Monday, September 7, 2009

Letters from Egypt: Ramadan Kareem & Carrefour

This picture was taken in the same spot before Ramadan and then again during iftar

Reading through my blogs during Ramadan last year, you might understand why I was dreading it this year. Getting work done is a task in and of itself. The driving before iftar is atrocious. Getting a cab during iftar is virtually impossible. The traffic after iftar is a nightmare. And there are other reasons I can tell you why Ramadan is not the happiest for us Westerners, but I have to admit that my friends have tried hard to show me the fun times that you may have during this time.

It’s a time when you catch up with friends and family – or in my case, spending more time with friends and getting the chance to meet their families.

However, if you’re new, please let me introduce you to a Westerner’s Guide to the Best Kept Secret during Ramadan…Carrefour.

Carrefour is a large mall, but inside is a grocery store a similar to a Super Wal*Mart or the UK’s Tesco. I previously thought shopping at Target in Downtown Brooklyn during the holiday season was like going off to war. After seeing everyday life in Carrefour, I now realize Target was a peaceful demonstration.

If you can leave without a bruise, please let me know your secret as women shove their carts into you repeatedly, blocking you in at every turn. You get an arm workout as carts always have jacked-up wheels and you spend most of your time just trying to keep the cart en route. Basically, you must revert back to primitive times – why? Because you won’t survive otherwise.

True story: I went to the produce section just trying to get one onion. It’s blasphemy to only get such a small quantity here, but I’m a single person and buying too much is wasteful. Women were throwing onions around, sometimes over their shoulders, looking for the perfect onion. Onion husks are going all over me. I couldn’t remotely get in if I tried. Instead, I just tried to catch an unwanted onion and continue on my way.

Before checking out, you must get your produce weighed at the weight station. Good luck on that one as a simple concept as a line has evaded most Egyptians. I finally make my way to the front and place my three lemons on the weigher. A veiled woman jerks my lemons off and throws them back at me while she places her sack of potatoes in their place.

I’ve had it! Once again, you must revert back to primitive times. If you allow this to happen, they will all continue to do it and you will never leave the warzone known as Carrefour grocery. I yank her sack off the weigher, throw them down and look at her with this glare. All of the sudden, everyone backed away from the weigher and I continued to get weighed my three lemons, four tomatoes, dill, and one onion.

I’ve stated before that doing the simplest tasks in Egypt make for the most difficult ventures ever. Grocery shopping ranks high on the list. However, if you are living in Egypt during Ramadan, go to Carrefour during iftar (around 6pm).

The roads are empty. Traffic is nonexistent. Shopping is civilized and met with other civilized people. Those that even see you searching for that perfect tomato and say, "Hey, there are even better tomatoes on the other side."

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I used to do my shopping around that time too!