Daddy Issues

translation: Metwally driver, Ashraf the tall guy... etc

translation: Metwally driver, Ashraf the tall guy… etc

This is what happens when your Egyptian father gets a smartphone with a touch screen.

A kind friend pointed out that Tamales means Zamalek

A kind friend pointed out that Tamales means Zamalek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone pointed out that I clearly have Daddy issues since I’m always blogging about him. But seriously, look at these messages. The man is a comedic genius.

Whoops

Whoops

I know. I’m mean.

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Adopt An Egyptian Mother Dot Com

assssssas

I love this woman. Marie Mounib will always be the perfect Egyptian mother to me

I want hamam mahshy. The situation has become desperate; I have even resorted to harassing poor strangers who made the mistake of announcing on Twitter that they’re visiting London soon and made another mistake of asking me ‘Do you want anything from Egypt?’

Yes, I want stuffed pigeon.

Life away from Egypt is tough. Every time I think of home or my family, a vision of deliciously greasy, stuffed and spicy pigeons appear before my eyes. Every time London is raining and miserable (i.e. all the time) and my annoying Egyptian friends and family are flouncing around in the sunshine (i.e. all the time), all I want is to eat greasy, heavenly, homemade Egyptian food, which can only be done best by an Egyptian mother.

[Note to parents: you calling me up repeatedly from the sunny beach to tell me all about it in acute detail while I’m freezing my butt off and can’t feel my hands in Minus Two London is proof of how disturbingly sadistic you people are.]

As any Egyptian living abroad can testify, the two things we miss the most are our mothers and home-cooked Egyptian food; one is synonymous for the other. Yet for some perplexing reason, London doesn’t have a single decent Egyptian restaurant, despite the masses of Egyptians roaming the city’s streets and desperately seeking shawerma.

So I came up with a cunning business plan to exploit my fellow Egyptians’ homesickness. The first plan had been to sell Cleopatra cigarettes in London (just the mention of the name has brought tears to many eyes), the second had been to open a stuffed pigeon restaurant, which seemed brilliant since the city is littered with hungry Egyptians and fat pigeons. Give one to the other.

Apparently it’s not cool to eat pigeons in London, as most British people have reacted to my suggestion with absolute horror: ‘But they’re biiiirds!’ they squeak, as if I suggested eating cute, fluffy kittens.

Newsflash, Brits. You eat horsemeat.

It’s even more annoying that these fat, chubby, lazy pigeons waddle around London completely carefree like they own the street, and I walk behind them drooling and morphing into a lewd Hamdy Batchan singing ‘Eh El Asetoka dah?’

So, since no one likes my idea of killing pigeons and eating them – and the only restaurant to serve stuffed pigeon in London has had to stop because they got caught in customs smuggling in pigeons from Egypt – here’s my new business idea: Adopt An Egyptian Mother Dot Com.

Those of you living in Egypt – including several grown men who still live with Mama – often complain about the mother. She frets that your new haircut will make you less eligible bride/groom material – especially when your distant aunt is coming for a visit (to check you out), she demands grandchildren before you’re half-way through your molokheya, stalks your Facebook account for possible brides/grooms, still color-coordinates your underwear drawer when you’re 32, worries out loud that she will die before she will see her grandchildren because you haven’t expressed adequate interest in the neighbor’s cousin’s daughter/son who lives in Canada and is an architect, plans your wedding like a military superpower plans invading an oil-rich country (ruthlessly), uses your favorite worn out t-shirt as a rag to wipe the floor with,  and twenty years after primary school, still plays the comparison gang in front of your smug looking friends (‘Ahmed looks so nice in his clean shirt and business suit, why can’t you be successful and hardworking like him?’).

So you may want to send your mother off for a little holiday and enjoy some brief peace of mind. Here’s my suggestion: give her to us. In return of sorting out her visa and finding her a place to stay, all she has to do is come to London and churn out daily dinners of molokheya, stuffed pigeon, mombar, koshari and any other delectable Egyptian cuisine. Of course, she should also boss us around and fret about us not eating enough and being too skinny to make the whole Egyptian Mother experience more authentic.

