Sunday, 25 May 2014


I bought these sandals in Alexandria a year ago and love them! But recently, one night I was walking home, when the left sandal broke. I had no choice but to walk with left foot bare, and broken sandal in my hand. This is a dodgy business in Cairo streets littered with rubbish, broken this and that and crumbling pavements. I was a street away from home when a man approached me from a well-lit garage. He looked at my feet, threw up his hands in despair and invited me to sit on a chair which he carefully placed in the middle of the pavment. He was insistent, so I sat down. He disappeared into the garage, while I tried to balance on the chair, feeling rather strange sitting alone the street. I could hear voices from the back of the garage, and after some time the man returned waving a pair of flip flops in the air. They were several sizes too big, but very welcome. He watched me with a big grin as I resumed my walk home. My sandals were fixed and, of course, I returned the flip flops. 'Bombo" and I now wave and smile to each other whenever I pass. 

I wore my sandals for a few days, until they broke again in Alex. Same sandal. I hobbled down Port Said, avoiding broken glass and the stares of passers by and was relieved when I reached the lift to take me up to the flat where I stay. A man joined me. "Where are you from?" he asked in perfect English, "and what has happened to your foot?" We gazed down at my grubby, dusty left foot. I told him the story and showed him my shoe. We got into the lift. "Fifth floor?" he asked, and I wondered how he knew. A smell of fresh baked bread rose from his string bag and filled the lift. "I am Mr Assad and I can repair your sandal for you," he said as we zoomed towards the first floor. I politely thanked him at the second and said I was going back to Cairo the next day. He was insistent as we scraped past the 3rd floor. By the 4th floor I was changing my mind and about to hand the sandal over to this very nice man, but I stepped out at the 5th and thanked him for his offer, and said I thought it was probably better to take them back to Cairo as I wouldn't be returning to Alex for a couple of weeks. He tipped his forehead and smiled. "If you have any other problems I am on the 7th floor." The doors closed and Mr Assad and his bread soared heavenwards. 

The kindness of strangers can be found everywhere, but very often in Egypt. Even the man who runs the stall I usually buy my veggie from, gave me a little present yesterday. "Take this madam," he said with a flourish.  It was a cucumber.

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