Yalla (Let’s Go!) by I Am Rey (BLW Contributor)

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Yalla

1) A very popular term originating from Arabic meaning “Hurry up” or “Come on”. 

2) Can also be used as “all right” in some cases (usually while coming to a mutual agreement). 

3) Pronunciation: the Y is said like any other Y. the two A’s are pronounced like the letter ‘U’ in the word “Blunt”. The L’s are prolonged and are said by placing the tip of the tongue on the middle of the roof of your mouth (Like the French ‘L’).

Examples:

1) Yalla let’s go we’re late! 

2) Yalla bye.

OK so it was a Tuesday, probably around 8:30 am (Cairo time) I had to get my passport straightened out.. My tourist visa had expired, and I had waited long enough.. My cousin Craig and I decided that we would make a day out of our trip to Mogamma. We set out to catch a taxi on Rd. 90 in Kattameya which is one of the newly developed areas in Cairo, hence why they call it “New Cairo”. So we attempted to flag an approaching taxi, but they had a passenger inside already.. “GREAT!”.. At this point we’ve already been waiting for over 20 minutes and if you knew Craig you would know that he wasn’t one for waiting (haha, Oh Boy). We had a private driver named Mustafah who would take us around from time to time, but he had other clients as well.. This day he wasn’t available.

Typically we would try to get a modern taxi,  as some of the older taxi’s meter tend to be “rigged”, they’re usually smaller, and the driver can sense that you’re a foreigner from a mile away.. Finally we get a taxi. The driver’s name is Ahmed, he greets us with hellos and quickly test’s our Arabic. “Where you go?” Ahmed asks. “We want to go to Mogamma” Craig says. Ahmed and my cousin agree on a price, as we didn’t want to spend more than 35 EGP, which is about $4.50 Usd.

Ahmed is a tall, slender guy probably around the age of 21. He was fixated with my cousin’s hair, at the time he had Locs which usually was a conversation starter. The Egyptians loved this hairstyle, it was “trending” in Cairo at the time so Ahmed had loads of questions “Can you wash?” “Can I get this style?”. At this point  they’re pretty much  doing most of the talking, while I sight see from the back of the taxi.

We’re driving down the freeway, passing several stores as well as people selling bread,water and tissue on roadsides. I’m a city girl, so this isn’t out of the norm to see back in Baltimore, “Hustlers” as I like to call them. It goes to show that the world isn’t that different after all, some differences, but more often than not we share similar situations. We come up on a bridge and I can see the Nile River. I’m just in a daze.

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I began to day dream about the history of Egypt, the Pyramids and how it must have been years ago before influenced by the Western world. I’m here miles and miles away from family and home, and its really starting to sink in..”THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID!!” Is all I hear from the front of the cab.

Now at this point I happen to glance at the meter and its already close to 30 EGP I start to get a little nervous as I hear my cousin and the driver getting into a little scuffle over the price. Ahmed is upset because there is a 30 minute traffic jam and thinks that we should pay more because of it..“YALLA!!! YALLA!!!” Ahmed yells out the window to the other drivers as it’s overly crowded in the street.

The heat is rising as the day goes as well as tempers. at this time there is no more pleasantries and small talk, just stone faces. We finally pick up some speed. We get to Mogamma around 11:00 am. The price was definitely over the previously negotiated amount, so I began to grab my things “with the quickness”. I can see the anxiety in Ahmed’s face as he’s waiting for his fare. “LA!.. LA!” (which means NO in Arabic). Craig handed him the 35 EGP despite what the meter said. 

Ahmed was understandably upset and in hindsight we probably would have given him what he asked, but we felt as though we were being taken advantage of because we’re “foreigners”. “Look, I’ll give you this” Craig says as he hands Ahmed some spare change. Ahmed glared and said “LA-AH!!”. So Craig and I were like “OK”(shrugs). As we began walking towards the Embassy, out of the corner of my eye, I see Ahmed running towards us…..
(Mogamma)

Check out other great articles from I Am Rey

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