The night I accidentally stole a nightstand in Cairo.

It had been an amazing day, my boyfriend and I spent it being tourist in Cairo. We visited the Citadel, the Northern Cemetery and then spent the afternoon in Al-Azhar Park and watched the sun set. We arrived back at our apartment exhausted, sweaty and ready to shower and relax. On our way up to our apartment though we bumped into a nice beat up nightstand covered in what we thought was trash out in the hall. We looked at each other and I told him “Come on why not? Look it’s trash and we really need a nightstand.” He looked at me like “No Jaime we shouldn’t & said nothing.”, but it was to late I already had it in my hands and was carrying it up the stairs one floor up to put in our room. Okay before I continue let me share with you what we had been using as a nightstand for a few weeks…


Yup a box!!! We hadn’t bought a nightstand because I mean we really didn’t “NEED” it and I didn’t wanna spend money on something we didn’t “NEED”. So with the nightstand in my hands I arrived in the apartment and eagerly put it next to our bed. It didn’t match the color of our bed was my first thought, but I didn’t care. We were both excited and happy!!! That happiness though lasted only for a few minutes.

Moments later our roommates knocked on our door, came in and didn’t say a word looked around saw the nightstand and the yelling in Arabic began… I was so lost and confused. I knew it was about me and the nightstand. I thought “fuck what did I do”… and well come to find out they had been drawn to the hall of the apartment complex by yelling and screaming of the owner of the nightstand. The owner of the nightstand had been yelling down stairs to the door man blaming him for stealing the nightstand. My roommates came back and told me we needed to act quickly or the door man would get fired and then also mentioned that her husband was a chief police officer. I thought “fuck if she is really angry I can be in trouble” and was scared. I let them know that I was sorry and that at home (USA) if you see something in the trash anyone can just pick it up if they can make use of it with out any problems. After I said that is when it clicked…  “umm Jaime you are NOT at home and things are different around the world”. They let me know that in Egypt if you want anything in the trash that is outside someones door you must knock on the persons door and ask for it.

By the time we went out there to settle the situation every one of our neighbors was out there. All the women gossiping about what happened. We let her know what happened and that at home if we see something out in the trash anyone can pick it up with out any problems. Since they were speaking Arabic I didn’t understand a word and was lost once again. I kept acting like the victim  and saying “I’m sorry” and they kept talking and all I could understand was “Dr my friends name” and then it looked like she finally understood and was okay with the situation and let us know that no it wasn’t trash and that she had put it out there because she was cleaning her home and was going to be giving it to her maid. I then just went upstairs got the nightstand put it where I found it and gave everyone a good laugh. We then came back to our apartment and I thought that was it… problem solved.

Not so easy once we were back in our apartment my roommates let me know that now I must buy the door man a gift and apologize. I thought “WHAT THE FUCK… for what??? Shouldn’t the lady who yelled at him have to do that???” They let me know, that no it is me that needs to do that because he was embarrassed in front of the entire apartment complex and could have been fired for what I did. Also because he is the doorman and we don’t want him to cause any problem with any of us in the future. I kept thinking “fuck this would never happen at home… we would just put it back say I’m sorry and that would be that”. So we ended up going downstairs to a bakery around the corner and buy a nice fruit cake that looked expensive, but was only $5. As we walked back upstairs I could tell everyone was still upset about the situation, but as soon as I gave the doorman the gift everything turned around and every one was really happy this time around.

I thought the drama was over, but nope someone knocked on our door and it was our next door neighbor who was outside and saw all the commotion. She had a nightstand with her she no longer needed and wanted me to have. She spoke English and I let her know I couldn’t take it. She said I must and I could just give it back to her when I leave Egypt. The nightstand she gave me is pictured below. I was in awe and couldn’t believe it.


This whole situation was a bit more dramatic then I wrote it… what should have been a maybe 5 minute ordeal took over an hour to take care of. I was annoyed and aggravated, but it taught me an important lesson. It taught me that I am not at home and things that I could do at home without a problem cannot be done in other countries. It’s something I always keep in mind, but have no damn clue why I didn’t when I accidentally stole the nightstand. The thing I found funny was that I had been living in the apartment complex for over 2 months at the time of this incident and had never met any of my neighbors or the door man and this night I literally met EVERYONE. Now I happen to bump into my neighbors a bit more often and when I do they giggle and we say hello. Oh & you know what is sad… I hardly ever use the nightstand. I mean really I have a few things on there, but don’t really need it. I also love that once again I was shown how amazing Muslims can be in situations like this, because my neighbor didn’t have to lend me a nightstand to use during my time in Cairo. This is a moment though I will never forget because I know I am very dramatic and love that I got so annoyed at how dramatic this whole situation turned and well got a taste of my own medicine, but am happy I know a bit more about Egyptian culture and how they handle situations like this.

So has anything like this ever happened to you? Where you accidentally did something that led to a situation you know at home would never happen like that and ended up learning a bit more of the culture where it happened?

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  1. Haha, I laughed at this 🙂 I like how small things end up being huge in foreign cultures. Everyone gets embarrassed over minor things that we take with a pinch of salt 🙂 Wait till you hit Thailand dude!

