A little chocolate goes a long way.

I cannot remember exactly when I started giving away chocolate to pay a “menadee” – menadee is an Arabic word that literally translates to “the one who holloes”, which is used to refer to “street valets”: people who throughout the busy streets watch over the available parking spots and help drivers park (by pointing them to the empty slots; giving them, usually useless, parking directions; guarding cars left in no-parking spaces; or doing real valet work of driving the car to and from parking spots further off from the dropping point of the car if you agree to leave them key) in return for money of course, the amount of which varies from one neighborhood to another and with the time of day. 

‘am Sayed works as a “menadee” in Heliopolis, and he is full of stories about the history of the quarter where he works

I was saying I can’t remember exactly when I started giving chocolate, I know it was around Christmas time some years ago and I had accidentally spent the last pound I had on me on Christmas chocolate for my family, as I walked back to the car I reached into my shopping bag and went over to the menadee apologetically giving him a couple of chocolates and wishing him a happy season. And the almost childlike joy with which he graciously accepted the chocolate instead of money and returned my season’s greetings was beautifully rewarding.

yesterday on the street I got to share a couple of these chocolate eggs and exchange happy Easter greetings

I have since taken to, whenever practicable, giving some chocolate with the tipping money too: if I am parked to shop, and especially if I am buying some myself, I get a little chocolate or candy (everybody seems happier with chocolate though) for the menadee, and more especially so around holiday seasons. I know that, pragmatically speaking, perhaps some extra money in cash would be preferable to a gesture as it may help support them or feed their kids or pay for their tobacco habits, but I have yet to meet someone, even among the snarkiest of persons, who wasn’t genuinely happy to receive some chocolate.

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One response to “A little chocolate goes a long way.

  1. What an interesting custom… I live in a small town so am not used to having a parking problem… If I come to Cairo, I will bring chocolate. Thanks for the heads up.

your 2¢ please

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