Tag Archives: grocery shopping

I’m not sorry

Grocery shopping can be an adventure, and Lord knows I do love a good adventure. But sometimes, I just want to know

They look like this--perhaps you've seen them

what to expect and know where it will be and that no one will shove me in the process of obtaining the good that I want and that I won’t have to touch anyone else either. Sometimes, it’s nice to know that there will be music and air conditioning instead of car horns and exhaust, price tags instead of repeating endlessly  “how much does this cost?”

This is what supermarkets in Egypt are for.  A relatively new phenomena, there are many different supermarket chains,  not unusual for a city of 20 million people, and for the most part they are not much different from ones in America except generally they’re not Wal-mart size and might be a little bit more crowded and/or have peculiar scents. Out of all the ones I’ve visited here so far, Alpha market is by far my favorite as well as the most expensive. Whereas you’d be hard pressed to spend 50 pounds anywhere else (almost), at Alpha, you could drop a 200 and not even blink. However, Alpha is also free from crowds, has wide spacious aisles, and generous selections of everything from tea cookies to different brands of chocolate hazelnut spread. You know you’re part of the upper class when you buy your brown bread at Alpha.

Despite the fact I feel slightly guilty at times when going to Alpha simply because I know it is kind of a cop out on the whole “Egyptian” experience, I have to say that I’m not sorry. There are plenty Egyptians who frequent the store seeking the same calm and air conditioning I seek, as well as the freedom from offensive scents, and let’s be real—my monthly stipend of 3200 Egyptian pounds is twice (maybe more) what a taxi driver makes in the same amount of time. I’m not embracing elitism/classism, but I’m not going to deny there are differences in the amount of money people live off of and I’m not going to guilt trip myself into giving up tasting every single kind of tea biscuit there is in Egypt, all available to peruse at leisure in Alpha Market.

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I’ll take the sidewalk on the left

After staying inside almost the entire day and immersing myself once again in the Yacoubian Building/other Arabic homework pursuits, I finally left the apartment in the late afternoon in order to purchase credit for my phone.

At the store, I boldly greet the employees and declare I would like to buy a sidewalk. They chuckle and look at me…and I say it again, “you know, sidewalk, like for 50 pounds” and then one of the employees helpfully says “a sidewalk is the thing you walk on” and then it finally clicks. Oops. The word for credit seems eerily similar. Unfortunately, I’ve since forgotten the proper word for credit but will remember quite clearly from now on “sidewalk.”

My next errand was scoping out the selection of a different grocery store for their selection of off-brand Nutella since I’m trying to discover the most delicious and cheap hazelnut chocolate spread. The store’s selection proved disappointing, but on the way there I saw 3 children in tae kwon do uniforms sitting with an older man wearing a black shirt with a dragon on it and smoking sheesha at a cafe. I imagined that after an unimpressive performance by the kids in tae kwon do class, he decided to give up on them and smoke a bit before their parents came back to get them.

I’m touring Coptic Cairo tomorrow, which is sure to be exhausting especially since I leave in about 6 hours and still need to take the long night-nap before then. Also, my feet are incredibly itchy. See my recent tweet.

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What’s that silver vat for?

The first grocery shopping trips in foreign lands are always mini-adventures, as are many otherwise ordinary activities. I wanted to get milk so I could make my Nescafe properly and savor its delicate taste every morning and tea time as I have for the past year. Half milk, half water, one teaspoon of Nescafe, and a packet of Splenda. Curses upon anyone who comes between me and my Nescafe reverie.

We went to a dairy place (I forgot the name for it in Arabic), a little store where one would purchase all milk, yogurt, egg, and cheese needs, and after we had gotten our dozen eggs and apricot jam, we asked for a kilo of milk as well. I was expecting one of those boxes of ultra-pasteurized milk that I remembered from my time in Morocco, but even as I was picturing them in my head, I turned around and a gigantic silver vat  had appeared in the center of the room out of nowhere.

I don’t know how I missed it beforehand or why I didn’t think about how odd it looked to me, but there it was, the veritable vat in the room, the china in the bull-closet. And then as I watched, a young man took a measuring cup and dunked his arm down into an opening in the vaguely pyramidical vat cover and out the cup came full of (fresh?) milk. He poured it into a bag, tied it up, tossed it into our shopping bag, and we were on our way.

Huh, I thought. That’s not what I was expecting.

Tonight we’re having a little get together with the other CASA fellows at Happy City hotel. I imagine it is staffed by muppets.

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