Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Okay, I just had my bit of excitement for the day. Let me explain the set-up to you:

I was sitting in front of my usual coffee shop, playing dominoes with a friend. There was an open sewer cover in the street right in front of the coffee shop. Why was it open? I have no idea. Anyway, there was a taxi parked on the right side of the road, next to the sewer. This is a one-way, one lane road. But as I've learned in Egypt, just because it's a one lane road doesn't mean you can't have three lanes of traffic on it. Most of the traffic was going to the left of the sewer. A couple of cars were going to the right, and getting by okay. Then another car tried to go to the right of the sewer, but this one hit the taxi that was parked there. It broke the side-view mirror, and scratched the side of the taxi.

And the coffee shop ERUPTED!!

I'm not kidding, everyone in the coffee shop poured out into the street. Some of them stood in front of the guy's car so he couldn't drive away. Some others got next to the driver's side window and started slapping him in the face, and everyone else crowded around the car and started shouting. They pulled the driver out of his car and started beating him right in the middle of the street. He took a few good shots to the face and ribs before he finally managed to get away. The crowd got a hold of him again, but they didn't hit him any more. They took away his keys so he couldn't leave, then they demanded his driver's license. Turns out he didn't have a license, and the car wasn't actually his.

Both the owner of the taxi and the driver of the taxi (not the same person) were in the coffee shop. At this point they took charge and started demanding money from the guy so they could fix the car. He said he didn't have money, so they just told him to give them whatever he had in his pocket. Then the police came by and wanted to know what was going on. The crowd told the police that they had everything under control, and to go away. They actually made a wall with their bodies so that the police couldn't see what was going on, so they left.

After that, everyone got a lot calmer. They took whatever money the guy had, then started trying to fix the mirror. The guy drove off, and that was pretty much the end of it.

It was a strange experience overall. When things were starting to get crazy, I remember wondering if someone was going to call the police. But, apparently that's not what one does in Egypt. I also thought about trying to stop them when they were beating the guy, but didn't know how that would go. The crowd who was hitting him were all friends of mine, and I didn't know what would happen if I tried to get in the middle of it. They all knew me, so I didn't think anyone was going to take a swing at me. But I wondered if they would think I was betraying them by trying to stop them from beating the driver.

I still often find myself trying to figure out what the culturally acceptable reaction is here. So many things that I see and experience here are different from the way that things are done at home, and I often just don't know what to do. Some culture is just different, and some culture is wrong. One of the tricks to living overseas is figuring out which is which. The stuff that's just different, you learn to leave alone and not fight against. I had a friend tell me a while ago, "if it's not sinful, it's permissible." That doesn't necessarily mean it's good, but it's not something worth fighting over. Today I was standing on the side of the road, trying to figure out which of the two I was dealing with. It certainly looked brutal and strange to me, but does that necessarily make it wrong?

I think when I first came here a year and a half ago, I would have been much quicker to answer that question. Now, I honestly don't know.

1 comment:

  1. Man, the right thing to do was to get up with your friend and bit the crap of the guy... You could get some money too!!
    Blessings man!