Sunday, March 28, 2010

Light Bulbs and Train Tracks

Just so you know…I’m not usually the kind of person who waltzes into a grocery store to steal price tags from the aisles. But the other day I took one, anyway. I didn’t have my camera on me, see, and the hilarity of it had to be preserved. Forgive me.

I can now totally understand why I can rarely find the price tag for the items I want to purchase. People steal them because they are too darn funny not to. I will try not to complain about this in the future since I, myself, recently contributed to the lack of signage in Egyptian grocery stores…and all the chaos and confusion that entails.

It’s not like this sign was really helping anyone, anyway:


Phillips for his own…what? Urine.

40 watt urine, at that.

It took awhile but Andrew figured out what they might have been trying to communicate. Kind of.

In Arabic it says: Phillips lamba bula 40 watt…

لمبة is a transliteration of the English word “lamp” but since we’re in Egypt and speaking Arabic p and b are interchangeable. Thus, it’s “lam-ba.”

بولة was meant to be a transliteration of the English word “bulb.”
Unfortunately, they forgot to put a ‘b’ at the end of the word (بولب) and instead put a taa marbuta. Now instead of “bulb” it says “bula,” which means “pee.”

Whoever translated the Arabic to the English did it quite literally, without questioning the original translation of the English information on the box into Arabic.

All of that and we still didn’t end up buying  a light bulb.

Instead we headed home only to get stuck on the wrong side of the tracks while a train passed through town. Train crossings are ridiculous and I cursed myself a second time for not having a camera with us that evening while I watched evermore pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks crowd the tracks.

Our side was only one lane wide because there is a barrier preventing our lane from splitting into more than one. However, across the tracks the one-lane of traffic had spilled into our lane and then multiplied so we were facing four lanes of traffic head-on.

Everyone was honking and leaning out their windows to yell at the police officer directing traffic. I have no idea what they were yelling, but it probably went something like this:

“Hey! What’s going on? Why have we stopped?”

“There’s a train.”

“What? I don’t want to wait. Why can’t I go?”

“Well, because there’s a train on the tracks.”


Seriously, people. When it’s you verses several tons of steel, you just simmer down and let the train pass.

In the words of a Brit who was standing next to us,

“Idiots! Stop ‘onkin’! It’s not goin’a ‘elp!”

Oh, Egypt…I’m going to miss you…


  1. What a great description of the cluster that occurs when the train passes. I know the exact midan you're describing. It really does get ridiculous there.

  2. Man, I love the Brits (as you know), so logical and awesome at queueing.

    38 days!