Egypt: February 2015
One night in Cairo, we had our first taste of drama. We sat down at a café and ordered salep. This is a great winter drink in Turkey as well. I don’t remember who, but somebody got out their money to count it. The shop owner saw this so when he handed the bill to us, Samir, our Egyptian friend, was very upset. Everything that followed was in Arabic, so I can’t share the conversation, but I know we were overcharged because we are foreigners. A drink that should have cost us about $1 each was going to cost $4-5. Not the end of the world by our standards, but it’s the principle of the matter. It doesn’t matter if I’m drinking it or if Samir is drinking it. A cup of salep is a cup of salep.
What was interesting about this entire exchange, though, was that when a police officer came by, I think he believed that the shopkeeper hadn’t done anything wrong. He seemed to just be making sure the situation didn’t escalate. It was fascinating to watch Samir and the other guy in their dialogue. Samir remained firm and calm, but obviously bothered. The other guy raised his voice and was angry. He frequently touched Samir with the back of his hand. I couldn’t believe how gentle this gesture was despite the rage in his voice. If we had been in Turkey, I’m sure that motion would have been far more aggressive.
In the end, Samir paid what the shopkeeper wanted and we gave our money to him. He reminded us not to count our money in public and to let him take care of the bills. Meanwhile, Samir never used a wallet and always walked around with WADS of cash that he openly displayed… But he’s a local. He’s safe. That always made me laugh.