TRAVEL THERE: LIVING ON EGYPTIAN TIME
Time is both my ally and my enemy. I like having something that divides my day into neat little pieces. If I look at my clock at 3:30 AM then I know I can go back to sleep. If I arrive at a destination at the appropriate time, it’s a little victory I can savor in this world of frustrations. However, those neat little pieces don’t always fit the crazy life I live. I sit down at the computer to write and a day is gone before I even realize it and rarely have I accomplished what I hoped. In Egypt the concept of time is a whole ‘nother matter>
One of my priorities at this point in the trip was to quit carrying around all the gifts and get them to their appropriate recipients. The last thing I wanted was for something to get lost, broken or otherwise damaged, before I put it in the hands of the donee – especially those all important bottles of scotch.
As I mentioned last week, Bassem was going to pick up his bride, and suggested we spend some time with family over at Mirette’s. That would reduce my load by five presents. I was glad for the opportunity to do that, but I was also looking forward to meeting her twins – teenagers who have been my friends on Facebook for a long time, but I’d never met in person.
So after we saw Bassem in the salon, I hurried back to the room to fix up the gift bags for Mirette’s family. That took more fritzing around than it sounds like it should, since I had to unpack everything, sort through it, match it up to the gift bag it was meant for and adorn it with tissue and bows. Though it made us a little behind schedule, it was only by a few minutes and we were on Egyptian time.
If an Egyptian tells you he’ll meet you at 9 AM, I suggest you ask him if that is real time or Egyptian time. If it’s Egyptian time, then you might be cooling your heels for a couple hours or you might actually have to wait until bokra (tomorrow). Don’t be afraid to ask. They know how they are. And here’s a further warning, like the Mexican manana, there’s a silent “or maybe never” inferred in the word.
So, while I was a few American minutes late to the lobby with my bags of gifts, I was right on time by Egyptian standards, but this is also the point where the plans went awry. It seems Mirette was not home, because she had been recruited for a final wedding errand.
Kudos to Bassem’s sisters Mirette and Maggie. Without them there would have been no wedding. A wedding coordinator was hired, but titles can be a fluid thing in Egypt and she was more of a florist, so Mirette and Maggie filled the gap. Just to make things more interesting, it was a holiday weekend and the wedding coordinator/florist was out of town. We were left to the whims of the people she had convinced to stand in for her. Every other moment she was calling and delegating yet another wedding errand to the bride and groom, who in turn found someone else, usually Mirette or Maggie to take care of it. That Bassem actually got married rather than murdered is a kind of miracle.
My first few hours in Egypt I had managed to stay on American time, but before they served me my first lunch, that was over. I was now on Egyptian time. Set you clocks for next week and join me for a little fun with the bride and groom.