They sell all sorts of things in Tahrir Square, the flashpoint for the largest and most violent anti-government protests happening right now in Cairo. But even revolutionaries are consumers and street vendors are everywhere in the square. Some sell fresh juice, flags, rice, cigarettes, charred corn, vuvuzelas, and Pepsi. Then there are the opportunistic capitalists who peddle more useful wares for those who plan to protest hard: plastic construction helmets, goggles, and paper surgeon masks which come in handy due to the constant barrage of tear-gas shells.
Early Saturday morning, I strolled into Tahrir and at about 4:30AM, came upon one friendly teenage vendor and inquired about his model of hard hats. “Where are you from?,” he asked. I said New York instead of America in the hopes that this would make me sound less American. “Welcome to Egypt,” he said. His name was Mohammad. We shook hands and smiled. Within a few minutes, he asked me to watch his table so he can grab some coffee. “Are you sure that’s safe?” I asked. He smiled and walked away.
Standing behind his table, I was hopeful no one would try to buy anything let alone storm the table and steal everything once they realized the substitute vendor was in charge. But soon enough an older gentleman stopped by and pointed at at the goggles and inquired about the price. At least, that’s what assumed he was asking since he spoke Arabic. “Five pounds, ” I guessed, as a look of astonishment washed over his face as if he had never heard the language before. The man gave me a neutral smile and walked off. Then someone else came over. He was interested in a keefiyeh. He combed through the pile and inquisitively pointed at the pile of scarves. “Five pounds,” I said. Like the person before, he totally wasn’t’ expecting an English answer and he too walked away. Although I really was hoping to sell something, at this point I was content enough with making sure nothing got stolen.
Mohammad returned with two coffees in a piping hot glass mugs a few minutes later. He handed me one, even though I probably cost him two sales.
In return, I hope that this post makes up for it. He’s located on the eastern side of Tahrir. Here are his prices and the market rate of other items in the area:
Hard Hat: 10 Egyptian Pounds ($1.65)
Goggles: 5 Egyptian Pounds (Less than a dollar)
Keefiyeh: 5 Egyptian Pounds (Less than a dollar)
Surgeon mask: 1 Egyptian Pound (About 16 cents)
Scream, Skeleton and Anonymous Masks: 10 Egyptian Pounds ($1.65)
Vuvuzela: 5 Egyptian Pounds. (Less than a dollar)