Amreekia Min Bab Al Sharayah

That was the name of my old blog. Translated, it means an American woman from the old, poor and rundown district of Bab Al Sharayah in Cairo. I was given this nickname because although I was born in the USA, my mentality is more ghetto Egyptian. I'm a curious mixture of east meets west, and dont care if you call me balady!

I'm going to slowly bring some of the old posts from Amreekia over here (see archives), basically to give new readers some background. I hope you'll enjoy the old and the new and join me on this fascinating expat journey!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My first day of Ramadan adventure...

So I was supposed to finish this and never did so here always , life in Egypt--or maybe I should say my life in particular--is never dull!

So first day of Ramadan, I hear my dog down in the yard barking.   So I look out and see some kid about 11 years old fooling around, pushing a stick through the bars in the iron gate to agitate her.  So I yelled at him to get away and he just looked at me with this strange look on his face.  A little while later I hear the gate being opened and look out again.  Lo and behold the kid is in my yard and there's an adult man in there with him.  So I go out the front door and yell in the hall for the bowab (live-in doorman).  I'm complaining to his wife that strange people are in my yard and up walks the bowab--telling me he opened the gate to get one of the bikes out and the kid followed in behind him.  So I remind him to be careful as the dog will kill anyone she doesnt know--hahaha--of course this is not true unless she licked them to death (!!!) but I want everyone to fear Alexa--this way I feel safe.  So he starts telling me this kid showed up in front of our building the day before, and no one knows who he belongs to, and he's not "normal".  He cant talk except for a few baby words for food and drink and "Mama".  His name and phone number were written in ink on his arm, but the number is disconnected.  So the bowab is just keeping him until they figure out what to do with him.  It's Ramadan and he's doing it for Allah, he says, which is really nice I guess but...

The older I get the less inclined I am to accept situations like this.  When I was younger, I most definitely would have done something like this, especially here in Egypt.  In fact I have done similar things before, sometimes with very bad results.  It's not a great idea to open your home to anyone you really dont know, even if it is a child.  You can imagine--anything could happen.

So I go about my business...I was working in the guest bedroom off the balcony that has stairs that lead to the back yard.  The doors were open, both the sliding glass doors and the iron gates.  I figured I was safe in the daytime--especially here in Egypt--and Alexa was in the yard.  Or so I thought!  (As it turns out Alexa was sound asleep in my Mom's room and the door was closed!)

I left the room to go get a wet rag and come back in the room and find this kid standing in the guest room!!!  He was a lot bigger close up.  He had this blank look on his face.  Saying he scared the crap outta me doesnt even begin to describe it.  I felt like I was in a Halloween movie.  Make that a Ramadan movie!  I can only imagine a series.  Ramadan1, I get killed.  Ramadan2,  the tenants that move in here after me get killed.  Ramadan3...well you get the drift.  Anyway...

I should preface this by saying my dear husband has a wild sense of humor and among other things, loves to scare me.   Because I am so gullible and easily panicked.  Even my mother used to pull pranks on me to scare me--she used to get a kick out of that "deer-in-the-headlights" look I am apparently famous for.  So I am basically wary anyway, always thinking my husband will appear out of nowhere like he so often does and I hit the ceiling.  So I am always on high alert, ready to jump out of my skin.

So what happens when I walk into the guest room and find this kid standing there???  Well I scream bloody murder of course.  Which is basically the last thing anyone in the neighborhood is expecting, especially in the afternoon of the first day of Ramadan!

Now to make things worse, the kid doesnt turn and walk--or run--away!  What does he do???  He starts coming towards me!  With this empty look on his face!  I swear.  And so I screamed longer and louder, and I mean it was this deep, gutteral scream...I am sure everyone thought I was being killed!  Finally I had the sense to turn around and run--and out I went through the front door,, screaming for the bowab!  Once I got over the fear, I got angry.  I needed this like I needed a hole in the head.  I just wasnt in the mood--first day of Ramadan and all.

