Classes are over and once again I’m standing in the street downtown near Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, trying to hail a cab. For a while none will stop. Those that do will refuse to go to Zamalek, just across the Qasr al Nil bridge, because it’s five or six and the traffic up the island is total gridlock. Eventually one stops, but the driver demurs when I insist on five pounds.
“No. Ten pounds.”
“By God, ten pounds?”
I’ve been trying, probably to the delicious amusement of Egyptians like this cab driver, to pick up the local tongue. Lots of exaggeration and gestured proclamations tinged with “by God”s and “God willing”s.
“Five pounds, my friend.”
He mutters another “khalas” – enough – and starts to pull away.
“Seven pounds?” I yell looking at the license plate of this old Fiat, which then stops.
“Tayeb. Yalla.” Okay. Let’s go.