I first met Mahmoud on a very normal day; getting into a cab, fretting about whether this cabbie will understand me or my very broken Arabic, take me on another joy ride around Maadi, whether his metre will be rigged, whether he will have change, whether he will harrass me, you know the usual.
But it turns out Mahmoud was the most pleasant taxi driver I've ever met, with perfect English and if I remember correctly, shared the joys of Ramadan with me. So I got his number and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Over the course of 2 months or so, the girls and I have grown to love Mahmoud as our personal chauffeur, bodyguard, tourist guide, someone we look up to, someone we turn to.
When Mahmoud invited us to his home, his lovely wife prepared a gastronomical Egyptian meal for us (the best maashi ever!) and we danced the night away under the guidance of Mahmoud's sweet daughter and neighbour who spared us a few hip turning lessons.
In the commonly bumper-to-bumper traffic of Cairo, Mahmoud shared the wise wisdom of his father, the joys of growing up with values an utmost priority in his upbringing, the dismay in the lost of such emphasis in today's world in pursuit of material wealth. Mahmoud shared the days when his father was home early from work, spending precious time with each of his children, ensuring they are on the right track and Mahmoud's decision to return from Qatar and Saudi to be close to his family, regret of such years when he was abroad and missed the opportunity to watch his son grow up and be his guiding pillar.
As with most heroes, I like to share what they mean to me. Mahmoud, being this amazingly honest and kind taxi driver (which is unfortunately near extinct in Cairo) means foreign females like myself can travel safely in this mega city.Beyond that, it's Mahmoud's value of how he sees people; all the same, Christians or Muslims, rich or poor, black or white, and treat them just the same, which garners him the respect which he so truly deserves.
And above all, it's how he treats us, like family, opening his home, his family to welcome us, which fortunately is very commonly Egyptian, hospitality you'll never find anywhere else in the world. Mahmoud was with me outside the waiting room, translating what the doctor said, yes it's still a broken foot. A ride in Mahmoud's taxi, complete with Sponge Bob Square Pants greeting you at the front seat is very much a joy ride and if you're lucky, you'll walk away with more than just a smile, with some words of wisdom, a story or two, and a great friend intact!
Contributor: Veronica Yow (Cairo)