Monday, July 19, 2004

15 Minutes of Fame

Sharm sunset
Sharm sunset, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Logged on this morning on my wonderful 28 kbs line to find all sorts of comments on the blog. Bit of a shock after writing this quietly for a year or so.

To answer some comments and questions: No, I'm not poor in the sense that many people throughout this world are poor. I've had my share of financial woes, which is a bit of an understatement, and on the whole if I'm going to be strapped for cash, I'd rather it be in a place where I'm not going to be cold and I know that I can eat for very little. I've seen the urban poor in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles, and here in Egypt. On the whole, I suspect that it's better to be poor outside of a city than inside one, particularly in a country with fresh fruits and vegetables in the fields 12 months of the year. Eat your heart out, northern temperate climates!

Bashing North America: I'm not really. It just isn't my cup of tea. I have family living happily in the US and it's a great place to visit. I do have some concerns about the aspects of North American culture that get exported, but I'm not alone there.

Copts: The Copts are one of the oldest, if not the actual oldest, group of Christians in the world. The Coptic church dates back to within a few centuries of the time of Christ and is a rich heritage in Egypt. On the whole, I would have to say that cries of persecution from Copts outside of Egypt are rather over-rated. We have both Copts and Muslims living in our area and no one could care less. The Suares family is a Coptic family and one of the wealthiest in Egypt, being the owners of Orascom, a huge conglomerate corporation with interests in telecommunication, construction, and tourism. I think that issue is one that provides people with a personal axe to grind some fun.

Anti-American feeling: An interesting thing about Egyptians, and something that is likely true in many other countries, is that we discriminate between Americans and the American government. The US press often talk of anti-American sentiment as though it were being expressed towards the citizens of the country, when it is not. Egyptians have no illusions of control over their government, and in fact, never have had any control over it. They know that their government does all sorts of things that may or may not be good for the country and that may or may not be personally motivated. Sentiment here cuts across religious lines. No one is happy with the Bush administration's forays into world domination. But any American tourist, businessman, student, whatever, is more than welcome in the country. Just not George W. Bush.

Last spring I had a group of endurance riders come to visit, four women between the ages roughly of say 25 to 60 yrs old. They wandered around the neighbourhood on foot, chatted with watchmen at the neighbourhood pyramids, went horseback and camel riding, basically had a ball. They were fascinated by the international newspapers that were available in the grocery stores (like the Middle East Times which is available online) because they included a lot of news that somehow was never printed back home. And we talked about the difference between people and governments. Maybe all the discussion of the US government being chosen by the people has confused the issue in the US. Okay, you vote (or maybe don't vote) for your representative in Congress, the Senate, your state, your president....but at the end of the day, any of these individuals can and will do whatever he bloody well wants to and you have no say over it unless you can find enough people to get rid of him after the fact. Americans are as much victims of their government as any one else is.

Wanting to leave Egypt: Many of the people who leave Egypt return later. The fact is that university education abroad in many disciplines is preferrable to education locally. I met my late husband when he travelled to Canada to do graduate school, and his experience in business in Canada helped him to achieve his dreams here. My children both studied abroad; one is still studying in New York and comes home on holidays while the other returned to work for a while here before he continues with a graduate level degree. Will they live in Egypt all their lives? I don't know and I don't think that it matters. But they do say that there are many aspects of life that they truly miss when they are outside.

My father was a world federalist. He believed that only a world government could handle the problems of the world and that the governments of countries were a disruptive force on humanity. Maybe he was right. I haven't seen any governments at all, world or national, that I've been all that impressed by.

Finally, women: Do a quick survey and you will find that virtually all of the power structures world wide these days are male-dominated. This means that anywhere you look you will see women with problems. The problems simply vary from place to place. I'd rather be an old woman in Egypt where old women are respected than an old woman in a place that is inundated with the culture of youth and beauty. "We said we'd grow old together, but we never said wrinkled" Get your botox injections here! Yes, women have issues everywhere, and so do men. Happily or unhappily, those issues are changing all over the world. In Egypt many women are refusing to marry if they feel that they aren't getting a reasonable mate and the men are running about trying to figure out what the women want. There are always problems, but the sign of growth is that the problems change.

