Friday, July 22, 2011

Missing Egypt

Lately I've been missing Egypt and my family there. It's been on my mind a lot so what better time to write about it? I am not from Egypt, but my husband is. I remember studying Egypt way back in 6th grade. As I sat in Mrs. Machado's class learning about the pyramids, I never imagined I would actually see them in person. But I have. Egypt is not what I expected in a lot of ways. I don't know why but I didn't expect it to be so busy. I didn't really expect there to be a city literally steps away from the Giza pyramids. I always thought they were more remote. And the traffic, well I certainly didn't expect it to beat out New York City in craziness.

As I said my husband is Egyptian and the majority of his family is still there. My first trip to Egypt also meant my first meeting with most of my in-laws. That's a scary enough experience, but add in a foreign country and a language barrier and things can get pretty awkward. We stayed with my husband's mother and she is a very nice woman. We just weren't sure what to expect from each other and communicating was difficult. I speak a little Arabic, although I am able to understand more than I can actually say, and my mother-in-law speaks a little English. We got by, but there weren't any in-depth conversations. My brothers-in-law are two of the nicest, most awesome guys ever. Growing up I always wanted a brother or two (I got stuck with a younger sister) and they quickly filled the role. My husband has a very large family so I won't go into detail on them all, but I will say his Aunt is awesome, so much fun and his cousin Reham is quite possibly the sweetest girl I have ever met. I love them all.

When we left the Cairo airport, I was glued to the window. I couldn't believe I was actually in Egypt. It seemed like a dream. But, getting into an accident 5 minutes from the airport is a nice reality check. Don't worry, it was just a fender bender but it was my first experience with the insane driving in Cairo. Let me put it this way, traffic laws do exist. People just choose not to follow them for the most part and they aren't really enforced. Crossing a street can mean literally risking your life. I would never even attempt to drive in Cairo, and I admire anyone brave enough to do so.

Egypt is a blend of the modern and the more old fashioned and primitive. It's not a wealthy country and many people struggle to get by. A large number of Egyptians live below the international poverty line. This is one issue that sparked the recent protests and overthrowing of Mubarak. But, Egyptians are proud of what they do have and they value it. It's completely different than the self entitled attitude that's so prevalent in the states. Egyptians in general are very hard working and yet easygoing. In the states it's far too common to encounter rude, snippy and unhappy workers. It wasn't like this in Egypt. I don't mean that everything was all rainbows and sunshine because that's not realistic. But I will say that every single person I interacted with was very nice, very friendly and polite. It's a refreshing change to have a waiter who smiles and doesn't treat your kids as a nuisance or a sales woman who is genuinely happy to help you. Which brings me to another point. Egyptians in general are very nice people. They're nice to each other and they were nice to this outsider. The only dirty looks I was aware of were from a few other girls trying to figure out which brother I was married to lol. It was quite funny to see them look at me, look at my children, then look at my husband and his brothers and try to determine which one had married the white chick.

There's a charm to Egypt that is really hard to explain unless you've been there. There's not really one thing that you can point to and say that's what it is that draws you in. It's a combination of things. It's waking up to the Adhan (call to prayer) in the mornings, the greeting of a stranger as you pass on the streets, the Egyptian child who smiles shyly at the foreigner, the history, the life and movement of the streets, the colors in the market and so much more. I may not be from Egypt, but it has claimed a permanent piece of my heart.

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