Sunday, July 18, 2004

Why live in Egypt?

AbuSirPool, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
As R noted in the comment, why not? There are about 70 million people who are born here and have almost no choice in the matter. Many of them have the absurd notion that life in other countries is better, but I don't think that they are right. Life can be tough where ever you are.

The first argument that I hear is that the salaries are so much higher in Canada, the US, Europe.... well, they are but so are the costs of living. So they basically cancel out. The ideal thing is to be paid by Europeans to live in Egypt, but that's not so easy to manage.

Life in Egypt is not as risk-free as many in Europe and North America would like, a fact for which I am forever grateful. In a "civilized" country with lots of liability insurance, I wouldn't be able to have friends of mine ride my horses unless I was insured up to the eyeballs. Driving anywhere here is an adventure, but once you get the hang of it, no problem. You DO and SHOULD think a million times before you attempt drunk driving in Egypt, however.

It's very hard for people to starve in Egypt. Any fruit seller has a box on the sidewalk in which they place fruits and vegetables that are below standard for the poor who need food. Real food is cheap. You have to wash it and clean it and prepare it for cooking and then have to cook it....Horrors! But it's cheap and good and fresh. Shopping in the US is a nightmare for me because the grocery stores are full of prepared foods that aren't particularly good for you, items for cleaning that are immediately disposed of (what happened to the good old wet rag?), extraordinary quantities of personal hygiene products, and cheap junk food. Coca Cola is cheaper than juice. Great. No wonder the US has major health problems.

Egypt has sunshine about 360 days a year, unless you live on the North Coast, where it actually rains in the winter. I'm outdoors every day. Yes, it's dusty, but I daresay so is Tucson. I can put up with some dust.

One of the main criticisms of Cairo especially is that it is "dirty". Well, yes, it is. Some of that dirt is deposited by its loving neighbour, the Sahara Desert. Some of the dirt is the result of the way-too-many human inhabitants of the city, about 20 million of them. Not too easy to clean up after so many, as I'm sure that London, New York, and Los Angeles could testify.

I believe that too many people expect to visit foreign countries the same way that they visit Disneyland. They expect surgical cleanliness, and neurotic orderliness. Guess what? Most of the world, including huge chunks of the US, isn't like that. Egypt is real. It has problems, but it also has an extraordinary spirit and joy in living. Urban life is doing its best to beat it out of everyone in the world, but so far it hasn't won in Egypt.

Why live in Egypt? I've lived in San Diego, near Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Vancouver BC, Toronto, and visited more citiies in the US and Canada than I care to remember, and I prefer to live in the countryside outside of Cairo, thank you. You couldn't pay me enough to move back.


Anonymous said...

Groovy...Stay there.

De Schrijver said...

You have a very nice Blog!

dafAF said...


angela said...

i am planning to move to cairo this fall; hopefully my experiance will be filled with all the wonders of your own

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you're happy there. But let me guess ... you're not a *poor* person living in Egypt, right?

J-Birds said...

Hi Maryanne,
You paint a wonderful picture of your life in your journal. Ignore the idiot comments. You will pick up all sorts of weirdos as long as you are on Bloggers Blogs of Note section. Enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame. Hopefully, you'll change somebody's perspective of the world in the meantime. Keep writing.

Virginia said...

WOW. Good for you!
Good for you for speaking up. Too many people live in a bubble, and somebody needs to do the popping.
I especially admire you for being steadfast about the way you raised your children. I think bad nutrition is another bubble of ignorance society is hiding behind. It's easier to eat crap, (that you don't have to wash), become ill, go the doctor for some attention and drugs that probably cause more problems than they solve.

Found these stats:
Egypt's population below poverty - 22.9%(1995)
Canada's population below poverty - 22.7% (1997)
(Canada does have a different way of figuring out this statistic.)
Egypt's unemployment rate - 12% (2001)
United States' unemployment rate - 11.7% (2001)

I've heard people complain and despair over the poverty and begging in Cairo. Why are they not complaining of the poverty in their hometown? Because one is more 'obvious' and in their face when they're supposed to be vacationing and enjoying themselves.

