After a post with things I love and hate in Egypt, here is a post with what I miss in Cairo/Egypt. Because it is not always a matter of love or hate…
What is freedom? In this case, what I mean with freedom is the sense of being able to be yourself and do what you want without other people’s interference. Walking around is fine (although my sister, during her recent visit, felt harassed and threatened just by the way people look at us), but after dark things feel different – as if you are not entitled to walk outside to go somewhere, be it the local supermarket, a nice restaurant or (something I haven’t tried yet) a cafe or club. And I have never been a fashionista or anything, but I do miss not being able to wear what I feel comfortable in (usually) because it would make me uncomfortable in this setting – wondering if things are too short, even though they cover the bum, etc. I guess this issue will be even more problematic when it’s 40 degrees outside.
The other thing is that people talk, a lot. Some of my friends are ‘lucky’ that their doormen don’t speak English and leave them alone. Unfortunately, I have four doormen and while two of them don’t speak much English, all of them are nosy about my life. Almost every visitor I have tells me the doormen asked them inappropriate questions when they arrive at my door. I used to get strange questions (as well as comments for that matter) on a daily basis, but I started using the backdoor now and see them a lot less. It does not feel comfortable when you have people right outside your home talking about what you do for a living, what your religion is, what your nationality is (and what those of your friends are). It is irrelevant.
- Hot weather
Having lived in South East Asia for the past two years, I have become completely accustomed to the tropical heat. Although Egypt is certainly warmer than parts of Europe, and especially my native Netherlands, it is still too cold for me and I am freezing all the time. It also doesn’t help that buildings are badly isolated, so during the day it is ironically much warmer outside than inside.
- Biking – bicycle lanes/proper roads
The roads are terrible here – potholes, trash – and not to mention the way people drive… It is not safe to bike around. Although I live only a few kilometres away from work, it will be impossible to bike to work. Actually, that does not only have to do with the condition of the roads and the way people drive… It’s also has to do with gender, unfortunately.
- Efficient public transportation
While the Metro is great and takes you from any stop to any other stop on the line for just one Egyptian Pound, Cairo is so huge that even with the Metro system and all its stops, it is impossible to rely just on that. There are minibuses that seem to be in a worse shape than those I have been in while travelling 10,000 km through Southern Africa by public transport. They look like they could fall apart any second. The black taxis are not much better, but luckily there are the newer white taxis. They are ok, but even in that case people have told me not to take those taxis for long(er) distances due to potential hijackings, harassment, etc. Hiring a driver and car is one of the better options and although it is cheap compared to Western prices, it is still not cheap to be doing this on a frequent basis.
And because Cairo is so large and the public transportation is not perfect, I feel disconnected from friends who live in other areas (even if it is a neighbouring area). It seems to be too far to just go by and visit after work – not to mention the feeling of not being entitled to be out after dark. So, life – for me at least – is pretty much limited to work and home and some fun activities on the weekends. I have never felt homesick, or maybe once when I was about 10 and my parents forced me to go to this Chinese summer camp in the Netherlands – I hated it. And although I love my close friends who live all over the world, I have never felt a strong sense of missing them, like I wished they were here (or I was there). But because of the disconnect I feel (which is also my own fault for not having invested enough time in the language and culture yet – I will start to do so before my three month mark), I miss my closest friends on nearly a daily basis. I feel the need to talk to them and describe daily life here. And while I was always quick to leave and never look back (ask my friend Bea when I left Bangkok), I now am longing for a trip back to Thailand and Cambodia (my last two destinations). Maybe it will pass. I hope so, because I want to enjoy what Cairo/Egypt has to offer. Perhaps when the temperatures/political situation/my mood and energy gets better…