Goodbye Cairo

Cairo, you have worked your way under my skin, I love you and hate you equally. I love the fact that in this sprawling quagmire of a city you can still randomly stick your hand out for a taxi and be greeted with ” Ah Miss Maria, el bayt?” (home?)

I hate the fact that even though you know the fare costs 2.50 you give 5le and the supposedly pious zebeeba adorned driver says its 10le…..the driver last night nearly lost his teeth and the hubby his hand, thieving chancer, needless to say he was lucky to get his 5le (that’s 50p to my non Egypt based readers)….yes it’s worth a row for 25p it’s the principle of the thing.

I love the fact that the plumber yesterday, here to fix my toilet just gave us his monkey wrench. We asked to borrow it to change the gas cylinder and he said no problem just keep it. Well, we think that’s what our broken Arabic translated it as….we still have it and he left with smiles, along with his 7 year old assistant Mohamed whom I hope was his son. His generosity was humbling, but I hate the fact that Mohamed was not at school where he should have been.

I love the fact that the kind policemen who found my dog returned the reward saying it was just their job. But I hate the fact that corruption, baksheesh and bribes is part of daily life.

It’s the juxtaposition of kindness and goodness and god damned outrageous exploitation that I still find fascinating, and if truth be told I will never figure it out. There is so much hope for this country, the people here are some of the kindest most generous I’ve met anywhere, but, but, but, there are an awful lot of bad apples. There appears to be two nations running in parallel, I just hope the shit doesn’t float to the top. (Apologies for the language but this will be my last post from Cairo and I really want to say it how it is)

We came under Mubarak, we’ve had a revolution, Morsi, a coup (touchy point) and now we will leave under Sisi. I can’t help thinking its come full circle, the only constant being the army. The excitement and enthusiasm for change after the Jan 25 revolution has dissipated, evaporated, the expectation of change was so high, ok maybe unrealistic, idealistic, but you could palpably feel it on the street. Morsi was not the man to deliver this change, his vision was skewed, backed by an agenda. I’m reminded of some old graffiti just as I say that, here you go, this was under Morsi

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As from Sunday Sisi will be the new president, what change will he bring? The international media are focused on the very restrictive protest law, the crackdowns on freedom of assembly and expression and the trials of journalists for simply doing their job. The local media is full of pictures of adorning Sisi fans, parties to celebrate his victory. In true Egyptian style at one such party in Giza three people died from being hit accidentally by celebratory gunfire, go figure!

I truly hope Egypt grows and flourishes and once again becomes a country to be proud off, not with a nationalistic fervour, and flag waving, but as an example of what can be achieved by caring for its resources, its people, and perhaps most importantly steadfastly building decent education for all it’s inhabitants regardless of the thickness of their wallet or connections. But it’s a massive task ahead and although the graffiti above is from Morsi’s time, the people still need bread.

I hope change can come for the sake of the rude lawyer who jumped in front of me in the queue in Seoudi and ended up with my trolley up his backside and rolling on the floor. You were no more important than me or anyone else in the queue, I hope your money and wasta loses its leverage here.

I hope change can come for the little street kids outside the metro who pester me everyday with their tissues for sale. I know you don’t get to keep the money honey, I hope the cruel “madams” who run you end up in jail very soon.

I hope change can come for the spoilt little rich kids who will never amount to anything whilst they are pampered and cruise round Cairo like little kings, above the law, with their parents buying their way out of every problem.

I hope change can come for all the good, kind, honest hardworking Egyptians I have met. You all deserve better, may you get it soon.

Finally in the words of Vinny Jones, “it’s been emotional” Cairo you have provided a roller coaster ride for five years. Lots of highs and lows, but my overwhelming feeling of the journey is one of “what a ride”. I am so glad I came, I have no regrets, Egypt I wish you well, Goodbye “Irish eyes on Cairo”, Ma Salama. Hello “Irish eyes on Delhi” Namaste, what have you got in store for me?

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Lessons Learnt

It’s coming up on five years since I arrived in Egypt so I thought I would reflect and jot down some lessons learnt. I’ll start with the obvious, here goes.

1 Bukra inshallah, (tomorrow, god willing) means no chance whatsoever, come back next week

2 Anything followed by inshallah means not a hope, God appears to have no interest in anything remotely connected to time.

3 No Egyptian will ever be heard saying “I don’t know”

4 Should you stop to ask for directions you will receive them, accompanied with multiple hand gestures but they will be wrong.

5 The address you are seeking will be called into question, the street number will be non-existent, in fact it will all be your fault, see number 3 above.

6 Expat females are all hoes, the fact you flaunt your hair, wrists and ankles proves it.

7 Sleeping is a national pastime. Police and bowabs appear to be the champions of this. Rifle barrels are an acceptable form of chin rests during sleeping sessions.