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yeah Carlo it’s crazy how small things at home can be HUGE problems in another country. I guess we learn along the way and am sure Thailand will be interesting.

  2. As always I got a giggle from your blog. It must have been traumatic at the time but it is very funny to read about it now

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks Lynne, yes now we laugh about it, but at the time I was just overwhelmed, because really it was an honest mistake that a “SORRY” should have been enough. Instead it was a lot of drama.

  3. A good (but not enjoyable!) example that you KNOW you’re not at home but those “norms from home” kick in without us even thinking about it!

    I’m glad you all sorted things out (with time…) and hey, the makeshift night stand works pretty well too 🙂

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Jaja yup Heather so true… not enjoyable at all. It’s crazy though even though YOU KNOW you are not at home those norms really do just come back like nothing in some situations. I’m glad things are sorted out & yeah now that I have an actual night stand I realize the lil box we had was all we really needed the whole time.

  4. Hold up….the situation was MORE dramatic than how you wrote it?! Holy crap haha! I’m glad it was resolved in the end but I think I’d have been like you, and just gone, “here’s the nightstand, take a chill pill, people!” and given a load of bitch please looks to everyone not directly involved.

    Then again, I say this from in front of my computer screen. If confronted with an angry woman yelling in Arabic, then I may well have acted differently lol!

    Also, congratulations on the new nightstand. Yippee!
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Seoul’s Grand Palaces: Part Two

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Oh yes Tom… way more DRAMATIC. We kept going back and forth explaining everything to them and trying to let them know it was an honest mistake and let them know why in America this happens and it was just very annoying at the time, but am glad now I can laugh about it. I really wanted to just say GOOD LORD I BROUGHT IT BACK… lets move on, but nope had to go through that whole ordeal and then with all the ARABIC and me not understanding a word, it sucked.

  5. Hilarious Jaime! I was excited to see this get posted since I’ve been waiting since you were talking about it on FB. I can understand not realizing something you do at home would be totally different in another country. Somethings just seem universal, but aren’t. I’m glad it all worked out in the end. Maybe buy a small gift (another cake?) for the woman who lent you her nightstand when you give it back to her before you leave. It was really sweet of her to do that. Also, I find it funny that all your neighbors now giggle at the silly foreigner now whenever they see you!
    Ali recently posted..How to Read Hotel Reviews

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Exactly Ali, I thought taking something from the trash was universal (even though in this case it wasn’t trash) and you just take it and that is that. Well did I learn my lesson nope it’s not universal. Oh & yes I will most def be buying a cake for my neighbor who let me borrow a nightstand for while I am here. Oh & I hate that they all giggle at me when I walk by, but am very happy I don’t see them often.

  6. Haha, at least it makes an awesome story! I’m glad everything was easily sorted out.
    Lindsey recently posted..An Unexpected Lesson from Sir David Attenborough’s A Life on Earth

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yeah Lindsey after the hour of drama everything was sorted out and now I can laugh about it, but at the time I sure was scared… jaja!

  7. I can TOTALLY see you in this situation.
    Kent @ No Vacation Required recently posted..Finishing What We Started

    • I can totally relate to this because I am always on the lookout for discarded treasures. I once furnished an entire apartment in Japan with stuff found on the street….Japanese people are always upgrading. Unfortunately, these days they don’t discard as much on the street because of new recycling laws. I hope your adventures take you to Tokyo!

      • Jaime Davila says:

        I know right Dave it’s the best way to go find it for free from what others don’t need any more.Sucks though that new laws now prevent you from finding many things you could use. Glad though that I’m not alone on picking up things that are still good from others. As for Tokyo not sure I will make it there this time around, but know I wanna visit there for sure.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      It was a hot mess…lol!!!

  8. This is hilarious. I can totally see you in that situation, totally embarrassed and everybody around you yelling. I am sorry but I was laughing so hard reading this – I hope you can laugh about it now, too! 🙂

    • Jaime Davila says:

      OMG Dani… it was a MESS. I literally was just standing there like OMG IT’S A NIGHTSTAND I BROUGHT IT BACK… LETS MOVE ON, but nope I was so confused so lost and thankfully can now laugh about it. It really is funny now… ahh we live and we learn.

  9. Was actually a little worried for your safety there for a moment! Phew …. Glad that worked out. I have had some funny moments like this – not as dramatic but often dealing with how I talk a lot with my hands. I inadvertently have made gestures that are considered insults getting me into heaps of trouble. I have now learned to do a quick Google search on customs, expressions and hand gestures 9insults) before visiting.

    Also, since we travel with our dog – I am learning very quickly how canines are not perceived as “man’s best friend” all over the world. I have had all sorts of surprises. From Cathedral priests letting us smuggle our little dude in – to being yelled at for being in a DOG PARK and everything in between.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yeah now I can laugh about it… oh & yes I know I have done with the gestures and head as well. In India I just couldn’t move my head like I normally do. I have no clue how it would be to travel with a dog, because it’s mostly western countries that find them as mans best friend. I’m sure you have many crazy stories with the dog.

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