Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Immmshi!": 6 Things All Expats Think In Egypt

Egypt is the most confusing country in the world. I cannot lie, and I therefore have to admit that it is the worst place a person could live. There is nothing I really like about it very much, and still, over a year later I am still sitting here, on the shores of the Red Sea, glancing over the Sinai peninsula, and find myself unable to leave. There are terrible thoughts us expats all have about Cairo every day, but then sometimes one of these really good thoughts finds its way into our brain, and we eventually ignore all of the others. If you meet an expat that hasn't had the following thoughts at some point, buy them a drink:

"If I hear one more honk I'm going to scream or destroy something!"
I laugh when my LA friends tell me about traffic problems in the City of Angels. One has not experienced how traffic can destroy a day and change anger management skills until one has visited Cairo: third row parking, a ridiculous infrastructure and organization, terrible road conditions and 20 million people slapping their horns like their lives depend on it (which they kind of do!). As a result, there is no place in Cairo where the absence of a honking car can be enjoyed, including the one and only park in the city, that is tied in noise disturbances via traffic and loud families gathering on the daily. A new Cairo resident may think the constant noise won't get to them, but eventually it does, and before the head explodes they flee to the desert or Sinai.

"Why is a seemingly easy thing so hard around here?!"
Last night, I took an overnight bus to Sinai. I have taken overnight buses in half a dozen countries but only in Egypt it's torture. You can consider yourself lucky if the speakers don't blast "Let's Get Loud" at four in the morning. Last night, I was lucky as the bus driver "only" played the Quran all night at night club volume. You know you're close to breaking down when you start praying to God to make him stop singing although every other word is "Allah". At the same time, a passport check in Egypt takes about an hour where it should really just be a matter of seconds. Even shopping, taking the bus, extending your visa or using your GPS, seemingly straightforward activities, may result in a nervous breakdown in Egypt because around here the motto clearly is "why have it easy if we can make it hard?"

"I wonder where this weight gain is coming from?"
Now this one can go both ways: either you lose lots of weight living in Egypt because you have constant diarrhea or just decide not to eat that crap they're serving you, or you ignore these sentiments and eat that poison. Gluten and Grease, the two Gs of every Egyptian meal, slowly but surely kill you. And if the diet won't, the air will; pollution and second-hand smoking has ruined my skin and lungs. They say one day living and breathing in Cairo equals 50 cigarettes. I believe it! One Egyptian friend of mine once told me he "does not trust air he cannot see". I now find myself lounging on the beach because I needed to stop coughing which was never going to happen in Cairo. The sad but inevitable truth is that this city will try to kill you, but there's always an escape which is about the best thing there is about here!

"OMG, this view is gorgeous!"
Yes, there are a hundred reasons to hate Cairo, and then there's one to love it: when you sit on a felucca on the Nile, overlooking the skyline of Zamalek, or find yourself a 10 dollar bus ride away from the miracle that is Dahab in the South Sinai, you cannot help but to wonder what you did to deserve such blessings. I hate Cairo every day of my life, but it's the only place in the world that allows me to live a professional life I worked hard for, make quite some cash and offer up the opportunity to have weekends away in the Sahara or St Catherin'e Mountains, formerly home to the Ten Commandments. Moses showed quite some taste back in the day, temporarily settling in Sinai when he lead his people out of Egypt although his reasons were better than mine. I'm only slightly prosecuted as a female, white journalist but they actually pay me... quite well! So I get to see all the gorgeousness this country has to offer only because I'm apparently tough enough to ignore the horrors of Cairo.

"Look at these foreigners thinking they know it all!"
When I first came to Egypt, I thought I was a well-traveled, open-minded individual that gets people and makes good decisions. This soon turned out to be a huge misconception. I was quite quickly aware I was the Jon Snow of Egypt with my dress sense and willingness to adapt. Some of these cultural things, including flirting, was just not going to work for me. I vowed to not change my Western-ness, and got into a fight with my Egyptian boyfriend over how many buttons on my shirt I should close. Fact is I just did not know and made the wrong decision. Even worse than the foreigners that believe their way is superior are the ones that come to "experience the real Egypt", which seems to mean sleep with Egyptians as fast as possible, drink disgusting Egyptian beer in crappy "authentic" pubs and proclaim foul and falafel to be your ultimate favorite food. I was the new foreigner myself once (well, not really, but I'll take it for the argument!), but since I'm not anymore I can now be Egyptian about it and judgmentally think "Oh, honey!".

"I will never find a partner!"
This one is a tricky one, because the initial expat thought is "how will I choose between all these people that like me?" Depending on one's intelligence, however, one will soon find out it's not the most genuine interest. After having watched a few failed relationships or romances, I have yet to find someone who truly believes they will find lasting love in Egypt. Cultural difference is just too much of a thing, and even those who try to be different eventually accept defeat. I don't belong to the demographic that has given up on Egyptian partners despite having had a boyfriend who was too Egyptian for his own good, but the sentence "I'll never date and Egyptian again!", has been uttered by pretty much every expat I ever met here.

No comments:

Post a Comment