Confessions from a Cairo Cab

 “We parted with a long hug, am sure he had tears, well; I didn't want to show mine. He looked me in the eyes and said ‘Will you ever come back?’  I didn't reply but I just said ‘Insha Allah’ and smiled back at his face. He pulled out my trench coat and gave it to me. I gave another hug and we parted. I gave a last look at the cab, that little black and yellow metal box wasn't just a car, it was just more than that.”

It’s a pleasant autumn of October 2008. I am happily seated inside a A340 Egypt Air on my way to the Land of the Pharaohs. The flight was late by an hour and for the first time in my life; I was being served food even before the flight had taken off. It was a bland Arabic blend of bread and salads. I had enough of it. Just ate what I can and slipped my head on the pillow by my side awaiting my lovely trip ahead of me.

Landing in Cairo :)

At 5:40 early in the morning I landed in Cairo International Airport, it was quite a chill morning and I didn’t have a clue of what awaited me beyond the doors of the airport. After sharing some humor by the immigration counter I was outside at the door step of Cairo what looked like a taxi market with all kind of makes and models. The taxi’s of Cairo are nothing my metal boxes made during the 70’s and the ones which were running were just the ones which have managed to have their 4 wheels connected to the engine. I cannot explain otherwise of how these are called. 
Inside my hand bag was my secret weapon of choice, 4 sheets of paper crumbled into one piece stuck deep down my bag to give maximum security. I looked around is despair on which taxi I should take, it was a crazy sight when a 100 drivers storm you and your mind is frozen. I just said no and started walking to the end of the road.

Far away I saw a middle aged man sitting on the bonnet of his taxi and looking at the sky. He seemed carefree of the world and had no intension of driving for the rest of the day. I saw his face closely and he was talking to himself about something. I slowly walked towards him and and for the first time in my life I took it out my paper and read my first words of Arabic to this man. I said ‘Oreed an azhab fondoq Dokki?’ I didn’t even know if I sounded right or wrong. The man turned his head towards me and gave me a top down look and asked me in English Did you just speak to me in Arabic?’ I replied ‘Well I didn’t, I think I tried’ he smiled back and said ‘you’re good!’ I felt nice within, glad to know my first attempt paid off.

After we negotiated the prices I looked at his car which ended up being a 1970′s something beat up Renault. I sat up front and showed him the address to the hotel I had booked that I had written down on the back of a brochure from the terminal. The driver smiled and spoke in broken English to me, I just assumed that he knew where the damn hotel was, but as soon as we reached a red light he asked me to wind down my window, and then he asked the driver for guidance in the cab next to him as I was busy trying to locate a map, and since my driver wasn’t paying attention to his front side he rear ended the car in front of him.  Luckily since it was a habit I always had my safety belts on.  My driver’s cigarette flew out of his mouth and landed in the crack between the windshield and the dash.  Immediately the car in front of him pulled over, my cab driver pulled up next to him and yelled out in Arabic that “everything is okay, just minor damage.” I turned my head and noticed pieces of plastic tail light and bumper cover on the road.  To me this was much more than minor damage; I could still feel the wreck in my neck.  My driver continued on before the other driver was able to notice the damage he had caused. At this point I was really tired and starting laughing hysterically. Not because it was funny, but because it was ridiculous that this had happened five minutes after my stepping foot outside of the airport.

At the next traffic light the car my cabbie rear ended caught up to us, he pulled up next to my side of the car demanding that I roll down my window; I looked at my cabbie for his input. He nodded his head, as if to say, go ahead roll it down. Mind you I still had a smirk on my face from the hysterics I had experienced moments ago. I rolled down my window about half way. The other driver continued to swear at my driver in Arabic. I tried looking straight forward as to stay neutral. The driver of the damaged car must have noticed my grin and asked me in broken English “what fucking you laugh and smile for, my car no good you guy” I turned to the driver and told him the light was green. He had his pedal in his hand, I mean he literally had them in his hands and when he sat down he attached it to the top of the metal and started driving and following us through the congested streets of Cairo and all of a sudden my driver took speed and we lost that guy. Am sure one day or the other, that fellow will come back to haunt our cab.

Somehow I finally got dropped near Dokki and while he was keeping my luggage out I thanked him for being kind and getting me safe. He looked at me and smiled back and said, ‘Amidst a 100 drivers you left them alone and came to me’ why? I was a little taken aback that he had to ask that… But hmmm I replied saying ‘I too love looking at the sky at times, I know there is nothing up there, but I look up to something which gives me a smile’ maybe that’s why it made me come to you.
He came close to me and gave me an Arabic hug and asked me if this was my firs time to Egypt, I replied ‘yes’ he said ‘if you keep your luggage and come back down in 5 minutes I will show you something very beautiful to look up to’ I was surprised at his angle of thought. I said, what it is, he replied ‘5 minutes’. I looked up again and came close and asked him his name for the first time, he held my hand and said ‘It’s Mohamed’. I said ‘I’m Vasanth, nice to meet you Mohamed’. He smiled and replied ‘5 minutes’ hearing that I rushed inside the hotel. 