Thanks for the fame, whoever.


s.s.a.y said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J-Birds said...

The art of successful blogging, just like the art of writing a book or a screenplay, is to write about what you know and write it well. You do both.

Anonymous said...

The views on news filtration in the US is a fact. I am an indian living in the US for the last 2 years and i now believe theres better freedom of the press every where else than in the US.

I know we can comment on our leaders and not go to jail ona libel suit. Not so. As an average American is not informed, their mind is also not developed. I have yet to find a thinking American.. Very sad..

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to write to say how much I enjoy reading your commentary about cross-cultural marriage. I too am an American woman married to an Arab man, and I constantly have to deal with people who think that I am being oppressed. I am very tired of the ignorant Orientalist views that persist in the U.S.

I have made your blog required reading among my friends and academic colleagues. Good luck in all your endeavors. Your writing is so inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sameh, you sound very much like a professional flirter! You're asking for advice to live in your own country?? What a shame.

Anonymous said...

The price of fame...
Fame is good! but you will have to keep answering our curious questions.
Why don't you switch gears a little bit and tell us WHO ARE YOU?
What do you like.. what are you like? A photo of you will help us know who this strong-willed eloquent woman is.

Christina said...

This was really well written. I am new to this. I started on Aol blogs. I am extremly facinated by Egypt. It has always been my dream to go there one day. Even if it was for a day....Its one of those things like a past life that you feel drawn into something and that is the place I feel drawn too...

I hope to return to this journal.

R said...

Have you considered Virginia's suggestion of publishing in print. It's not really about money, but many people will enjoy and learn.
I also fell on an Iraqi girl's Blog; I'm praying she is still alive.
So how do you feel with 22 comments on yesterday's blog- most of them authentic and positive?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, with all my respect to your blogs, saying that women in Egypt have problems AS any women in the world is a bit simplistic.
We have serious problems in Egypt; you seem to live away from the city and don't know what happens daily in the streets. Are you veiled? If you are not, don't try to walk in any Cairo street at night. It's normal but disgusting to have thousands staring at you, saying all kind of rubbish about your body, hair, legs, asking to marry you, to ... you. Walk in any street of Cairo in a skirt, and count the "indecent proposals". Ride a Cairo bus, or even the 2-pounds air-conditioned bus, and the guy next to you will try to touch, the one behind you will press the chair, etc... Have you experienced any of these? Being fair to Egypt means also saying the bad things Egyptians are doing. These are minor examples we suffer from, not to mention how does the society look at unmarried women who are older than 25, or -even worse- divorced women. I think Egyptian males need serious therapy to change their look to their peer-women (at work, home and everywhere). Furthermore, there are serious issues that take place only in the bedrooms and are taboos: beating wives, female circumcision, man's right to marry more than a woman and keep them in the same house!!! I can't say more. If you post your email, I'll tell you more things in private that I'm even ashamed to mention here. We really suffer in Egypt!

Anonymous said...

[quote]No one is happy with the Bush administration's forays into world domination[/quote]

Looks like you have bought into this conspiracy theory also. Maybe you have lived in Egypt for too long.

Anonymous said...

to the last anonymous...
Maybe you lived in the USA too long!!! All countries in the world think about what you call the "conspiracy theory"; their media play scenes that the US mainstream media don't ever play. They have read the "Project for the New American Century" by the neocons, including Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Jebb Bush, Richard Perle, and co. If you read the neocons literature, you cannot say that there is no plan to dominate the world. After all, the USA has the right to do that; all empires did, why not the USA?

Marilane said...

Me, I'm an unmarried 29yr old woman who lived in Greece for just under 2 years. I went by myself, knowing no one with a mostly fantasy awareness of what a life there would be like. I was going to change the world. Ha.

