Heather in Cairo

Heather is a senior majoring in history and medieval studies in Dedman College, with a minor in art history in Meadows School of the Arts, and a recipient of the Gilman International Scholarship to Egypt. In Fall 2009, she will continue her studies in Arabic and Egyptology in her second semester at the American University in Cairo. Learn more about the SMU-in-Cairo program.

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No lines and no sidewalks

TRANSLATION: We prefer mosh pits and walking headfirst into traffic

As the beginning of the semester quickly approaches, I decided to get as organized as possible. With the Ramadan class schedule, I will have no time to take care of anything for the next two weeks.

Unlike the U.S., where there is a Wal-Mart on every corner, Egypt only has little market-type shops where one can find the essential goods. However, one can find a store called Spinnys at City Stars located in the Heliopolis area (about a 35-45 minute cab ride, depending on traffic). I decided to check this place out, but my shopping adventure did not start until 10:30 p.m.

Ramadan changes every aspect of life. The streets are significantly less crowded during the daytime, and one might assume that the city turned into a ghost town. However, around 9 p.m. the taxi horns and Cairo noise resume as the masses storm the streets.

My night journey began at 10:30 p.m. I took my 45-minute taxi ride to the City Stars mall, and I embarked on literally a journey to Spinnys. City Stars is the largest mall I have ever been to, and it is the most unorganized place as well.

I walked around trying to make sense of the place for a while, and then I decided to grab some dinner. All the restaurants at the mall are Brinker-owned (Chilis, On the Border, Ruby Tuesday ect.), so I decided to take advantage of my menu selection. I decided on Ruby Tuesday, since they have a nice salad bar.

Note: it is hard to find a true salad in Egypt. There are lots of salad selections, such as the traditional Greek style; however, the American idea of salad is totally different. I never thought of mayonnaise as a salad dressing, but Egyptians love it. Anyway, I ate my Ruby Tuesdays and headed to Spinnys.

By the time I arrived at Spinnys, it was probably 12:30 a.m. The place was packed. I had never seen so many people crowded into a store in my life. I made my way in to find the products I was looking for. After spending an hour looking around, I decided to check out. I made my way to the front of the store looking for a line, and all I saw were mobs of people with shopping carts. The best description I can give is that it appeared as though people were playing bumper cars with their shopping carts.

Apparently in Egypt, people “do not know how to stand in lines.” I have been told that line many times. Well, there I stood in what felt like a mosh pit at a concert. My arms were full, and I was slowly fading. Although I was suffering the consequences of absolute chaos, a man and woman took me under their wing and helped me press my way forward to the checkout.

This, my friends, is Egyptian hospitality. No matter where you are and how frustrated you might be, due to situations such as these, there is generally someone who will do anything to help you. I finally made it out of Spinnys around 2 a.m. and into a cab back to Zamalek. I definitely had an interesting shopping experience.

Note: people do not use sidewalks here. Due to uneven pavements, animal droppings, trash and the like, people brave the traffic and walk in the middle of the street.

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