Have you considered publishing your work in print? It's wonderful.

SANAA said...

i like your blog ya 3amillllllllllllllllll

Anonymous said...

I commend you for sticking up for your country like that. Take care!

Fishy fishy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ramy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Krazy*T* said...

""Life can be tough where ever you are.""

You said it !!!

Amzing post BTW ~
A really good friend of mine visited Egypt and stayed several months ~ she loved it so much
she was sad to come home , she sent me all these fabulous pictures ~
She cant wait to go back
and I cant wait for the oppurtunity to go too ......

charoly said...

Thank Alah there is more people who dare moving to other places and being able to compare! It seems that when you are born in X you enjoy X and you die in X, I am happy you are enjoying your life somewhere else and seeing the similarities and differences. But what about the women's life over there? Is it as restricted as it sounds? Please do not be biased... Let us know! Do you think it would improve soon?

K. said...

Once, I visited Alexandria and Cairo. I had only passing glimpses of Alexandria, memory spotty, was a few years ago. The desert and Cairo is what caught my attention. I did touristy things, visit the pyramids, bought papryus (sp?) type paper, fragrant oil, and most impressively, visited the Egyptian Museum, please excuse me if I named it wrong, but the museum shows how civilized Egypt can be. Cairo was old and yes, dusty, and very bustling like NYC. It's like any bustling city of the world, being different, and having its own ups and downs.

Ethan said...

Nice blog! I haven't lived in Egypt, but, as an archaeologist, I've been there for extended periods of time (4-5 months at a stretch). Like all things, living in Egypt is neitehr good nor bad - it is mixed with both good and bad. Egyptians, on the whole, are genuinely friendly and really interrested in finding more about you. Cairo (and some of the other larger cities) are great to explore. And, of course, there are the antiquities. Even after living and working around them for months at a time, I never get tired of them.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why moving somewhere that makes you happy with your family in tow is necessarily grounds for deep admiration and all the exclamation points!!!! and kudos!!!!! Please. People should do what they want. But it's fairly obvious that plenty of people *want* to leave Egypt and *do.* These differences are mostly about individual circumstances -- not exclusively about the country in which you live. It is certainly not grounds for bashing North America, though you are certainly free to keep trying.

Ramy said...

I'm "R" who asked "Why not?".
First, I like to draw your attention that -if you don't know it yet- has posted a link to your blog as a page worth visiting, that's why you are stormed with these comments lately.
Second, as I'm taking the decision to go back to Egypt -my home- while I have a chance to live in the US, I wonder sometimes why would people think that living is about having a good salary and being able to sleep in a nice place. I think there is no difference between living in a palace in Egypt, while many Egyptians are starving, and living in a palace in the USA, while the same people are starving. After all, who made these countries and borders? If you look at our planet for a sattelit pictures, you won't find any of these borders; they are artificial. The sad truth is still the same, everywhere there are poor and starving people; but one can still decide to live closer to the poorer people and give up some of one's privileges. Otherwise, half of this planet's inhabitants will really die.

Tira said...

Good to know someone is happy living where they're living. Sad to see people hate happy people.

Nadir Martello said...

Hi Marianne,
I was browsing the boggles on the Internet and there I came across yours. It is very nice indeed; more so are your interesting writings.

In reading, “Living in Egypt”, you reminded me my travelling in Africa, Madagascar and finally here in Australia where I am living for 23 years now. I am an Italian who spent more time outside Italy than in his own country.

Regarding living in a different country than its own, to me has been always very rewarding and enjoyable, to say the least. All depend what your expectations are. Often it is when you do not expect anything from people that you find them the most charming, caring and lovable of all. I experienced that in my whole life.

Best regards,

Nadir Martello

How did you created such beuatiful blog?

Anonymous said...

Who are the Copts? I know they are plenty in Egypt. Are they persecuted as claims Are they different? You were talking about Christian monks. Are these Christians or a mystic sect?
Are Copts anti-US too? What do they think of our policies in the M.E.?