I remember going to Greek school (in Athens) and meeting an American woman, with Oriental/Asian descent, and hearing her say that she hadn't noticed much racism in Greece. I just about died. Me, I look Greek, so I can't say I experienced racism, but I sure saw it and I was on the streets talking to average Greeks all the time. I'm not blaming the Greeks, but as with many other countries I've visited, they are not nearly as exposed to other colors of skin as we are in North America. My 4 friends visited, with Chinese, Japanese, and Indian backgrouds (read: non-white), and all thoroughly Canadian in culture, and I went out and had to go to 5 different bars before finally one let us in, the others giving us various excuses as to why they wouldn't. We'd be walking down the street and people would do Karate chops and stuff. I was embarassed to have a Greek background in those moments, but fortunately the boys didn't seem take it too personally. As an explanation, Greece has only had their doors open to real immigration for 10yrs and if you look at Canadian history they are where we were years and years ago. Anyway, back to my original comment. When this Asian-American woman said that, I thought, "my god, how is this possible?" How could she not see it? How could I, as a white woman, be more aware and exposed to racism than this non-white woman? It's easy really. And I quickly understand why.

This was the first time in my life that I moved from my middle-class background into a different level of life, a class lower on the social and economic hierarchy. This is something that I think rarely happens to a lot of people in this world. We only know what we experience--I mean really know, in our hearts, not just intellectually. We may be aware of poverty, and seen the pictures, met people, watched programs..but we have never really felt what that feels like, in our hearts, in our souls, in that part of us that keeps ticking when our heads do not. I wasn't living in real poverty, because I had found work, and friends to live with, and most importantly because I had Canada to return to, with the knowledge that I could return to assured full time work at any time. I always had that option. But while I was there, my life and the challenges I met on a dialy bases, were beyond anything I had ever experienced before, and those experiences change me for life.

This woman that I was talking to, like many other women in the Greek school I enrolled in, was married to a Greek man with a successful business and was living a very comfortable life. There is one truth that applies no matter where you life: if you have money, you can live a good life almost anywhere. She was protected from racism by means of her social standing. There are things that I saw, as a single woman travelling alone, and people that I met and sat on the curb with on a scortching summer night, that she probably would never talk to, in her social mileau, and her big house with air-con (not that I blame her, I'd probably have done the same had I an option). Likely she was spending most of her time socializing with other well-to-do Greeks who were highly exposed to North Americans. And anyway, the rich Greeks want to be anything but Greek nowadays. They want to buy European cars, and couches imported from France and Italy, and send all their children to school in America. They want to escape their history, and their wars and any remnants of the 400 year Turkish occupation, in any way they can. It may not be on a conscious level, but it's there, passed down from their parents and the air of liberation and escapism.

We live life as we experience it. We see around us what we feel inside. This is how you can have two women living in Egypt one talking about how she will probably never return to America, with a voice of comfort and satisfaction with her life in Egypt, despite the challenges, and another woman living in the same country using words like shame, and suffering, instead, and you can hear the pain and frustration that just goes to a deeper level. In the end our differences come from the same shared condition, the human condition. We all respond to our environments.

Anonymous said...

It's great that you're happy. It really is. I wish you nothing less. But you *do* bash America. You praise Egypt, then take a swipe at the U.S. suggesting that it somehow objectively could not be as good. That's how you feel. But surely you realize many people feel differently. So what? It's personal preference, not a matter of which country is "better." Why does it have to be a contest where one country "wins" and another "loses?"

As for the news. Ha. Sure, in the U.S. it's filtered. But it's naive to think that makes "Egyptian news" better or more true or more honest. Just because they say "a" in the U.S. and "b" in Egypt doesn't mean that "a" is wrong and "b" is somehow right. Also, the principles of objectivity and responsibility are what prevent the publication of a lot of things in the U.S. press that you might hear somewhere else. And most important, no adult in the United States is prevented from reading anything at any time -- you just have to make a little effort. If you choose not to read widely in the United States, it's your own business and your own fault, hardly the fault of the "U.S. government."