8 Workmen carry their tools in black plastic bags. Their tools consist of bent nails, one handled pliers, and a knife.

9 Telling lies is perfectly acceptable, it’s your fault for asking. It’s always your fault.

10 All foreigners are spies, either for Israel or the Americans. All Egyptians who don’t love Field Marshal Sisi are also spies, but they spy for Qatar, Al Jazeera or the Muslim brotherhood, who are essentially all viewed as being one in the same.

11 Everything made in China is viewed as rubbish. Everything made in Egypt is excellent. The fact that the Egyptian microbuses resemble wonka toys is irrelevant, you can add Mitsushit to the side to make it fancy.

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12 Everyone is a drug addict. Antibiotics should be taken for everything, painkillers are only produced in the horse tablet size, steroids are the best way to “get fit” and look good, exercising is frowned upon, it counteracts Number 7 above.

13 Packing your own bags at the shop is illegal, parking your car yourself without a traffic assistant is illegal, tearing of your own toilet paper is illegal, carrying your bags to the car is illegal, making your own coffee at work is illegal. By breaking any of the above laws you are likely to cause a third revolution as you are not trained to do it and are stealing someone’s job.

14 You will never get all your change. Should the bill come to £17.21 you will get £2 back from your £20 Should you ask for the rest you will be chastised, laughed at and will still not get it.

15 Window stickers spelt incorrectly, furry dashboards and horns are compulsory car components. Wing mirrors, brakes and seat belts are not.

16 23 degrees Celsius is still freezing. Hats, scarves, and multiple layers are required and fires need to be lit particularly whilst drinking tea and sleeping.

17 Ridiculously tight skinny jeans and form fitting tee shirts are standard dress code, but only for men.

18 Axe Chocolate scented deodorant, marlboro, and brylcreme are compulsory accessories. Your phone and cigarettes go in the front pockets of your jeans to accentuate your package.

19 Cakes consist of 90% sugar, tea consists of 90% sugar, teeth are 90% black.

20 Boys are always right, girls only exist to tell boys they are clever, smart, handsome and always right.

21 Obama is Muslim brotherhood and his brother runs Al-Qaeda

22 Sisi in his hat and shades is a sex symbol. Sisi without his hat and shades is a Middle aged balding doppelgänger for Homer Simpson.

23 When Sisi becomes president the electricity cuts will stop, everyone will have a new job, a new apartment, more money and Egypt will rule the world.

24 No smoking signs are not mandatory, merely advisory, and don’t apply to Egyptian nationals.

25 “Please remain in your seat until the aircraft reaches the terminal building” also does not apply to Egyptian nationals

26 There are no homosexuals in Egypt.

27 Any homosexuals that have been arrested have been corrupted by foreigners.

28 Women who are assaulted or raped are a disgrace and bring shame on their families.

29 Virginity tests are completely acceptable.

30 You can amuse yourself endlessly by allowing your dog to bark at delivery men.

31 You don’t need a logical argument to win your point you just need to shout louder.

32 Puddles of water cause major traffic jams.

33 Shiny sparkley things, gold paint and flowery patterns need to be applied to every surface and crevice.

34 I don’t know if I could live anywhere that doesn’t have Otlob

Masalama, Slainte, Bye

Should I Stay or Should I Go……

Should I stay or should I go……that’s the dilemma facing a lot of our friends at the minute. Whilst the majority of Egyptians are over the moon at the prospect of Field Marshall Sisi becoming the next president a lot of the expatriate community and a tiny Egyptian minority, mainly those on twitter, is a little out of sync with the mood on the street. Stability is the buzz word, but I’m not seeing a lot of it.

No matter whom you ask the standard Egyptian response (in no small part due to state media brainwashing, oops did i say brainwashing out loud) is that “Egypt needs a strongman, Sisi is that man” well they’ve had strongmen for the last 60 years and look how well that worked out….

Quite frankly one of the saddest conversations I’ve had recently was with a very well educated and super smart Egyptian friend. I asked him what his plans were and his response made me so very sad. He said ” If I’m still here by October I will consider myself a failure” when I pushed him and asked where he would go he said ” anywhere that will take a 24 year old Egyptian ……..” the dots represent his profession, you don’t need to know.

Suffice to say that this young man is what Egypt needs, and lots more like him. The brain drain will take at least a generation to replenish, and the current climate won’t produce intellects that are questioning, logical or even rational. Combined with the fact they never bloody go to school, the national schools have been closed for over a month now, sorry I digress. Emotional nationalistic blackmail seems to be the order of the day. You are with us or against us, if you’re against us you are a terrorist, there is no middle ground.

