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?