Ever since I’ve moved to my downtown apartment next to the Interior Ministry—reportedly a place of government work (read: bureaucracy) and Egypt’s domestic black site for its political dissidents—I’ve had no access to a supermarket where I can do all my shopping at one time. So, I usually have to journey to no less than three separate places for my food: the mom-and-pop corner store for juice, canned tuna and noodles; to the outdoor market for vegetables; across the Nile River for cookies and brownies; and finally, to the corner for eggs in a hole-in-the-wall where Hisham, the middle-aged vendor runs his operation.
When we first talked, Hisham asked me the essential Islamic question: what’s your religion? And when I told him that I was “kafir” or infidel, he was shocked. And Chinese people in general? “Kufar”—infidels. He was jolted! 1.3 billion infidels? How can that be? I tried to explain Confucianism—the philosophy and demi-religion of China. He couldn’t really understand it and encouraged me to explore Islam. And with that, we exchanged phone numbers. He told me, “if you ever need eggs and I’m not here, just call me and I’ll come down.” As he lives close by, it’s not much trouble, he swears. While I’ve not yet had an egg emergency, it is certainly comforting to know that my eggman is at my disposal—merely on the other side of my mobile. Earlier this week, Hisham called me on my cell phone. A pleasant surprise, indeed. He just wanted to check in with me and say “hi.”
The other day, while picking up some vegetables with my roommate, we spotted another egg store. To our amazement, the eggs were bigger and cheaper than Hisham’s eggs. They were also clean—that is to say, there was no chicken shit on the egg shells. This eggman, named Khelid, seems to be busier and more diplomatic than Hisham. Perhaps, in his late 30s, he has a earpiece and seems to be conducting business deals at the counter while selling eggs. When my roommate Andrew asked him whether he liked China or America better, he said “the two are brothers.” He could’ve been straight from Foggy Bottom!
While I like Hisham, I like cheap eggs even better. So, while it saddens me a little to leave Hisham for Khelid, my new eggman, perhaps I can visit Hisham every now and then. Will Khelid and I exchange numbers? We’ll see about that…