Melanie said...

Hey. It's awesome that you live in Egypt and love it. Personally I worship everything Egyptian. And I really dislike the state of Wisconsin, where I live, and most of the United States, so I was biased in your favor before I even started reading, but we'll all live. There's very little in the world that I wouldn't give to trade locations with you on any given day. And ignore all the morons insulting your blog. They need a life more than I do.

douguil said...

I like you blog a lot.
I could feel what you wrote in the last tow posts because I had a similar experience, but different also. I lived in China a few years ago. I can’t say I would like to spend my life there, but what a blast when you are able to enjoy it.
Now I live in the US. What you said about anti-Americanism is very true and true everywhere. I am originally from France and enjoy living in Chicago area now, but I hat Bush and Fox news. I like America because it is the only place where you will find all the cultures of the world in one place, more things are possible than in France and it is great to visit. I dislike the proselytism of a plain culture (including food), imposing USA points of views, patriotism to hid the ugly edges of fascism, head stuffing that Americans are the best of the best and egocentrism where we need to share more (health, retirement, poverty).
I myself just started 2 blogs. One against the lies of the media ( and another one where I intend to show the beauty of America ( The beauty and the ugly in other words. Bons vents!

Anonymous said...


ALyXaNdRiA said...

I have always wanted to visit Egypt. I've heard so much about it in History classes while I was still studying. You made it sound so interesting that now I'm really eager for a tour.

salamander said...

I'm half Egyptian, half English, and was born and grew up in England.
On my rare visits to Egypt I couldn't begin to understand why anyone would want to live there but really, your descriptions are starting to make me warm to the place, I'll try to have more of an open mind when I go there next time
the boys are so lecherous though

Sami said...

Hey there,

Nice blog! I'm very happy to see that you are enjoying life in Egypt. I myself am a Canadian-Egyptian. However, notice the order I place those in.

In response to Jo from Arkansas, yes, many Copts are persecuted. Coptic Orthodox is a denomination of Christianity (like Anglican or Roman Catholic). The church is very much like the Roman Catholics, very traditionalist, lots of history, LOTS OF RULES. The Coptic church which was founded by Emperor Constantine is the second oldest (second to the Roman Catholic) and goes way back to around 350 AD. I was baptised Coptic but have since left the church because, quite frankly, I disagree with it.

The fact of the matter is that if you're a Copt in Egypt, things are made more difficult. Even I, coming from an affluent and powerful (for Copts) family, could not succeed as easy as Muslims. Copts have been discriminated against for many many years now, going back to when the newly-formed Muslim government levied a tax that had to be paid by all who were not of the Islam faith. Hmmm... I wonder why so many modern Egyptians are Muslim. Only the Coptic families with money could afford to retain their faith, and they were often despised either because they were rich, Coptic or both!

That said, I don't think it's always quite as bad as the media portrays it. I said it's more difficult for me (though I'm not Coptic, my name gives away my family's religion), but it's nothing compared to the discrimination of other peoples around the world.

I've never been to Arkansas, but I have been to Florida, Texas and California... and I would compare the general feeling towards Copts in Egypt to the way Blacks are treated today in the US (So not always necessarily life-threatening bad, but there's still disrespect and discrimination there).

I love Egypt. It's a beautiful place, though it seems to be getting worse and worse with every visit, and you sure can't beat the weather! And no matter where you go you'll have difficulty as has been said... but I'd rather face a thousand Canadian winters than be scoffed at because of my parents' faith.

On a quick note, I couldn't agree more with R's comment on the grocery stores in North America. Shameful how health food is so expensive when EVERYONE knows that there are widespread health problems.

JessicaDances said...

How hard/easy is it to move to Egypt?

JessicaDances said...

Is it "easier" to be brown there???? 'cause it ain't easy here. Just looking for a place to "fit in".

Kolla said...

I am a frequent flyer from Iceland and I loved your comments on Egypt. Been there travelling and I loved it. I am a big traveller myself and have been living and working in the Middle East(Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) for the last couple of years. This has not been an easy ride but surely the best school ever!
Egypt is one of the countries I would go back to.

