The apartment

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Because living in Cairo is like balancing an open bottle of gasoline on your nose while holding a lit match in your mouth (exhilarating and pointlessly dangerous), because everyone has had nightmare stories of their bawabs and neighbours, because I’ve left this place and hopefully my neighbours will ever  find me (ever, ever) again, I’ve decided to write this very stereotypical account of my beloved, decrepit apartment in Zamalek over the past five years.

Every morning we’d wake up to the sound of children screaming in the school courtyard, as the headmaster yelled into the mic: ‘Yalla ya 7omar enta we howa, tay7a el gomhoreya!’*

Followed by a bizarre medley of ‘Boshret Kheir/National Anthem’, ‘S&M’, ‘Sexy and I know it’ and ‘Sexy Bitch’, to which the kids did their morning aerobics. This was quite possibly the only sex education they got.

Every night we’d fall asleep to the sound of drunken shishifoufou idiots arguing with the parking attendants of the bar next door, or with each other, or – on one occasion – a wall, screaming ‘Ana mesh sakran yabn el a7ba!’. Wall did not respond, so drunk Foufou peed on it. Or that one time, someone took a gun and fired it into the air because of the following dialogue:

‘A7a, tesada2 ennak 3*rs?’

‘Ana mesh 3*rs yabn el m*tn*ka!’

‘La2 enta 3*rs!’

‘Bet2ool 3aleya 3*rs? A7a’. Takes gun out. Shoots. Logical conclusion.

Every time I’d try to park, I couldn’t, because even double parking in Zamalek is a luxury, and the only spot free on the entire street was where CrayCray parked. CrayCray is the old woman next door who would park her car between the first and second row, thus taking up two whole spots. If you tried to, she’d throw things on your car roof, then affectionately call you a sharm**t as you tried to flee the rain of rubbish she’d throw at you. Every morning at 7AM, without fail, she would then rev up the car engine and push on the gas incessantly till the entire neighbourhood woke up. Then she’d go back to sleep.

One night, after two desperate drives around the street with no parking spot in sight, I decided to take my chances and parked next to her car. I figured – since it was 2AM, she’d be fast asleep and I’d be safe. Nope.

A bucketful of ice landed on my car roof and window to the high-pitched, hyena-like screams of ‘YA SHARM**TA YA BENT EL WESKHA BETA3MELY EH YA MAAAMAAAA?’

I got out of the car and stared at her, and in then in a moment of inspiration, decided to respond in a language she understood. So I started singing at her:

She’s crazy and she likes it/Loca Loca Loca!’ and then ran for cover as her screams pierced the winter air.

Then there was that unfortunate incident when I met my second-floor neighbour, who seemed attractive and had several friends in common, and asked me out on a date. I made the mistake of giving him my number, only to receive the following messages after one brief coffee date:

‘Hello bunny rabbit’

‘Do you miss me, bunny rabbit?’

‘How is bunny rabbit today?’

‘BUNNY RABBIT ANSWER MEEEEEE’

‘Tayeb what about poodle? You like poodle, bunny rabbit?’

‘Hello?’

‘BUNNY WHY YOU NO CALL ME’

Thus, he became affectionately known as the bunny rabbit killer and I spent several months sneaking out of the building in sunglasses and a big hat to avoid running into him.

Then there was the glorious revolution, which Zamalek took to like salmon to the sea: the citizen checkpoint set up on my street with Molotov cocktails made of Chivaz and Smirnoff, where everyone suddenly had their grandfather’s collector samurai sword/hunting rifles/designer golf clubs/full-on leather outfits that looked more David Beckham circa Gucci phase than dangerous thug.

My favourite was the checkpoint at Gezirah Club, where we were stopped once by a middle-age crisis man fully decked in Harley Davidson gear and a walkie talkie worth one  year’s rent. With his legs practically spread-eagled across the road, he demanded our IDs, sniffed at our Alexandrian home addresses, and refused entry because we weren’t Zamalek enough. We proceeded to hurl keywords at him: lido, coffee bean, the Pub, Tante Foufette, Sami El Adl, Uncle Ramzi, ay haga, and he let us in after a 15-minute rant about his stocks and shares that would change the world .

Then there was the fact while all of Cairo was under curfew, Zamalek’s pubs and bars were open and bursting with revellers ordering cocktails a la ‘Monhara fil Tahrir’, as helicopters circulated overhead and you could hear the roaring sound of Tahrir protestors over the Nile, and gunshots firing in Imbaba and Shobra, yet somehow people were drinking and laughing their way through this terrifying reality via their own shishi coping mechanism.

Or that time when I woke up one morning to find a stranger making pancakes in my kitchen. Some foreigners had been kicked out of the Hilton and Safir Hotels, and Pancake man was taking refuge in our flat till he found a safe hotel. So I had pancakes and went to Tahrir. Later that day, the bawab knocked to say – rather embarrassedly – that the neighbours had complained that we were harbouring foreigners.

I looked at him. He looked at me.

I said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, we have no foreigners here’, as pancake man passed behind me and cheerfully yelled out ‘Sabah El Kheir!’

Bawab looked at me. I looked at him. He shrugged and left.

Or that time I was supposed to join my friends in Tahrir, but rumours had circulated that food was running out in Cairo, so I went to Alfa Market to stock up (what on earth do you buy?) amidst the many, panicking Zamalekites piling their trolleys high with Perrier, Saumon Fumee and Belgian biscuits. I came home with five bags of fuul tins and flour (I have no idea), only to find my family and friends staring at the TV with their mouths open.

