When we were heading to Egypt last year, we knew we were going to get sick. As much as everyone told us to drink bottled water and avoid tea, how could they seriously expect us to pass on the buffet in our hotel where half of the things were not cooked but looked like if we didn’t try, we’d die from regret?
The best place to get sick, it turned out, was in a middle of a souvenir store in Tahrir Square – across the street from the Cairo Museum that houses numerous ancient treasures and few dozen ghosts guarding the mummies of the kings past. We walked into that little store, and as woman in a black burka was showing me a silver scarab the size of a walnut, it hit me. I was about to collapse right there, or worse, throw up all over their papyrus.
“Do you need help?” she asked me in pretty good English.
And that’s how I found myself in the bathroom of a regular Egyptian house. Toilet paper. Air freshener. Tampax.
It felt surreal to be behind the curtain. I was honored by a random act of kindness from strangers, and once again amazed that underneath burkas and shorts and CK t-shirts, our hearts all beat the same.
By the time I could walk again, it was almost closing time. The couple set up a tray with cups, and we drank sweet mint tea and talked about how Muslims see the world. It was like a miniature UN meeting, except for we left in complete admiration of their culture and traditions, something that a previous week of travel through Egypt had failed to accomplish. It was a human touch and it was real.
And now they got tanks in that same square.
PS. And the next day, we saw a man with a giant tea pot strapped to his back. He was standing outside a mosque and pouring tea into glass glasses that he with him. Some vending machine! Tea’s got the power.