A recent incident proved that my cunning plan may actually work.

A friend of a friend of a friend’s Egyptian mother landed in London with thirteen suitcases (thirteen!!!!), nine of which (NINE!!) were full of frozen, pre-cooked food from Cairo. The customs authorities let her through (good job, UK security!).

One of the nine bags contained stuffed pigeons. I begged my friend to hook me up in return for babysitting her son (I was desperate).

Because Egyptians are incredibly kind-hearted, the mother I’d never met agreed, and five stuffed pigeons were delivered to another Egyptian’s house for me to pick up. I had never met the guy either, and standing awkwardly in his doorway as he handed over the ominous parcel, I realized I was having my first drug-scoring experience, except with frozen pigeon carcasses.

Egyptian man: So what’s in the bag?

Me: (apprehensively) You know, stuff.

Egyptian man: It feels heavy.

Me: (shuffling feet, mumbling) Well, it’s sort of… stuffed pigeons…

Pause.

Man: Say what?

Me: Stuffed peppers?

Man: You said pigeons.

Me: They’re probably not that good.

Man: How many?

Me: Umm… five?

Man: I’VE HAD FIVE STUFFED PIGEONS IN MY HOUSE FOR THE PAST TWO HOURS AND I DIDN’T KNOW? WHY AM I GIVING THEM TO YOU? I WANT ONE!

Me: No. Get your own.

Man: I’m a poor bachelor who hasn’t had a proper home-cooked meal in months. Have mercy on me.

Me: (clutching package) Not happening.

Man:You can’t eat five pigeons on your own. It’s not possible.

Me: Try me.

Man: Look, just give me one and I promise not to tell anyone about it. I’m homesick and I miss my mother.

Me: No. If I give you one, then I have to give my other Egyptians, and then I’ll have none left.

Man: You’re a selfish bastard.

Me: الغربة صعبة يا سعاد

Man: One pigeon and I will give you a flash disk.

Pause

Me: What kind?

Man: Sony?

Me: No.

So I ate the five pigeons. Actually no, I only ate four. I gave the fifth to another Egyptian friend who begged me, and now she basically owes me till infinity. But then I had to lie to my other Egyptian friends that I’d been given two pigeons and was thus unable to share with them. Several friends had tantrums. All were men.

With the pigeon, I wield incredible power among the hungry, desperate Egyptian community. I sense that I can start my own mafia here.

Now if you let me export your mother, she will feed us all and make us happy, in return for a comfortable stay in London. Deal?

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On Being Politically Correct

Last year, I had the horrible task of having to break the news to my father that his best friend, my best friend’s dad, was dying of cancer. I was especially wary of telling him as most of his friends had a habit of dying recently, and my kind mother immediately shirked responsibility and told me he’d rather hear it from me. Nadla.

‘Dad, we need to talk,’ I told him as he walked past, looking immensely cheerful after a great day on the beach. Seriously, it was like preparing to kick a puppy. A big, wardrobe-sized puppy; but a puppy nonetheless.

Baba’s face fell and froze mid-cheer, panic immediately setting in.

‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ I said, gulping. Puppies need to be kicked every now and then, I comforted myself, or else they’ll pee on the carpet. Not that my father pees on the carpet.

Baba now had the universal father expression of oh-shit-she-must-be-pregnant.

‘Are you pregnant?’ he growled, and if you know my father, you’d know how intimidating he is. Entire villages of men shake at the mere memory of his growl.

So I did the only natural thing I could do, which is panic.

‘Dad….’

‘Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.’

‘I…uh… I’m a lesbian,’ I quipped.

Baba paused, and his facial expression immediately shifted to relief, then confusion, then comfort at the memory of the men in my life.

‘Don’t worry dear, I’m a lesbian too,’ he smiled. ‘I love women.’

So this is how we break bad news in our family.

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The Overgrown Tomboy

In retrospect, I think I’ve spent half my life defending being a woman, and the other half wishing I wasn’t. Egypt is a patriarchal society, where men call all the shots and have all the fun – well, except when it comes to traffic police. Meanwhile, us women either attempt to fight the status quo and get labeled whores or feminists, or we’re stuck in a Stepford Wives-like nightmare. Yes, I generalize. But Stepford Wives scared the shit out of me.

