This post is two posts

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This post is two posts. It was going to be titled "peeling back the layers" and talk all about my morning wandering the bazaars in cairo before all of the tourists showed up and getting lost where the real people shop. It was meant to document the fun I had trying to buy spices and canopus jars - I made a man say I was trying to do the impossible and that his children would hate him if he sold it to me for LE 100 but for LE 110 we can do business. Then being crammed in cheek by jowl in the back alleys where normal people buy normal things in unusual ways. Dolls? they come in three packs. Bras? root around in the pile-o-bras and find something that will work for you. It was really quite a nice time. All fun and cheery. Then, of course, the afternoon happens.

Now the post has a sub title. It is now: "Peeling back the layers: careful, you might not like what you find - or - oh jesus christ what just happened?".

It goes like this...

I've just had probably the most emotionally surreal experience (is that even a thing?) while traveling if not ever. So it works like this: Taxi drivers take you where you want to go, but they also try and take you to their shop, or their brothers shop, or their friends shop, whatever. I knew this, figured they got a few bucks, no biggie. I went to the papyrus store - the one I wanted to go to - by lying to the driver that I'd already bought it and was just picking it up so he'd stop trying to sell me on these other stores. He follows me into the store to wait while I pick it up when in actuallity I'm buying it. Now the screaming starts. They're all yelling in egyptian but I know it involves the fact that I just bought something. I leave the store, the driver is pissed, tells me that they end up getting about a 30% commission on any sales they bring and he's not getting it because he didn't say he'd brought me (see previous lie on my part). In and out of the store a few times. He's obviously upset, I imagine I would be too, he asks me to go back in and tell them he was the driver the first time I came (he wasn't) so he can get his money. I'm not keen on big lies, though I had previously lied about purchasing, so I go in and settle on telling ambiguous half truths (I was with a tour company, I think he was the driver). They don't buy it, or sort of don't, it's hard to tell - he tells me they do but the owner is a "bad man" (probably more lies). Driver is really pissed, we're leaving anyway and he's cursing the family of the shop owner (though not me, just sad I lied). We've previously talked of his daughter so this comes to my mind immediately. The average salery of working class comes to mind too and I realize I've probably just cost him anywhere from 1-10 days worth of income. Figuring my choices are to go to hell or try and rectify I hand him a bill. The man actually starts crying. He does a little... whatever, "sign of the cross" but for islam, over and over. Grabs my hand and kisses it. He's happy now, though this is less of a commission than he would have gotten if I'd just told the truth to begin with. We talk a lot now, he wishes blessings on my house, tells me to stay with his family the next time in egypt - no hotels for me. Gives me a CD of the singer that his daughter is named after (asala). Getting near my hotel he pulls to ask directions and the person he asks waves and smiles at me (turns out he works in the hotel) and the guy says I'm an angel in disguise. Personally I feel more like a tormenting devil since I've just put him through hell and back over what amounts to very little. Anyway, I've packed it all up now and am just wandering the streets and typing away.

The funny thing is, I don't even really know if I want the damn papyrus scroll any more. I mean, it's big and cool, not as swank as some of my other big souvineers, but it's got all of this history tied to it now. But is it good history? Is this a good story, blessings from above on his family and mine by proxy? a lesson to just tell the damn truth? or is it shitty that I put him through all of that and every time I see the scroll that's what I'll think of?

Okay, well, yeah. there you go, now you get to see what my last day in cairo is like :) Do I do full contact exploring or what?

Oh yes, plus there was getting extorted on the ride to the airport this morning, that was fun.


Pretty cool about the house blessing and all. If nothing else when people ask you what you did in Egypt, you can say "eh, I got my whole house blessed by a guy". Imagine the conversational possibilities that can arise from this one story. This is why personal stories are hands down the best things that you can get ever.

That's quite a story. I can't help but think of Bill Murray in Caddyshack "So I've got that going for me, which is nice."

That's a fantastic story. Don't feel bad about lying because you only did so to save yourself from being a victim of his agenda. I had a similar experience last Thursday. We went out for a company Holiday dinner, and I tied one on as a good irishman does at such occasions. at 2pm est I took a cab home. The cabbie's name was Salah, from Jordan. I always like to engage my cabbies in conversation and this guy seemed exceptionaly interesting. I live in a Historic House that is a registered Landmark. It was built in 1765 and, among other attributes, is on Paul Revere's Ride to Lexington. Salah saw the Landmark on my Lawn and house and he began to ask me questions about my house and the American Revolution. His intense interest in the subject was evident and I enjoyed discussing with him the details of our birth as a nation since it's a hobby of mine as well. 2 hours went by in the cab, sitting outside my house. We talked about everything from Angela Davis and Edgar Allen Poe to MLK and William Dawes the Man who actually completed the the Revere's ride. The cops came by twice because we were sitting informnt of my house for so long. He too blessed me, my family and my house saying that it was my durty and god's wish to write about living in such a Historic Place. He also didn't want to except fare for the ride but I insisted. This is where the story gets cool. I poured lout of the cab at 4am (much to my wife's dismay) tried to explain to her that I had been outside talking to brother Salah for 2 hours and that I really was home at 2, not 4. I don't know if she bought it or not but I passed out. The next day we laughed about into the weekend. I went out to do some errands with the kids on Sat. When I returned, my wife was holding a letter from brother Salah. He sent me a letter saying how wonderful it was to speak with me, and how inspired he was by our chance meeting. He also included $40 dollars cash that I had dropped inside the back of his cab as I got out in a drunken stuper. It not only proved to my wife that my story was ligit, but it renewed our faith in humanity just a bit, which was welcome this time of year.

sorry for the spelling errors, I was typing fast

Yeah, I say what happened, happened - and it all worked out in the end - chock it up to an interesting experience and another good story.

What happens happens; we all create our own hell...some outsiders just stoke the flames a bit more than others.


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