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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Women Have Come a Long Way in Cairo

Today we headed downtown to a pillow store in the Bab Zuella district of Cairo.  Parking is at a premium in this area and we encountered a first - a woman operating as a "sayes," or parking attendant.  You frequently hear the terms thief, thug or mafia associated with these self-appointed "parking attendants", so seeing a woman in the position was a startling event. Every area of town has one or several parking attendants. To find a parking place you merely slow your car near the spot you want to park and they will typically find you. The attendant will direct you to an open space and voila, you're parked.

Now, in this case, the sayes said, "Before you get out of the car , I need thirty pounds." (about two dollars).  This was for a spot where we double parked near the street of the tentmakers.  Driver, Roshdy, said to us later, "She is a tough lady."

But everything in Egypt is negotiable.  We got by for twenty pounds instead, saving us 60 cents.

I have long wondered how these "parking attendants" acquired their authority over a particular stretch of street.  Is this "family" territory?  It appears that, in fact, they do operate a bit like a mafia organization.  If an interloper appears, the surrounding soyas (plural of sayes is soyas) appear and move him out.  Articles here, here and here.

The sayes is just another of Cairo's peculiarities with regard to driving and traffic.

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