I’ve envied men ever since the age of six – until then, I was running, climbing trees and playing hide and seek with the boys in my neighbourhood.  Then one day, my mother informed me that it was time to put on the top half of my two-piece swimsuit instead of running around in shorts (I apparently spent the first 2.5 years of my life running around naked in people’s gardens , which makes for very awkward small talk 20 years later when I run into them).

I remember being absolutely indignant at my mother’s request.

‘Why should I?’ I hollered, ‘The other boys don’t wear tops.’

‘You’re not a boy, dear,’ my mother sighed. ‘You’re a girl.’

‘So what? I climb faster than them, and some of them cry like girls.’

It’s true. I remember a whiner called Sherif who would run blubbering to his nanny every time he got hurt while tree climbing. Yes, I was a tree climber and crying boys were sissies.

‘You’re not the same as boys, dear,’ my long-suffering mother tried again.

‘Why? What do they have that I don’t?’

An anatomy book landed on my bed the next day.

My mother tried to hammer into my stubborn head that my body was going to change and I would have to wear tops like all the other girls. I was horrified, and pursued a valiant two-year campaign of running, jumping and climbing things to outrun this garish nightmare. Eventually, the bastard known as puberty hit me, and I was suddenly expected to play with Barbie dolls, nail polish and wear pink frilly things and not climb trees anymore.

Fast-forward twenty something years later, and I still find myself often wishing I was a man, instead of being a gender that is physically, emotionally, and socially prevented from doing everything I want to.

It’s funny to realize that the possession of boobs holds you back more than it helps you. To my male counterparts and my community, my gender is a liability, one that attracts attention and trouble, both for me and for them.  And as a former tomboy, I’ve come up with a practical list of why it sucks to be a female:

-          Can’t pee standing up

-          Can’t pee standing up in groups by the road side

-          Burping is unladylike

-          The word dainty

-          Etiquette

-          Brazilian wax

-          Threading

-         Sexual harassment

-         People who justify sexual harassment

-         Society’s expectation of you producing kids like guinea pigs before you’re thirty

-          Disappointing your parents by not producing kids like guinea pigs before you’re thirty

-          Disappointing your parents by being female (‘I wish I’d had five boys instead of you. They’d have been much easier to handle.’)

-          Not being allowed to joyride a microbus

-           Or to hitchhike

-          As a journalist, not being able to crack into underground men-only worlds of prostitution and drug dealing

-          Underwire bras and high heels (motherfucker who invented them deserves to be eye-gorged)

-          Ladies’ clubs

-          Egyptian weddings

-          Being cajoled into the bouquet catching ceremony at Egyptian weddings

-          3o2balek

-          having periods

-          Nadia El Guindy

-          Women hanging out in the ladies’ room, or even worse, insisting on coming into the stall to keep talking while you pee

-          Self Help Books

-          Talking about Self Help books

-          Thinking Self Help books will actually explain men

-          Having a cat means you’re one step away from Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction

-          The existence of Female Genital Mutilation till today

-          Oprah Winfrey

-          ‘You’re so cute when you’re angry.’

-          Not being able to jog shirtless like Omar Sharif’s grandson

-          Chest bumping is awkward

I could go on but I kind of forgot the point of this list. I like making lists. They make me feel efficient. Sometimes I’ll write things that I’ve already done on the list so that I can cross them off and congratulate myself on being accomplished. [Day One: Get out of bed. Check.]

Honestly, life was so much easier when the measure of my worth was how high I could climb or far I could swim, and not how dignified I behave while politely eating a burger. Note: there is no demure way of eating burgers, watermelon, crabs, mussels, mangoes and spaghetti -my mother once told me: ‘Never eat spaghetti in front of the man you love, dear. The way you eat it, he’ll never love you again.’

And frankly, I do often prefer my male friends’ company to my girlfriends’. Conversations are so much simpler – and often monosyllabic – and do not involve detailed, blow-by-blow accounts of HelookedatmethenIlookedathimthenhesaidtomebutIsaidtohimsohewalkedawaydoeshelovemebutIhatehimletsfacebookstalkhim.

