Saturday, September 11, 2004

Car Mechanics and Arab Aqueducts

A couple of days ago I had to drive into Maadi to get a fax and to send a fax out immediately afterwards to help provide my daughter with school money. As soon as I got onto the freeway that leads over the Nile, a horrifying racket began coming from my car and I pulled over to the side immediately. As I was looking rather helplessly under the hood a friend of mine called me on the mobile to report that she was almost in Sharm. I told her what had happened and she said that she would call a good mechanic who would be able to get to me quickly. I also called my neighbour Morad who said that he'd be right there as soon as possible.

So there I was in the September sunshine standing by the side of the highway with a car that wouldn't start wondering how I would get the faxes taken care of. Two policemen walked up, being on the beat that has them walking that section of the freeway to help stranded motorists, and we had one of the all too common conversations about how one of them wanted to emigrate to Canada. So often it's the land of milk and honey fallacy and these young men don't realise that they are likely to be washing dishes in Montreal rather than being able to start a successful business right away.

Finally Mona's mechanic drove up and began examining my currently useless Jeep. He found a problem with a broken fan belt, a dead battery and a cracked drum that appeared to be the source of the problem, and Morad drove up just as Mohamed looked up from the engine of my car. Shouts of laughter rang out as it turned out that Morad and Mohamed were old friends and business acquaintances. Mohamed has been trying to put Morad's unbelievably dilapidated Jeep Wrangler back in working order for about a year. He'd have an easier job of it but Morad is building a house and never has enough money to go around.

We sorted my car out sufficiently to go to Mohamed's workshop just under the Cairo Aqueduct, an old section of the city. Meanwhile Morad loaned me his red monster, lacking any mirrors or roof to go do my faxing chores. My car was repaired and returned shortly after I arrived home with Morad's Jeep and today we went to settle the bill with Mohamed. His workshop is a narrow street where his mechanic helpers lie on old strips of cardboard while they change axles, or adjust drive shafts in a variety of jeeps. A couple of college aged young men sipped tea while they watched one of the men drain some brake fluid and dismantle various parts of their car.

With the backdrop of the old Arab aqueduct built to serve the Citadel with Nile water, this streetside car shop set amid houses that were at least 200 years old was a change from the local Mobil station. We have modern car repair shops but all too often the workmen in the official shops don't do such a good job while they run clandestine shops in their spare time where they put in good work. Welcome in Egypt.

1 comment:

Cori said...

I really enjoy your blog!