That’s all very rich coming from me, an Irish expatriate who is doing what this young man aspires to do. I can’t really knock him, as soon as I finished university I was off. But it’s the reasoning behind the decision that’s so very different. It’s all very well leaving home to travel, see the world, catch a bit of sunshine or just to go somewhere to earn a few pounds, to experience different cultures, or whatever rocks your boat. To leave because you are frustrated, angry and despairing over the path your country is taking is something entirely different.

I could get on my high horse and say he should stay, his country needs him, and really it does need this guy, but truthfully if I was him I would go too. He is young, his whole life is ahead of him, at 24 I didn’t want the mantle of sorting out my country either, thankfully we had some elder statesmen who did. I’m not so sure Egypt has the same will, or want, to do so. Apologies to those who clicked the link expecting my usual fluff, but I care about this place and at the minute it’s doing my head in. Should I stay, or should I go, well I’m very lucky in that I have a choice, but I haven’t decided yet.

I’m still entertained by the daily sights, I love the friends I’ve made and something another friend said is nibbling at my brain. She said “I don’t want to leave Egypt on bad terms” neither do I. I don’t want the last few months to mar what has otherwise been a fantastic experience. Yes, I have “Bad Egypt Days” when the electricity cuts, the traffic, the perverts on the street grind me down. But and it’s it’s a really big but, if someone told me I’d spend the rest of my life here, I’d be pretty happy about it.

I will leave you with my new resolution; “I will not let the bastards grind me down” and there is always a ray of sunshine if you look hard enough

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Photo is by the fantastic Mosa’ab Elshamy follow him on twitter @mosaaberizing

Anyone for a Cupcake?

Well, January the first has been and gone, but in my repeating groundhog day existence I am stuck on what appears to be April 1st. In an ever spiralling alternative reality I am constantly overcome with a desire to pinch myself. For the last week or so Egypt has ….. Outdone itself…..You couldn’t make it up, if it was a movie plot it would be canned by the critics for being too far fetched, sadly the looneys have taken over the asylum.

We have had a puppet investigated for …well treason i think, its accused of sending subliminal messages to the Muslim Brotherhood, via a Vodafone Ad….to say that’s embarrassing for all sane Egyptians is an understatement. The international media picked up on it, must have been a slow news day, and although it didn’t make the cover of Time magazine it did make the inside pages, this is truly cringe worthy stuff.

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The “snitch” hotline is now up and running for all loyal citizens to report Muslim brotherhood members or sympathisers. Anyone putting up “Vote NO” posters for the upcoming “democratic” referendum will also be arrested, I’m not sure they get the either, or, option that a referendum entails. This hotline is most definitely open to abuse, any weary husband or wife or basically anyone with a grudge, simply needs to slip a Rabaa sign near the vicinity of the suspect, make the call and voila they are gone.

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The referendum will be policed by the army. The very sexy….well in some eyes, there is no accounting for taste, army spokesman Ahmed Ali posted pictures to their Facebook page showing the new gear they have acquired for the event. Yip, the ones in red with a ninja look about them, or maybe they are more Power Rangers… should make us all feel very safe. The outfits remind me of the Olympics when the National team turned up in fake Nike kit, or maybe it was Adidas, anyway someone is having a laugh here, the supplier being my number one suspect.

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Some of our friends have been evacuated again as a precaution in case there is any trouble during the voting process. I’ve lost count of the amount of times they’ve been evacuated, happy to say the hubby’s company seems to be oblivious to any upcoming trouble so we are staying put. I’m more concerned with the fact the ring road will be closed for maintenance thereby curtailing the Hubby’s golfing plans and leaving him at home with me…..

Just when we thought the whole “Egypt as a laughing stock” was dying down some bloody tourist in Hurghada reported seeing UFOs…..that’s now being investigated too. I imagine the outcome of the inquiry will be that Mossad is responsible, rather in the way that the sharks last year were MOSSAD agents seeking to undermine Egypts tourism industry by attacking tourists. Or, maybe they will be accredited to HAMAS carrying out reconnaissance for the brotherhood, who knows.

I live in the hope that someone will step up to the mark and make a rousing speech something along the lines of “OK people, time to catch yourselves on, get a grip, all these conspiracy theories, undercover agents, spy’s are a figment of your imagination, it’s embarrassing, more bizarre than even the absurd plot lines in a John Grisham novel” yeah well, I doubt there is anyone out there who could sway the SiSi love fest, oh and Yes he will be the next president, most definitely.