Instead:

Me: Blablablablablablablabla

Male: Uhuh.

Me: Blablablablablablablablablablablabla

Male: Cool.

Me: I’m so glad we talked.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate women nor do I hate being a woman, it’s just that this whole being feminine thing often perplexes me; especially when we spend hours of tweaking, sweating, squeezing and straightening our bodies, faces, clothes and minds to please our other halves who are meanwhile lounging in stained sweats in front of the TV with their feet on the table laughing at Beavis and Butthead.  I mean, I can wear a dress and everything, but I’ve been such a tomboy/klutz my whole life with arms and legs that always get in the way that if you looked at my knees you’d think I was a) a football player b) a mountain climber c) a man.

Let me make another list (yay!) to explain:

-          There’s a photo of me when I was two years old with a black eye. I apparently gave it to myself by punching spoon into face.

-          I have stopped ironing because every time I’d iron, I’d accidentally iron over a finger or into my arm. Hello burn marks.

-          I once dripped burning hot wax onto my leg. I stared at it for a good two minutes (still burning) then reached for a towel. And wiped the floor instead.

-          I can’t slice anything or open a can without cutting into my thumb and bleeding everywhere dramatically

-          I once stuck my hand into a hot toaster to see if it was hot enough, then burnt all the skin off my fingers.

-          I set my fringe on fire after lighting the oven and didn’t notice until the smell of burning hair filled the room minutes later

-          I am the only person I know who was injured by sand after reaching for a Frisbee and scraping all the skin off my leg on the beach. My friends died laughing.

-          My baby toes are permanently disfigured from running into table legs and sharp objects

-          I sat on a glass table. I fell into the glass table.

-          I once bumped into the fridge and apologized. To the fridge.

Once again, I can’t remember the point of this list, but I think what I was trying to write something profound about being a woman, etc. Err. Yeah. I think.

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Introducing Suzee Out of The City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name started as a joke (as did Suzee in the City) but I figured that I should start a travel blog since I travel every time I make enough money to get me out of Cairo – which is neccessary therapy, trust me. I love traveling alone or with friends, and this blog will be my personal account of the most beautiful spots around Egypt, and some excellent adventures overseas. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll find someone I could persuade to pay for my trips around the world, and then I could die happy.

Check out Suzeeoutofthecity and let me know what you think!

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On Strawberry Hair, Mountains and Dying Happy Lists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I may have mentioned previously, New Year’s Eve is a big deal to me. It’s that one day when I get drunk on optimism and sugar, set myself wonderfully ambitious goals that I will absolutely not complete, and look back on the last joyous year where I achieved none of those goals either.

Since the tender age of sixteen, I’ve been making lists of things I need to do that year in order to have really lived. Items include getting my hair dyed bright pink (there was a brief phase of infatuation with Gwen Stefani) or my eyebrow pierced, learning a useless language and reading books with big words in them.

Every year, I tell myself ‘I will die happy once I see Paris.’ Or climb a mountain. Or bungee jump. Or write a book. Every year, I have one thing left to do before I can die happy.

Now, at 29, it pains me to admit that I’m too old for an eyebrow piercing, and a recent flirtation with a stubborn Lebanese hairstylist left my hair in a garish strawberry hue that a mean friend affectionately referred to as Ganzoury Hair. I have climbed a mountain, I finally made it to Paris, but I’ve yet to fling myself off a building, write a bestseller or visit India. Would I die happy now?

Given everything that has happened to Egypt in the past year, I would have to say no. I won’t get all political on you, but suffice it to say that it’s very difficult for me to look back on 2011 without feeling utterly shitfaced depressed. And with the anniversary of January 25th tomorrow, I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to celebrate considering people died, people got jailed, people lost their eyes, and the same people remain in charge.

So in an attempt to lift my rather sombre spirits, I’ve made a list of all the great things I’ve accomplished in 2011. Prepare to be shaken.