Apocalypse-1 said...

If i joined Egypt exactly after two years from now would you like to be my host?.. :) by the way the way you portrait i guess you forgot to tell the legends of Egypt, its history part basically.. :)

Two thumbs up!


SueB said...

I am extremely new to Blogging and just happened onto your Blog. I have to get to some of my Damned Daily tasks right now, but I plan to return to read about your life in Egypt.....a really cheap way to travel!!

Over the years, I have had various friends who have lived in Egypt or spent extensive time there. The first was Kristen, a roommate in grad school, who spent a year in Cairo doing nutrition research. That was about 1965.

I took French lessons from a lovely woman named Iman who grew up in Cairo. Her father was Egyptian and an engineer; her mother, from Kentucky (which is where I live).

kitten heels said...


I am so excited about finding your blog! I've dreamed about Egypt forever. I'm an architect but mostly a crazy artist and I studied Egypt so much on my own. I was afraid to come when I lived in Europe (you know, a girl alone), but now I'm not afraid of much anymore. Hey. I live in Atlanta and it's plenty dangerous.

I read the first page and I am waiting to hear more! You're such a unique person!


kenneth said...

You have got a wonderful blog.
Meanwhile, i will want to chat with you.
I am a Nigerian but will be at Nicosia by september.
My tel is, 0092348033882150

Steve said...

Rock On! I love Egypt, well what I know of it's culture and landmarks. I would so love to move to Egypt, that's the only country I really want to see before I die. I live in the US, Indianapolis to be specific, and it just sucks here! So miserable. Most places in the USA are just boring to me, no beautity in buildings, fields of corn and beans for hundreds of miles, and most of the typical people here are so miserable, they just have no clue, at least in Indiana. I have been here for 25 years now, and I can honestly say I hate it here, but I am sure I will stay in this state for the rest of my life, just because of friends and family.

Yeah, sorry I rambled there. It's great that you are living somewhere you obviously seem to love. I wish you the best!

K-Man said...


I would just like to thank you for the caring words you used to describe our country, Egypt.
It is a beautifull country, but unfortunately as a non-egyptian living in Cairo there are some sides of our lifestyle that will be transparent to you.
As an example the level of corruption that we have to put up with in many levels of our life.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy life in Egypt.

Anonymous said...

if you say egypt is a nice place to live in.. you have no idea what you are talking about.. i lived in egypt for 23 years.. and i lived in canada too.. there is not comparison whatsoever bet both..

you are just stating the advantages of living in egypt, like riding a horse and stuff.. there are more important things in life than riding horses and just being with friends.. ex, to have an organized traffic.. ppl who like to live in egypt well have fun, but for me.. its far from being nice..

0carina said...

Seeing your pictures on flickr, I can understand why you prefer to live in there. I never thought of myself as being the country type but somehow your descriptions make me reconsider that. Everything seems so peacefull, meaningful and rewarding! Such a contrast to what Cairo life is.
Maybe, just maybe, one day, I'll have the pleasure of learning how to ride with the help of your horses.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it was interesting to read it. Thanks for your blog. I would be so scared to move to a country like that, so different from America, so I admire you for your braveness. This was really interesting to read. (Oops, I guess I said that in my fist sentence haha!:)

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know of you "look" Canadian/American. Its a nightmare for me living in Maadi because the locals think I'm American and then the price goes up. And yes, I speak Arabic but tht still doesn't stop them from charging astronomical prices :(

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

I do indeed look like a foreigner. My late husband used to say that I'd be ripped off all the time but when I would go to the souq in Alexandria, I used to listen to the people bargaining for things to get an idea of the prices and when someone would toss me something outrageous, I'd just smile and tell them I'd shop elsewhere. It helps a lot to speak Arabic.

Anonymous said...

I'm an Egyptian, I believe living in Egypt has many Pros and Cons, but for all the problems it has and the criticisms people say about it , Egypt has it's faults, like any other country