm out. I laughed about it all the way to the restaurant. Just another day as a blonde-hair blue-eyed American in Cairo.
This was outside of Coptic Cairo, a cool little shop selling lots of old cameras.
The guardians of the Lion Bridge.
An Egyptian family enjoying a picnic in the park on Gezira island.