Tahrir Square Bridge

I changed my clothes and ran down and he was waiting down smiling. I got into our same beaten up car and I asked him with excitement on where he was taking me. He said, ‘just wait’. He took a few roads and stopped by a coffee shop and asked me to check it out. We both got down and walked down to the coffee shop. A steep step took us down to the base and suddenly I looked out and I saw this huge body of water in front of me. I looked at him with a face of awe, it was the mighty River Nile in front of me. It was one of those simple but breathtaking moments. I grabbed his hands and ran inside to see more. It was a coffee shop built on a barge which was docked and floating on the river Nile. I sat on the barge and looked around me. The whole of my life flowed in front of me. The feeling of your heart running wild like a river is a feeling each of us have when we see the miracle of nature and how small we are in front of the almighty’s creations. The Nile was beautiful; I and Mohamed stayed there till evening and enjoyed those wonderful few moments of our little sweet lives. For once I forgot who this man was, good or bad. I enjoyed his company and believed in the good that was beside us and drank and yapped away to glory. Mohamed shared a lot of his life’s stories to me, his family, about his car and we laughed about a million different stories and the thoughts of a free heart were very much filled within me and these are what you call those miraculous encounters while being present in the moment watching the simple yet curious happenings of life in a big city where things are… a bit different. 
The next day I was leaving to Alexandria and I will be missing Cairo for the next 4 days. Before heading out back to the airport Mohamed wrote his number on a small piece of paper and shoved it into my shirt pocket and said ‘call me when your back in town, whatever you might need’. I opened my handbag and took out 2 packets of KitKat and gave it him and asked him to share it with his kids. He gave me a dazzled look and said, ‘Please don’t give me such costly things, please take it back’ I smiled and asked him it was for him and no-one else. He gave a hug and thanked me and I waved him a loving goodbye and started walked inside the bus terminal.
After 4 wonderful days of touring, I was back in my hotel busy packing up for my evening flight back to Dubai. I was shifting through the entire mess I had made and hurrying up with the packing. While packing my dress, I felt something from one of the shirt pockets, and I took out this small piece of paper. It had Mohamed’s number on it.  I thought about him and smiled and kept it back into my shirt pocket. My flight was at 9pm and the time was already 6:50pm and I had to rush down with my luggage and clear out the formalities with the hotel for the check out. I somehow managed all of it and rushed back to the road. The clock was ticking at 07:01pm. I was sure going to be late, I tried stopping every other taxi but no one would stop of even heed to the trauma I was going through. My heart was pounding and as I breathed I felt the paper hitting on my chest. I took it out and ran back into the hotel to try and give a call to Mohamed.

The Taxi :)

It was 20minutes since I called and there was no sign of Mohamed in those chaotic streets of Cairo. My heart was pounding as each second ticked me by. And somewhere down the lane I lost hope and I was literally begging for taxi’s on the road when suddenly I saw a burst of light and a screams of noise from a horn in a distance, I lifted my head and looked closely, it was Mohamed  zooming his way down those chaotic roads. Within seconds he parked right in front of me and through the window yelled ‘you thought I’d never come didn’t you?’  - ‘For the last few seconds, I really did’ I replied and smirked. To the airport Mohamed fast I said and off we flew within those congested and chaotic traffic of Cairo.
I sat at the back seat and placed by head on the window looking out to a lovely city, the home of the Nile and giving thought to the lovely people I’ve met, the wonderful places have seen and to most of all the friendship I have shared with a man who I might never ever see again. Sometimes the richness of our very lives, found in the blink of an eye when we really pay attention to what’s going on around us can be so profound, we hardly can explain ourselves of the beauty it beholds. 

I’ve spent so many years traveling this globe… experiencing life and its precious moment… pioneering creative life that in itself brought about deep wisdom for understanding the organic processes of change and creativity… And my knowing has come through miraculous experiences in countless foreign situations – in the moment – where I knew no more than what was right in front of me, as I learned to respond in a flash, to make the changes that would come. This is the mastery I developed along the way… and now, I am knowing, it’s time certain stories come to an end, just in time for something else to begin!

I got down at the airport and Mohamed took out and placed my luggage’s in the trolley in front of me. I looked up at the airport and looked at him. He slowly opened the front door and took out a small parcel and gave it to me. I opened it partially and saw a shawl wrapped in paper, even before I could ask, he said, ‘I’m sorry I came late because I had to buy it and come’.  I closed my mouth and apprehended in myself that “Sometimes it's the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life.”

Mohamed and Myself - Our last picture together :)
“We parted with a long hug, am sure he had tears, well; I didn’t want to show mine. He looked me in the eyes and said ‘Will you ever come back?’ I didn’t reply but I just said ‘Insha Allah’ and smiled back at his face. He pulled out my trench coat and gave it to me. I gave another hug and we parted. I gave a last look at the cab, that little black and yellow metal box wasn’t just a car, it was just more than that.”

A part of my incredible journey shared for Indiblogger's “Incredible Stories” contest sponsored by:


Tresa Charles said…
U always never expect someone would turn to be this good at a unknow land.. God bless him!:)

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