I crisscross my way down a narrow side street in Cairo. My borrowed driver, Ahmed, walks behind me protectively, occasionally putting out his arm to ensure that I am not jostled by the oncoming onslaught of people laden with packages. While walking, I glance at a nearby juice stand, admiring the precarious balance of gaudy cut fruit on the rims of tall glasses. Ahmed inquires whether I might like a drink and motions me in.
The juice shop owner is perched on a stool behind an enormous antique cash register. A juice making man stands at the ready behind a tin counter, swabbed to perfection, and topped by two blenders. Ahmed asks for an orange juice, and I order one of the complicated concoctions that first caught my attention. I sip my juice awkwardly trying to navigate around the large chunks of fruit without a spoon. Ahmed, seeing my situation, implores the juice maker to do something. After concerned discussion, my glass is emptied into a blender, a generous heaping of strawberries added, and the machine springs into action. I then am presented with a second full glass. Everyone watches anxiously as I take my first sip. It is frothy and delicious, and I pronounce it the best juice I have ever tasted. On the way out, Ahmed clasps enthusiastically the hands of the juice maker and the shop owner, tenderly referring to them as habibi, or darling in Arabic, and promising return visits. When I try to pay, the shop keeper vehemently refuses. He puts his hand on his heart, in that uniquely Arab way, and repeats Welcome to Egypt several times, with elegant bows of the head. There is much broad smiling all around.
Walking back to the car, I am strangely elated. I am comforted by this small proof of goodness. I feel positively about things to come. I am the Queen of Juice. And right now there is nothing else I would rather be.
Image by Gomef.