I recently received a message asking about safety in Egypt, how it was settling in as a woman and how I dealt with living in Cairo. The answer requires several blog posts, but I sent the following reply instead. This could be the start of a ‘Surviving Cairo’ series (sounds like it would need its own blog, actually, but let’s scrap that idea for now!).
I understand the concerns of your family regarding Cairo’s safety, as it isn’t in the most stable political position at the moment, and recent happenings are a cause for concern. However, I generally believe Cairo to be safe, and I honestly wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t the case (especially since my employer would have all British nationals evacuated as we were during the revolution!).
Having said that, I have what I believe to be the advantage of being a woman of colour and a wearer of a headscarf, and thus my experiences might be somewhat different from someone who is openly viewed as being foreign. People usually can’t work me out because I dress as a Muslim woman, I’m black (like a Sudanese or even Nubian would be) and thus do not get hassled or bothered… and people make the mistake of speaking Arabic to me as though I would understand! This is all until I open my mouth and English spills forth; I am more of an amalgamation than some can handle, so I stick to the ‘From Nigeria’, response when asked where I’m from – London is not believable!
Let it be known, though: Egyptians really LOVE foreigners, as we are seen as being great spenders and thus a boost to the economy. They also love the opportunity to teach you: whether about religion, history or Arabic – everyone has a treasure to share, in my opinion.
The fact that Cairo isn’t teaming with foreigners post-revolution has led to staring being more in-your-face than usual, and in markets you are roped in left, right and centre! There is nothing harmful about it at all – people just want you to buy from them in order to be able to feed their families.
Living in Cairo isn’t for everyone: it is fast-paced, loud, hot, dirty, dusty, polluted, crowded and a few other not-so-nice adjectives. But I honestly LOVE it and take all of the above as being part of its character, and what makes Cairo unique and special for me. I must say, it can be daunting and even tasking at first, but once you learn to dance along with its rhythm, you become part of the Cairo beat.
Having friends around you is a MUST… really. I had three months of serious homesickness due to language isolation and generally lacking confidence in dealing with people who are more full of life than me – it was one of the lowest points in my life, and I could’ve easily gone back to the UK . But I’m glad I stuck it out – if there’s anywhere to learn about yourself and grow as a person, Cairo is the place.
In short: I think you’ll be fine, and you’ll love the cultural enrichment while here. I’ve learned so much in the 8 (almost 9) months that I’ve been here, and still feel that I’m learning.
– The Londoner
Some ‘blasts from the past’:
Posted on May 21, 2011, in Ruminations about Cairo, Surviving Cairo, Thru The Londoner's eyes and tagged Cairo, Egypt, Egyptians, frustrations, homesick, observations, reality, reflection, ruminations. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.