It seems the boy squeezed through the iron bars in the gate of the yard.  So I tell the bowab to call the police and I go in to call my husband.  Better I tell him I scared the whole neighborhood than he hear it first from the neighbors!  He doesnt answer.  So I called the police myself.  To come and pick up the boy.  And all this time I am still shaking like a crazy.  Did I mention I peed on myself when I first saw that kid in the house???  I did!

So I call the police.  The biggest mistake I made was speaking in Arabic.  I told them exactly what happened and when I finished they asked me what my citizenship was. ???  I can speak Arabic fairly well but of course I have an accent.  I definitely dont sound Egyptian.  So I told them American. Apparently they got a kick out of this, because instead of coming to deal with a stranger having been in my house, they called me back 4-FOUR-4 times (!!!) and I had to tell the story to someone new each time!  And the last question was always...what is your citizenship???  The last time they asked I got really angry.  I told them...I told you this story 4 times--what more do you want from me???  The man said--you called us--what do YOU want??? Can you imagine???  I told him I want you to come and take this boy to his family where he belongs, and WHY do you keep calling me to hear the story again and again???  Do you want me to call my embassy or are you going to come???  He said they would be right over.

They never came.  It was the first day of Ramadan.  Who wants to deal with crime?  Certainly not the Egyptian police for heaven's sake!  What was I thinking???. On top of it, I had spoken Arabic with them.  I have been told I should have only spoken English, and then curse them when they didnt understand me.  Seriously, an Egyptian official told me to do that!

In any case, the bowab took the boy to the police station himself.  No one was at the desk.  The officer's chair was empty.  So the boy sat in it!  Something NOT done here in Egypt--kinda like sitting on the king's throne.  Now I imagine the officer, when he returned, knew exactly how I felt.  Hahahaha!  Do ya think???  Problem is he could make heads roll and I cant.  Moral of the story, hmmmmm, there's many in this tale, but my first thought is if you want something official done, speak ENGLISH!  And scream maybe...I shoulda screamed to them on the phone!  Anyway, that ended my first Ramadan adventure this year.  Wonder what's awaiting me next?     


Spicybugz said...

What the heck, why was this kid not being searched for? I would think the mother would be frantic searching for her child and a man hunt would be out looking for her lost child. I'm sorry you had such a scare!

Queen O'Danile said...

Well you know first of all they dont really have an Amber Alert kind of system here, and you can see the police are TOTALLY useless! I guess the best the parents could do was write his name and phone number on his arm...too bad their phone was disconnected.

On the other hand, there are quite a few scams here involving children. The kid might have been totally normal, but sent out by his family (or his "owner"--there are many many kidnapped kids here who end up in kind of an Oliver Twist situation, who must make money for their owners) to scam or steal money or gold from people.

Another possibility is that his family could just no longer care for him and turned him out into the streets. You cant imagine the things that go on here. So many people just live in the streets--including children--and they survive by the mercy of Allah only. For tyhose parents who lose a wanted child, the lack of a system and services to recover said child must be pure frustrating hell! But this is Egypt...anything goes!

Jaz said...

I agree with your last comment, it might sound totally paranoid to someone who hasn't lived in a place like Egypt before but it could very well be a scam.
Also agree that the police are useless, they care more about making sure there are no girls & boys going anywhere alone more than running the country properly.
That's not to say they don't deal with thieving children on the streets in a more than brutal fashion.

BTW all that aside.. that is SO scary!

Queen O'Danile said...

Hi Jaz! Welcome and thanks for the comment! Unfortunately there are many things here that expats and visitors find hard to accept/believe. But in truth there's not a country on earth that doesnt have it's own unique problems. Every country has its's just a matter of what you are used to. For sure the changes in the culture take a lot of patience--some things more than others. It took me a lonnnnng time to accept that Egypt--both the good and bad--is home now. I still have my good days and bad days but all in all I think I'm finally handling it.

angie nader said...

you are a much better woman than i...i would have froze, forgot how to scream, or run away.

thats so scarey!!!!

i bet your neighbors had a good laugh...but yeah..a kid walking tword u with no emotion....very scarey!