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An Eyewitness Account

by Samir Raafat
EGYPTIAN MAIL, February 19, 1996

MAADI, FEBRUARY 13. At about 14:00 a white Blazer tore through one of the town's narrower streets and before you could shout Uncle Sam, the powerful 4x4 collided with an incoming car at the intersection of Roads 13 & 84. It then swerved onto the curb and smashed into an iron pole, taking with it a cactus tree and a power utility box. 

Because of its size and bulk, the 4X4 was unscathed save for a few dents on its steel bumper. The other car, a red 1970s Mercedes belonging to a respected businessman, remained at the intersection most of its front and side damaged. By divine intervention no one was hurt although the driver of the Mercedes was visibly shaken.

The aftermath of the collision is what this story is about. It concerns the behavior of the driver and passengers of the Blazer (diplomatic license plate No.57/13148), three sturdy-looking Caucasian Americans --military grunts in their early 20s. Whatever their reasons, they holed up inside the 4X4 and refused to talk to the injured party. Using a CB, one of them called for assistance.

First to arrive from the US embassy was Ahmed, a US Embassy walkie-talkie-waving employee. The GIs spoke with him through a small crack in their car window. Perhaps they were scared from the few fasting (it's Ramadan) lackadaisical gardeners! 

A half hour later, a green, diplomatic-licensed plate, four-wheel drive with trouble-shooter GI Chowder at the wheel, arrived. Within seconds the three GIs were whisked out of the area.

96-02-19By then a courteous police officer showed up from the local precinct. After some cursory statements by Ahmed who had not seen the accident, he left with the relevant drivers' license in hand. Accompanying him was the injured party.

What befuddled the few eyewitnesses is that the Air Force boys never once extended any show of sympathy or apology to the owner of the car that had just been totaled. 

It was obvious to everyone on the scene that from his behavior and appearance the injured party was a clean cut white collar person. Could it be the GIs had never met a gentleman before? That to them he was invisible, or perhaps not worthy of amends? Too them he was simply a local! 

Would the GIs have behaved the same way had the injured party been another Caucasian American?

To the GIs the incident may have seemed trivial. An ocurence easily washed down with a couple of cold beers and a few racial wisecracks at the embassy's marine bar --"did you see the look on that Aaa-rab's face?" 

"Yeah, awesome! 

But to the onlookers the accident reeked with racial overtones.

Notwithstanding embassy procedures regarding accidents, when Ambassador Walker reads these lines one hopes he will redress the impression left by his GI's. 

Having been a student at the American University in Cairo Walker is aware this is not a country of thugs and highway hoods. Today, as senior American in Egypt, he must convey to his large embassy staff and to his military attaches, that extending the local population with a minimum amount of courtesy will not hurt. He should also inform them Egypt consists of 66 million individuals, not all of them terrorists. Pretending Egyptians are invisible or treating them as second class citizens is not conducive to good relations between the peoples of these two nations.

Walker could also ask for a review of the 'standard procedure manual' section under 'car accidents'. As it stands now, its rigid directives leave a bad impression all around.

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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