Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Egypt may have redeemed itself…

Okay, so I feel like I’ve been trash-talking Egypt a little bit lately, and tonight I have to say, Egypt really surprised me. I hope I can adequately explain what happened in this blog post. Sarah, my roommate, and I went to find an ATM to draw out a lot of money so we could pay for sha’itna gadida (“our new apartment”), and then we went to get on the metro to go back to school to wait till we could meet our landlord. I already had a ticket, but Sarah had to buy one. She got her wallet out of her backpack and paid (and then left her backpack open, which she didn’t realize at the time). I was walking ahead of her, and didn’t notice till we were back at the school that her bag was open. She looked inside, saw that the wallet was gone (could have fallen out… likely it was stolen) and she freaked out a little… I tried to calm her down, and it just got worse. It went like this:

Me: “Okay, it’s Egypt. It’s likely long gone. This is lame, but not the end of the world. We can cancel your cards, even though no one here really uses those except to withdraw cash, and for that you need a pin number. At least you just got 2000 pounds out of the ATM ($400 USD) so we can still pay for our apartment.”

Sarah: “The cash was all in the wallet.”

Me: “Dang. Okay, well, it’s just money. At least it was just your driver’s license and stuff, all you really need is your passport to get home and your fine.”

Sarah: “Yeah, my passport was actually in there as well.”

At that point I was all out of consoling words. I had nothing to offer. The weird part is that my other roommate, Hannah, lost her debit card just the other day, so I’m the only one of my roommates with access to any money (which means I’ve been buying a lot of metro passes… good thing they’re only twenty cents). Well, it was a long day for us all. We arranged for them to borrow money from our teacher and then to get money wired in from their parents, and it’s all working out nicely…. Oh, Egypt still hasn’t redeemed itself…

So, we met up with Ridda, our real estate genius, and he brought us to our apartment to sign the contract and pay the money. At this point I was the only one who could be trusted with filoos (“money”) so I had the hugest wad of cash on me… I was a little nervous. We had a great conversation with Ridda on the way over, and learned that he has two wives, one here and one in Morocco, so, that’s… lovely… and he’s looking for a third, so, that’s nice too… Anyway, so we’re paying the rent and signing stuff, and the lady’s like, “we need a copy of one of your passports.” We explained that Sarah’s had just been stolen, but she had an extra copy, but we really needed it back cause it’s all she had… we kept signing stuff (it was all in Arabic… I don’t have a clue what it said) and then Ridda’s phone rang.

This is where it gets crazy and where Egypt becomes a land of miracles once again.

Ridda answered, chatted for a minute in Arabic and then said, “Sarah, they found your passport! We need to go to my office!” Yeah… we were super confused. Who was he even talking to? He has nothing to do with anyone in our program; he’s just a random guy they chose to help us get apartments. Without much of an explanation, we hurried and finished signing, exchanged numbers with the owner and seriously ran out of there following Ridda. We got in his car, and it was feeling pretty sketchy. We didn’t really know this man, and we were all getting into his car, cause supposedly someone he knew had her wallet… looking back on it, I can’t believe we were all so willing to just follow him. We had two friends (guys) with us, or else I never would’ve gone.

We stopped and picked up this guy on the side of the road named Muhammad (like the fourteenth Muhammad I’ve met today). He jumped in the car… now there were four of us squished in the in the back seat and three in the front. This was a little car too. So Egyptian. So Muhammad hands Sarah her wallet, which was missing the 2000 pounds, but had everything else. So crazy. Impossible in Egypt. Yet… apparently not. How did it all happen?

Well… Ten days ago Sarah went with Ridda to find an apartment. He brought his friend Muhammad. They didn’t find anything, but Muhammad gave his card to Sarah. She put it in her wallet, next to her passport. (Her wallet’s more of a little make up bag, just a zippered pouch basically). Tonight, while Muhammad was just walking down the street he noticed a young guy flipping through an American passport. He looked closer and saw that his own business card. He went to the kid and offered him 50 pounds (like $10) for the wallet and passport. The kid gave it to him, and Muhammad called Ridda, who was with us signing our contract, and asked if he knew anyone from America named Sarah who had lost a passport. We just happened to be in the same room as him at that very moment. Coincidence? I think not.

It also happens to be Sarah’s birthday, and when we told them that they stopped at a flower shop and bought her a little bouquet. They stopped down the street and bought us all drinks too. Then, instead of having to take a taxi, they offered to drive us all the way home, which we refused three times, as is customary in Arab culture, and then accepted graciously. Such good people. He wouldn’t even let us repay him the 50 pounds he paid to get the wallet back.

At least that’s what they told us… Bear with me as I offer an alternative ending (as in the feature film classic, Clue).

Perhaps… just perhaps, Ridda had Muhammad following us all day, as he knew we were about to make a huge payment, and would be covered in cash. Muhammad followed us on the metro (we never would have recognized him) saw Sarah with an open bag and couldn’t resist… He made 2000 pounds, so the story about the 50 pounds, and not accepting when we tried to pay him pack, and the whole let-me-buy-you-flowers-and-drinks-and-drive-you-home thing was completely worth his while… BYU will be back in Egypt and if they make a good impression now, it could really pay off for them in the future. So I guess Egypt really hasn’t redeemed itself. I’m just as leery as ever. My story is just so much more likely in my mind. Oh well. Maybe I’ll never know. I’m okay with that. I have an apartment. We move in tomorrow afternoon… and I’m still assuming I’m excused from homework... not sure really, but I’m thinking it’s a safe bet.

I’m glad things are finally calming down. I was about to go insane.


  1. these all sound like wonderful and exciting adventures. i so wish we were in egypt right now sharing them with you. keep posting so we can live vicariously through you! :)

  2. I like both versions, although I suppose it would be nice to give them the benefit of the doubt and HOPE that the LORD had a hand in it instead.
    Clue works well too! It's always fun to read about your adventures, you are so descriptive!

  3. I love this post... what a fun adventure! (as a whole, not the tragic lost wallet part). Im hoping it was the first ending, but guessing it might be the 2nd. :) At least the wallet's back! Have fun, I look forward to your posts!

  4. Bethany, I think I'm going to be reading your blog a lot! I enjoy these kinds of stories! Too bad it involves lost money and, I'm sure, a lot of stress.

    I'd like to submit a hybrid version of the two stories:

    The conspiracy to steal money was true, but you were watched over when they felt bad enough about it to return the wallet instead of sell all of your roommate's personal information.

    Be safe in your adventures!