When Men are Men
“Salah Salem,” I said through the passenger window. The slight nod of his head told me he was willing to take us there, so we jumped into the back seats.
We nattered in English throughout the journey, talking about work, my emotional breakdown while speaking to a hearing-impaired student’s parents about his struggles in class and a variety of other topics.
“Feen fi Salah Salem?” He finally asked, as he neared a junction that would determine the route.
“Er… erm… 6 October Panaroma,” I never realised that I actually have a little difficulty saying panaroma, especially since I was trying to say it Egyptian-style – meaning, replacing the p for a b!
We were meeting friends at the International Bowling Centre, but didn’t realise it was the same day that Al-Ahly (one of Egypt’s two football teams) were playing at the stadium nearby. It was the human sea of red shirts and waving flags that told us.
The taxi driver turned into the junction of the bowling centre and the sheer number of Ahly fans roaming was quite overwhelming. It triggered memories of Millwall fans when I used to be out in South-East London, minus the skinheads and looks of disgust. Although knowing that the Ahly fans littered along the street were nothing like the hooligans back in the UK, it didn’t make it any more comforting – boys will be boys, and they’re usually worse when in large groups.
We told the taxi driver he could let us out anywhere along the street. He didn’t. He outright refused and carried on, did a U-turn and went back towards the main road. My friend and I looked at one another, exchanging words of ‘What’s he doing’ telepathically. He then said in English,
“I drop you here,” then switched to Arabic to tell us that there was a clear path away from all the men, and he called on three security guys who were loitering in the area.
“These ladies want to get to the Panorama,” he told them in Arabic.
“The Panorama is closed,” they said, peering at us through the window.
“It’s closed?” I was sure it wasn’t.
“Yes, it closes at 5pm,” one of the security guys confirmed.
I took my phone out of my bag. No missed calls from our friends to say it was closed.
“Really? We want to go bowling.”
“Oh! Bowling. Yeeeez! That is open,” a tea-stained smile spread across his face. We were all smiling at this point, and the taxi driver told the security guys to make sure we got there safely, since he was dropping us a little distance away from the entrance.
Of course, being the sentimental lady that I am, I was moved by his gesture and genuine concern for our safety, and kept on ‘Ahhhhh’-ing because it was above his duty as a taxi driver. Aside from wishing goodness for him and thanking him, we gave him a generous tip to thank him for his kindness, and it was one of those, I love Egypt moments, where men are men and care for lady-folk, expecting nothing in return.
Men, take note. 🙂
– The Londoner