Being a well brought-up Englishman, I can’t help but open doors, let people pass, and generally be quite polite whilst navigating a city. Here in the Middle East, this instantly identifies you as a khawaaja — a foreigner. (Having said that, it did so in Paris, too…)
From the Hamidiyeh souq of Damascus, to Amman’s Downtown, to the bustle of Khan al-Khalili in Cairo & Alexandria’s Anfushi souq, one thing remains constant: you are going to get pushed around. Cairo, with its population of 18 million people, exemplifies the lack of awareness people can have for those around them.
And then there’s queuing. Or the lack of it. Be it the people before a ticket seller’s window, crowded around vendor in the market, or packed in an office waiting for some form of bureaucracy (another thing prevalent in the Middle East), then you can be sure that there will not be a queue, but rather a scrum.
I found this at times rather frustrating, but now I just go with it. When it comes to queuing, I adapt to la foule, brandishing the odd elbow, although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up that English chivalry.