And please. The people *do* elect their government in the United States. You can't have it both ways, saying you love the people of the U.S. while constantly bashing the people they've duly elected to represent them. That's dishonest.

I have absolutely no problem with your personal Egyptian paradise. It sounds like you are very happy there. I just don't understand why the underside of your commentary always has to be a contrast with Europe or North America. It strikes me as a little juvenile.

Seriously, though, I'm really, really glad you are happy there. It sounds ideal for you.

Anonymous said...

A few comments from an American man. Please do not be so naive to think that you are being fair to separate your "love" for the American people, from your hate of the Government. Remember that the foreign policy is America's not Bush's. Our government has great checks and balances to prevent authoritative moves. 100% of the congress approved our Iraq policy and funding, and other foreign policies and most Americans agree with it or it wouldn't take place. Partisan politicians are squealing a lot during an election year,and there is always bitter debate. Foreigners like you confuse that with policy. It is genuine, but internal.

The bottom line? If you hate the American government, you hate me too. That is not through blind patriotism, but because I think we are truly a huge factor in the good going on in the world. We can be trusted to be there when we are needed. We keep our word and are as consistent as the world allows. You surely have not read the "Neo-cons" if you have decided they want world domination! That is nonsense! They want freedom and autonomy of nations, not colonialism and conquering. That is just a fact. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of America if you think we are all at odds with George Bush, or if you think that America wants world domination.

Amererica might be seen as arrogant and pushy, but this is a crime worse than dictatorship and genocide? Please! U.S. certainly has to watch out for its own interests, but really - it is arguably done great good with its power, and will continue to do so. Look at the foreign aid, assistance in disasters, liberation of people, spending our resources for the benefit of others.

Kitty said...

Hi! i would love to become a pen pal with you. im not interesing but you are! i am underworld_kitty and my html is, Love 2 hear from you soon! if not it was worth a try. good luck!
for what? who cares?

Kitty said...

Hi! i would love to become a pen pal with you. im not interesing but you are! i am underworld_kitty and my html is, Love 2 hear from you soon! if not it was worth a try. good luck!
for what? who cares?!

Kristie said...

I originally came along your blog in a search about inter racial marriages between American women and Egyptian men. This has not been an easy search for me. Although this blog didn't speak much about that topic, it did resonate strongly with my experiences in Egypt as an American. Although there were times when I found myself saying that just because I am American does not mean I believe everything that takes place via our government, it is usually not a topic that comes up with strangers or even acquaintences.

We have an apartment in Maadi, just outside of Cairo, for those who may not know, and prior to kids made two or three extended trips per year. We now make one or two, but still enjoy our time there.

I am very interested in the inter workings of the marriage committment as it is viewed in Egypt. My Husbands fater passed away before we dated so I was never able to see the interactions that my Husband would have grown up with and what roles the partners play in their household. We are Copts, but I think that many of the expectations are cultural rather than religious, and it is so unfamiliar for me. My Husband and his parents immigrated to the US when he was 11 years old, so he is a mixture of sorts. I've searched for books or people with similar relationships as I that I could openly communicate with and have had trouble in so doing.

You mentioned something that really caught my attention, however. It was about rather being an old woman in Egypt where old women are respected than in a country inundated with youth and beauty. (Forgive me if I missquoted you.) I have come to wonder if the young woman, which I am, relatively, does not garner much respect at all, whereas the older women expect and do basically run the interactions of the family and demand respect regardless of the fact if they have earned that respect or not. This may be way off, and just a view based on my personal familial experiences, but I was wondering if that really is how things are in Egyptian culture. Basically, that a woman starts off lowly and earns or works her way up to be the head of the family in her elder years. I realize I'm being somewhat general, but would be happy to be more specific if it is a common interest.