I've Moved!

My new blog is called Reflections from a Global Nomad, in order to acknowledge that we no longer live in Maadi and that we are, in fact, global nomads, not staying in one place longer than two or three years. Please join me at http://DeborahReflections.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Not All Roses

I love living here in Egypt. I really do. But there are some things that will annoy me until the day I leave. For example . . .

Today I was walking back home after running by the church for a minute. I was minding my own business. I was dressed in jeans and a cotton shirt--conservative neckline, 3/4-length sleeves. It wasn't as long as it should be by Egyptian standards, because it didn't cover my rear end, but it's an outfit that I usually can wear and be treated with some amount of courtesy by Egyptian men. Or maybe not, because sometimes I do hear comments as I pass by, but they're not always directed at me (I think). They're in Arabic, so I don't usually understand them. They're often made by a man who is speaking to another man, so for all I know, they could be discussing the weather. I choose to make that assumption unless they give me concrete reason to believe otherwise.

And then there's today. I pass by a policeman. I say again, a policeman. In uniform, on duty. No one else in speaking distance, no phone to his ear. And he starts speaking. In English. I can't give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Hello. You're [didn't quite make it out, but I think it was 'sweet']. I love you." Said in a low, smooth that I assume was meant to sound suave.

I know, I know, not incredibly rude by Western standards. But we're not in the West. We're in Egypt, and in Egypt, those statements are incredibly rude. It's equivalent to a man--a policeman--saying "Hey, sexy, wanna move in with me?" to a random woman walking down the street. Shoot, an American cop probably would get fired for saying exactly what this Egyptian cop said, even without considering cultural differences.

Aargh! I wish he at least would've stuck to Arabic, but I may have understood even that. I definitely would have understood "ahlan, enti helua" (hello, you're sweet) and many other forms of that statement. I may have understood "I love you"; I've been taught how to say that I really like something, though I don't recall the word now, and I would recognize -ik, the suffix for you (feminine). Maybe I shouldn't have been so eager to learn Arabic . . .

Okay, done venting. Moving on to thinking about some of the things I really do like about living here, to erase the negative impression that traffic cop left. The guards at my housing compound are super-friendly and helpful in my Arabic learning, and they never cross any lines of propriety--Egyptian or American. I have opportunities to get involved in wonderful charities and to make new friends through the Maadi Women's Guild and church. I get to visit some really cool places--pyramids, cave churches, and I'll eventually get around to the Citadel, Coptic Cairo, and the Egyptian Museum. Prices are cheap, and shopkeepers are very friendly (and proper). There are camels here. Most of the people are friendly.

I'm feeling better now. Time to get off this computer and go do something useful.


  1. I'm impressed that THAT is your only beef. A very good, valid complaint. But when I was there I had about 2 weeks where I had a HUGE list of things I hated. Eventually I softened though. Kinda miss Egypt now. Pet Cleo & Isis for me

  2. I really don't have much to complain about here--I love it here. This one thing just set me off today.

  3. Oh, and consider Cleo and Isis petted :-) (Cute video of Whitaker on your blog today, by the way)

  4. sorry you got sexually harassed verbally by a cop, it happen all the time here, take care.

  5. Update: Upon the advice of my husband, I talked to the RSO (Regional Security Officer) about this incident. He agreed that it was concerning because the guy involved was a cop. And he said all the right things that he's required to say about always reporting it no matter who it is, but he and I both know that's impractical here. So the RSO is aware and wants me to let him know if it happens again; if it does, he'll report it to the Chief of Police. We do expect some harassment and usually just ignore it, but for obvious reasons, we don't need the police getting in on it.

    Maged--when you say it happens all the time here, do you mean that the police do it all the time, or just that men in general do it all the time?


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