‘Wait, was that a camel?’ one of them asked. And I realised my friends were in Tahrir surrounded by camels. I’d missed the camel battle by minutes as I was shopping for fuul tins. Shit you can’t make up.

Then there was the night Mubarak stood down, and my father and mother stood around the TV screaming and crying, I grabbed my shoes to run off to Tahrir before my father drew me into a hug and said, ‘Thank you for doing what my generation never could’ and cried. That quote became a tweet that ended up in a book that is the sole claim to fame I have.

There were nights of gas masks and graffiti spray cans, of Libyan activists making long distance calls to Benghazi as it fell to the revolutionaries, of the Gaza doctor who’d smuggled a water bottle filled with Vodka back from Rafah, left it in the fridge and had forgotten to warn me, the balcony that held up to fifteen people who sang so loud, neighbours three streets down could hear us. There was food and laughter, lights suddenly being turned off as gunshots fired too close to the house, of watching the plain clothes mokhabarat shred and bury a pile of documents in the backyard across from my balcony, of sleepless nights of crying and convulsing from the aftershock of nerve gas and watching grown men die, but never ever any stillness.

Then there was that night before Morsi won and the bar nearby threw a gallabeya party, and the day the results were announced I was accosted by a terrified neighbour who was moving her entire family to the coast because ‘If Shafiq wins, the Ikhwan will come and KILL US IN OUR SLEEP!’

‘How do you know this?’ I asked as I tried to dislocate her clenched wrists from around my neck.

‘MY PLUMBER TOLD ME, HE SAID THEY ARE COMING FOR THE RICH. WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIEEEEEEE.’

When the news broke, I walked to the club, the streets deserted and a pregnant quiet hanging over the heavy trees. And then shouts of joy erupted, I watched a street sweeper hug a restaurant waiter and congratulate him, as the tantes and uncles slumped in their seats and cried quietly into their lemon mint juices from FBI.

Then there was that time I decided to kidnap my neighbours’ dog, which was chained outside in the communal hallway in a wooden crib, where he drank from a water bowl covered in faeces, and the welts and bruises in his skin showed that he’d been beaten repeatedly.

After days of sneaking clean food and milk into his bowl, I asked a friend if she knew of any animal activists who could help. I asked that I be kept anonymous. Somehow my message got posted on some underground forum of animal activists in Cairo. The following happened:

  1. Attempt nr.1: Sherif, who described himself as a dolphin activist – he’d stolen some dolphins from a hotel somewhere in the Red Sea (???!!!??), called me.

‘This is what we’re going to do, ok? I’m going to sneak this pill into his food, mashy? The pill stops his heart from beating for a few hours, ha? Ha. They find he’s dead and they throw his body out in the trash, ah walahi. I will go pick him up from the trash and then take him to a safe house. Tadaa.’

‘Or, OR, you DON’T give him the pill, you just cut the chain to his neck, pick him up and leave!’ I suggested.

Sherif disappeared and never contacted me again. I never found out about those dolphins.

  1. Attempt nr. 2 was Basma, a very kind-hearted bur rather naive soul who decided honesty was the best policy; so she knocked on the neighbour’s door, informing them she was a friend of mine, and lecturing them on how to take better care of the dog. They looked at her, and slammed the door. So Basma had not only failed but implicated me in the plot.
  2. The last attempt was by the even more intelligent Sarah, who told the neighbours she was my friend and a vet, and said that the dog had a contagious virus that could kill their children, and she offered to take the dog off them. They said they’d think about it, so she waited outside the building, talked to the bawab and every single resident in the building about her plans to kidnap the dog and how she was a friend of mine. Genius.

The good news was that she did take him later that night, and the vet who checked him said he was covered in tumours and diseases due to beating, malnutrition and general human shittiness. I never saw Sarah again but she said he was adopted by a decent family, and even though the neighbours suspected me, the doorman interrogated me (see conversation above) and decided that I was not involved. They tried to kidnap my cat, Shitface, but that lasted about two minutes till he stuck his claws cheerfully in their thighs and they quickly unkidnapped him. 7abeeb mama.

Then there was that time a giant rat sauntered into the house. Shitface took one look at him and said ‘Oh HELL no.’ Rat disappeared into the kitchen and I spent most of the night with my feet firmly perched on the couch, watching the shut kitchen door as it trembled from the impact of rat flinging body against it.

I put a rag rug under the door to stop him from escaping, only to find half of it chewed off (as well as part of the door) the next morning. It was then when I discovered that the measure of a man should be in how he deals with a rat. Every manly man I knew was suddenly out of town/sick/overwhelmed with work to come help, and my bawab’s idea of rescuing me was to shove a piece of cheese covered in glue (I honestly don’t know) into the kitchen before cowering behind me, and then hitting my washing machine with a big stick in the hope the rat would come out with its hands up in defeat.

This is the same bawab who stood guard every night against thieves and ‘possible ikhwans’ with a big stick, but a rat one tenth his size scared the life out of him.

This apartment pretty much sums up everything I loved and hated about Egypt. There’s much more but I won’t tell you.

*I’d translate all of this into English, but I’m too lazy.

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Filed under Dating Jungle, Life in Egypt

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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Filed under Food is Fabulous

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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