The Government Bakery, Part Two

Note: For part one, click here; it was the first post Julie wrote on our blog. This post, for those concerned, was actually written before Julie gave birth, and is just being published now. I have stood in line myself by now a few times. Maybe as you read you will be more concerned, but that is for you to decide…

I went to buy some bread this morning.  I’ve been back to the government bakery many times since that first visit back in September.  We learned that really, it was the closest, and in some ways, most convenient place to buy bread.  I am almost feeling like an expert in this department, although I’m sure I have a lot to learn.  I’ve actually started shopping at a different government bakery than the first one with the bars and cockroaches, but those things are not the reasons I switched.  As I was learning my way in the neighborhood, one day I walked past the original government bakery and down a few blocks I saw more pita bread laying on the ground.  (Well, mostly on newspaper on the ground, or ledges above the ground.)  I thought it strange to see another bakery because this was literally less than three minutes walk from the first bakery, but I also noticed that the bread looked lighter than the other place.  I wasn’t too crazy about the other bread for some reason; it wasn’t like the bread we had in Jordan, maybe too much wheat?  Guess that’s more healthy, but when I saw this bread, it looked like it may be tastier.  So, I determined to try it the next time we needed bread.

Unfortunately, it took me a few trips to realize that this bakery does not have the same hours as the other one, and they close at 3 in the afternoon.  I had learned that if I visited the other bakery in the evening, maybe 6 or 7, I usually didn’t have to wait for bread at all.  That was wonderful, but it didn’t sound like I had that option here.  I would have to decide if the better taste was worth the longer wait.  So once I finally was able to visit this bakery while it was open, I found the order of things much the same as the other bakery.  When I asked the man who gave out the bread what time was the best to come, so as not to wait too long, he said that all times were the same … busy.  Oh well.

So, this morning I went to this second bakery to buy bread.  It opens at 7am, and as Egyptians in general like to stay up late at night, they don’t always rise so early in the morning.  I do think that the closer to 7am I can get there, the less wait time I will have.  Of course, I don’t really want to get up that early either, just to buy bread.  But, I got there around 7:30 and waited about half an hour before I got my turn in line.  This time also allows me to leave the girls at home with Jayson, if I go on a Saturday, and that saves them having to sit in the stroller for half an hour watching the people go by.  I noticed some new things this time.

First of all, they had a delivery happening at the time.  A large flatbed truck drove up with about 50 bags on it.  Two men walked back and forth with large hooks in their hands … carrying 50-kilo bags of flour (over 100 pounds).  They would stick the big hook in the bag then turn around as they kind of twisted the bag up onto their back and shoulders.  Looked like a lot of heavy work to me!  But they unloaded the whole truck before I got my bread.

When I first arrived, several ladies were sitting around waiting for their turn, and I walked to the line to get my place and one of the ladies there told me that two of the sitting ladies were before me.  I kind of liked how they had a system that allowed people to rest if they needed too.  Being 6 months pregnant, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand in line for half an hour, but being American, I felt like I needed to keep my place in line.  I didn’t exactly trust their system.  It worked, though, although I noticed that I got a little more stressed as people ahead of me were getting their bread, and my place in line wasn’t moving too much, and I felt like those ladies who were sitting should come stand in their place so we could move forward and assure that no one else would take our spot.  I didn’t ever lose my spot, but I did discover that there are actually three sections to the line, rather than two that I noticed before.  There is a men’s line and women’s line, as I mentioned last time, but these lines are for the people who want to buy about 20-30 pitas.  For those who only want to buy five pitas (for 4 cents) they can go right to the front of the line calling out their small order.  When I was there today, there were several of those women and they made their own line in between the men’s and women’s lines.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned that besides being the only non-Egyptian there, I am also the only non-head covered woman in the line.  At least that has been my experience every time I’ve bought bread.  One of these days I will have to ask some of my Christian Egyptian friends if they ever visit the government bakery.  So far, I haven’t noticed any.

So that’s the update on the bakery.  It’s the best deal in town for bread, although it does cost a bit of time.

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