Big Things I Did This Year:

  1. I was in a revolution, bitches. I’ve always wanted to write that. Thank you.
  2. I gave up smoking. Twice.  Some people  manage this once. I quit twice, being the overachiever I am.
  3. I travelled twelve times around Egypt. I did my part for the tourism industry this year and visited Port Said, the North Coast, Gouna, Ras Sudr, Dahab and Nuweiba repeatedly.  And I loved every minute of it, even when stuck on an East Delta Bus for six hours with a man smoking behind me and a plastic bag of live chickens skirmishing in front of me. I met lovely people and saw incredible sites that remind me of how lucky I am to live here.
  4. I did things that scared me. I windsurfed in Ras Sudr, which is terrifying when the winds are high and you fall on your ass so often, the fat 10-year-old British boy starts sniggering and pointing at you. I also climbed a mountain, which took six hours and brought me 1000 feet up. Or something like that. I also flew backseat in a small glider plane that surprisingly didn’t crash. And I managed not to scream or embedd my fingernails permanently in the poor co-pilot’s arm.
  5. I didn’t cut my hair. Every year, I go blind bat crazy and chop all, or half my hair off in an attempt to feel young and stupid again. This year, I managed to avoid the allure of the sheers, keeping my hair firmly on my head and avoiding what my mum calls ‘That Lesbian Look of yours.’ Clearly, I’m maturing.
  6. People Read My Blog.  People who weren’t my mother and my 30 friends. The narcissist in me was ecstatic. Yaaay.
  7. I Got Sick. You learn a lot about yourself when you lose basic functions, like the ability to eat, sleep or even walk. When you’re that incapacitated, you realize just how privileged you are to be able to breathe or move your arms. Once you’re well again, you quickly forget all the bargaining you made with God (‘Make me better and I promise I won’t smoke/yell at my parents/dump trash/bully again’). So having been there, done that and got the t-shirt, I try to be thankful every day for being healthy.
  8. I Am Loved. This is the one basic fact that comforts me every time I’m on a plane that’s about to crash – which is every time, I hate flying so much I once wrote my will before boarding for London – is that I can die happy because I know I’m loved. Even though those who love me, including my family, have contemplated throttling me at some point or other.

All these basic, insignificant achievements are what make 2011 a slightly happier memory for me, and 2012 a little less painful to face. I may not make it to India this year, but I hope I end 2012 on the same I-can-die-happy-now note.

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Fame and Your Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while. I won’t lie to you, I’ve wanted to write more, but I’ve been busy basking in the fame and celebrity status I have earned in my family, thanks to my post I’m an Egyptian Woman and I Like Being Sexually Harassed.

Me: Baba, 3000 people read my blog about sexual harassment!

Baba: What’s a blog?

Me: it’s a note you write online.

Baba: Ah, so it’s not real.

Me: Why?

Baba: It doesn’t count if it’s not in a newspaper.

Me: 3000 people is a big deal!

Baba: I have 1000 names on my phone; does that make me a big deal?

Me: (sulking) This is not a competition.

Baba: She writes a note on Facebook and calls herself a writer.

Me: It’s not on Facebook!

Baba: Even worse.

Me: It’s a blog! Bloggers are writers, you know!

Baba: Does Naguib Mahfouz have a blog? Does Alaa Al Aswany have a blog?

Me: (sulking) No.

Mama: Are you sure the 3000 people are even real?

Me: What?

Mama: How do we know you didn’t click on it 3000 times?

Me: For God’s sake, people read my blog! When am I going to get some respect around here?

Mama: When you clean your room.

Baba: Let’s look at the newspapers today. Is your name in El Sherouk? No. What about Al Masry Al Youm? Bardo no. What about Magalet El Shabab? Ha? Ha?

Me: You people are terrorists.

Mama: Stop being so mean to her, Abdalla. She looks tired, she must have been up all night clicking on her note.

Baba: HAHAHAHAA!

Me: I’ll have you know that writing online is very cool. Alaa El Aswany tweets all the time.

Baba: He does what?

Me: He tweets. He sends messages on Twitter.

Baba: Mashy, so Alaa has tweetar. Hayel. How many books did he write?

Me: Many.

Baba: How many books did he sell?

Me: I’ll go clean my room.

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