Donkey Drivers

You see them on the horizon. Look down. Avoid Eye Contact. Do not acknowledge them. Fake a phone call. Start crying. Alas, your effort is futile. Whether you like it or not, the dreaded moment will come where you are clotheslined by an arm trying to get you to buy perfume from their kiosk in the middle of the mall. Turns out, this isn’t just a modern day frustration - we’ve been suffering worldwide for over 100 years, minimum.

Although 1905 Cairo didn’t have an infestation of pushy perfume salesmen, they did have “donkey boys”. These guys would call after you, bothering you, insisting you use their donkeys to get to your next location. Our complainer who wrote the correspondent was offended they’d think he’d even consider taking anything but a cab. Donkey boys seem like our kiosk worker on steroids; the only thing that’s stopping the residents of Cairo from hitting them is the fact that there’s a police officer too close.

The solution sought is to get a shawish (meaning Police or Army Sergeant) to make a law against their badgering solicitation. As the complainer remarks, ““No reproof has any effect unless it be to bring a flow of filthy language”… which might be the most British way to say “cussing them out is all that works!”

Elizabeth Barrett
Elizabeth Barrett

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in spring 2017.