I’m going to keep my head down, tape my mouth shut too, oh and ideally wear only coats with deep pockets for fear of my foreign fingers getting me into bother. I will smile nicely at all the pervert policemen and soldiers who are now the flavour of the month and quietly wait until the referendum passes, which it will. It took 2 and 1/2 years from Mubarak being deposed until Morsi suffered the same fate, how long will Sisi last….I’m thinking we are in for the long haul.

There is a little kick back against all this nationalist fervour, it just depends which bakery you use, these delicious looking cupcakes are in support of @alaa who is once again in jail, as he has been under every regime, Mubarak, SCAF, Morsi, and now., (I’m not quite sure what to call the “now” period because it most definitely wasn’t a coup) The other logo is the “No to Military Trials” graphic, but I’m not sure cupcakes as a form of resistance is gong to make much difference….I won’t be buying any just in case..

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Slainte, Masalama, Bye

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Spy Catchers

I’m a big fan of David Baldacci the author, I love his books. They all centre around conspiracy theories, spies, intrigue, murder and state sponsored subterfuge. Right now I feel like I’m living in one of his novels. Its probably not such a good idea to live around the corner from road 9 police station. As I nip out for my milk, a loaf and 40 fags i can spot the plain clothed policemen with their baggy shirts not so discreetly hiding bulges. It’s pointless anyway, the casually dangling machine gun gives them away. I am surrounded by masses of undercover agents, all on steroids and with the paranoia of methamphetamine addicts.

It’s common knowledge that Egyptians are rather fond of their drugs, prescription or otherwise, but at the minute I think the whole country is in the grip of the “Heebie, Jeebies” The fact that they arrested a stork last week, yes that’s right a stork, is just the latest episode in this surreal version of Egypt’s cold war. “Spy Duck” screamed the headlines from every state sponsored newspaper, yip, they couldn’t even get the species right but hey the education system here is rather lacking.

Anyway, the spy duck was found in Fayoum with an electronic device attached to its leg, some loyal citizen then duly handed it over to the police. The fact that it was taken into custody, held under the prevention of terrorism act, investigated, interrogated….(how did they do that?) and eventually released once it’s alibi checked out is severe cause for alarm. A tracking device monitoring global migratory patterns was never considered, and sadly, the poor stork is now dead. It was found in Sinai a couple of days ago where quite possibly it committed suicide as a result of having flashbacks of its time spent incarcerated.

This is not a spoof, google it, not only does this country have no common sense whatsoever but your average guy on the street has no problem defending the actions of the state. They are completely brain washed to believe that the world in general, America in particular, wants to to pillage and plunder Egypt and it’s people. Eh, NO, your average rancher in Texas, or publican in Ireland would be hard pressed to find Egypt on a map, actually quite a few politicians and news outlets would be hard pressed too….

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Egypt, get over yourselves. Everyone is much more concerned about Manchester United without Alex Ferguson, and the new X Factor line up.

I think I’ve worked out where this self absorption comes from, and at the risk of losing all my male Egyptian readers, quite possibly all male readers I’m going to go for it. Egypt is a patriarchal society, being born a male automatically elevates you above 50% of the population, yip, all the women. Never mind if you are completely thick, incapable of any form of reasoning, quite possibly incapable of wiping your own arse, by the sheer chance of being born a male you are already “better” than 50% of the population. If you are a first born male in your household I’d elevate that percentage to 75%.

The males of this nation are brought up to believe they are simply fabulous. At this stage I’d have to rest some of the blame on their mothers ( I will have no readers left) for they perpetuate the stereotype by hero worshipping them from day one. It doesn’t matter if they are lazy wee shits, obnoxious and quite often truly pathetic individuals they will be surrounded by “enablers” who reinforce their narcissistic complex. They are the centre of the world and unfortunately this carries through to the nation as a whole.

In theory the world at large should aspire to take over Egypt. The ancient monuments, the history the truly awesome climate are unprecedented elsewhere. But let’s get real. Egypt is a shit hole. The whole country is about to implode, or at the very least collapse, it’s simply unsustainable. When we came here the population was growing by 1 million every 9 months, which was pretty scary but the latest figures now show its 1 million every 6 months. There is not enough water, electricity, roads and more importantly jobs to sustain this. Birth control anyone?

Sorry, I got side tracked there, rant over and back to spies, foreign fingers, hidden hands and general paranoia. Let’s move on to general Sisi…I am rather wary of addressing this topic and following the reaction of my driver when I made some rather derogatory comments regarding the gentleman I may already be on the spy catchers radar. I’ve definitely been here too long as yes, I actually believe I may have been reported under some vague paragraph of the emergency law that allows for arresting blonde female expats for voicing their opinion. :Subsection CC perhaps..

I think it’s probably safer to leave you with a little photograph collection to give you the gist of the undying love felt by the Egyptian people for Mr Sisi……….

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