I first want to give credit to my inspiration for this post to the author of “The missing ingredient to happiness” which can be found here.
I love stories. They help to bring a concept to life. This is about an experience that helped teach me the meaning of true happiness.
I arrived in Cairo, Egypt, with a group of individuals who had in common a quest to learn more about life and their spiritual beliefs. What an amazing group of people to be with. No judgement, only kindness and open minds. We were all here to learn from one another. No one person had all the answers. We would visit the temples along the Nile to learn about their ancient spiritual practices and to engage in our own conversation.
My friend Jeff and I decided to venture out on our own to see the pyramids. We hailed down an old and run down cab and gave the driver instructions to bring us to the Great Pyramid. We drove off. It was about 10 minutes into the ride when the driver asked if it would be okay to stop at his brother’s place to pick something up. The question made us nervous. We just wanted to get to the pyramid. We were in a strange country and did not like the idea of stopping. However, one of the lessons we were here to learn was patience, so it only seemed appropriate that we agree to his request.
We arrived at some sort of storefront. It was an older building and looked run down. We sat in the cab as he went inside. He came out with a package along with his brother. The cab driver introduced his brother to us. He asked why we were there and we simply responded “to see the sights”. He then asked if we would like to come in and join his family for tea. He seemed nice, but the request made my friend an I uncomfortable. With some additional encouragement, we looked at each other and said okay.
There were several old but usable folding chairs in what appeared to be a perfume shop. There were a lot of strong scents in the air. We sat down and were joined by several other men. Most spoke in their native language so we had no idea what they were saying. This made us both more nervous. “What were they saying?” we wondered and asked each other. The tea came out and their conversation continued. They poured us both tea which we felt obliged to accept. However, we set the cups down next to our chair and did not pick them back up. “What could have been in the tea?” we wondered.
Each minute that passed seemed like an eternity. We were more nervous with every passing minute. I looked at my watch repeatedly hoping that this would signal our desire to move on. The brother came over to us and asked if we needed anything. We stated that we wanted to get to the pyramids. He asked if we would like to see some of his oils. Knowing that we were outnumbered, we said okay, assuming he wanted us to purchase something. Anything now to get out of here.
He brought over some small vials of different oils. They smelled great, but we had no idea what they were. He seemed genuine but we were both uncomfortable. I then decided to tell him that we wanted to leave. He looked at me with a puzzled look. He apologized for delaying us and asked why we were in such a hurry. I decided not to hold anything back so I replied, “Look, we are not comfortable sitting here. What do you want from us? We only have a few dollars and were not interested in buying anything. We just wanted to go and see the pyramids!” He smiled and then asked if we were American. “Oh %$#$” I thought, “are we being kidnapped. We better not admit to being American.” But by this time Jeff had said yes.
He smiled and asked why Americans always seemed to be so tense and in such a hurry. He seemed genuine with his question. So I responded, “Okay, well it is not ordinary that we are asked to stop someplace by the cab driver and then be invited in for tea. I am curious, what do you want from us?” There was total silence in the room. I did not care if I had offended him, I did not feel safe here.
He looked puzzled and wanted to know why we were so uncomfortable. My teacher was ready to challenge his student — me! He then went on to tell us that this was daily ritual, to share tea with their friends and family. They loved to meet visitors and it did not matter whether we bought anything or not. He then went on to tell us about their lifestyle which was simple and revolved completely aroung their families and community. They treasured these moments and considered themselves so fortunate.
There was no passage in any book, video, or anything that could have compared to the impact that this had on us. We came from a way of life where few trusted each other. Being offered something meant that we were expected to buy something in return, after all there was no free lunch. Back home we were all in a hurry to get everywhere fast. I decided to fess up and tell him exactly what I was feeling earlier. He seemed so perplexed to hear about such fears. He could not understand why we would feel this way. I was not very proud of myself at that moment.
He appreciated our honesty and we went on to have one of the best conversations ever. We learned what a day in the life was like in Cairo and a lot about our own impatience. About an hour later he asked if we wanted to see the Great Pyramid. It was funny since we had totally forgotten about our original destination. After we finished our tea, he asked one of his family members to go and fetch some camels. We couldn’t believe it, they were about to give us a guided tour of the area on camel!
We went on to see areas most tourists would never see. Our guides had connections that allowed us to see parts of the pyramid closed to tourists. We then rode out into the desert to watch the sunset. It was an amazing time, a highlight of our trip, and a lasting memory. More importantly it was a lesson I would never forget. Although it is a challenging world out there, and one needs to take appropriate cautions, there are many wonderful people out there. Taking time to get to know them can be so rewarding personally and spiritually. I would forever travel this way going forward, always taking time out to spend time with the locals to understand their way of life and from this experience discover something else about the world around us, and about myself.
Oh, and yes, the Great Pyramid was amazing. Mind blowing actually to see how they were assembled and to wonder how this was done.