Tag Archives: cairo

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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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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Suzeeinthecity: Cairo Street Art- Downtown Cairo

Mr. X by Keizer next to Chessboard by El Teneen on Yousef El Guindy Street

If you’re interested in the rising graffiti trend in Cairo, check out my other blog SuzeeintheCity as I scramble around Cairo searching for the latest graffiti pieces.

[‘Excuse me,’ he walks up to me as I hesitantly put my camera down, ‘What does this picture mean?’

He points at the Keizer stencil of Mickey Mouse on the grey wall. Mahmoud Bassiouny Street on a Saturday afternoon is crowded, and people seem still wary of any snap-happy camera-toting thug like me. Who knows, I could be another Facebook-loving Zionist spy.

‘I think that’s Mickey Mouse,’ I say helpfully.

‘Yes but what does it mean? And who is that man next to him?’

He’s bald with a graying walrus moustache, probably in his mid-forties, his full cheeks sweating as he fans at his pin-striped pink shirt.

‘I’m not quite sure,’ I say politely, wishing I could go back to my camera, but he appears adamant for an answer. ‘Maybe it’s a president? It could be George Bush.’

‘Yes but what is George Bush doing with Mickey Mouse? I like this picture, I walk past it every day, but I wish there’d be some writing explaining it so that I could understand.’

How do I explain dichotomy or irony in Arabic? My mind goes blank.

‘Err… maybe the guy who made this wants you to think about it and come up with your own idea?’ I offer weakly.]

To read more and check out the graffiti of Downtown Cairo in all its glory, click here.

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I’m an Egyptian Woman and I Like Being Sexually Harrassed

I wake up every morning looking forward to getting sexually harassed in Cairo. Because a day gone by without being whistled at like cattle or groped like a melon at a vegetable store is a day unlived in this city. Right?

I even dress according to how often I’d like to get harassed that day. Tight white t-shirt? That’s the number one sign that I’m asking for it. Skinny jeans are obviously worn to highlight my butt so men know what to grab (some short-sighted idiots completely miss and grab my hip instead, which is just plain insulting).

And since I don’t cover my hair, then obviously I know what shit I’m getting myself into by walking on the streets of the city I call home as an equal citizen to the men that lurk on corners, outside shops, dangling from microbuses, waiting happily.

As an Egyptian woman, I completely understand that my purpose in this life is to serve the sexually frustrated imaginations of these poor men who can’t get it up. My father and mother spent years of sweat, tears and hard-earned cash on educating me into an emancipated woman so that one day I become a walking piece of meat on the street. Obviously.

Then I discovered that all the hours I put into my hair and makeup make no difference whatsoever to my sexual predators; I could walk around with my uncombed hair and a gallabeya; hell, I could wear a black tent from head to toe and still, they’d find something sexual about me. Ever heard Egyptian men talk about how erotic the Niqab is? Yeah, apparently there’s nothing you can do or wear to incite harassment.

Just the plain fact that you have boobs and they don’t means you’re up for grabs, literally.

I could spend what’s left of my pea-sized woman’s brain wondering what I did to deserve this friendly male reception, or analyzing why society has continuously objectified us little women into pigeon-holes of either innocent, doe-eyed girls or rampant whores; but I won’t.It takes too much brain power, and me being the weaker sex, I should stick to what I do best, which according to these men, is nothing.

Which is why I should never talk back, or look back, or yell or ask for help; this is my fate, I must accept it. And not even the veil can protect me from my Muslim brothers.

So I play a little game in my head. It’s like walking through a videogame scene, where every man is a potential predator, and I keep my radar finely tuned, my walk fast and dontmesswithme, my eyes scanning every corner for attackers. Over the years, I’ve acquired a Robocop face that occasionally scares the living shit out of small children and animals, and my middle finger is my videogame weapon that I choose to shoot when the moment comes.

But I only keep it for those who really deserve it; I ask myself ‘Is this the worst line I’ve heard all day? Has he managed to completely annihilate my self-esteem?’ If so, then he gets the finger. If not, I just walk on.

And I defy what my well-intentioned mother and many other kind Egyptians have taught me, and I answer back. Why should men  get all the fun?

Him: Bsssst! Bsssssst! Bssssssst!!

Me: Bsssst dee teb2a ommak.

Him: WELKOM TO EEJIPT!

Me: SANK YOU!

Him: Wat Zis? Wat Zis? Wat Zis? WAT ZIS?

Me: Zis is etnayel yala.

Him: Matgeeb Bosa?

Me: Ma3ak Dettol?

Him: Oh MAI GODD!

Me: Ommak Ar3a.

And as fun as it is to talk back, I’m sure I’m not getting the same kick out of it that they are. And I know that it could only make things worse for me, my predator could easily attack me  in broad daylight or get his friends together to follow me like a pack of rabid dogs, and of course it will be my fault because I talked back, when I should ignore it and accept that this is the price you pay for being a woman in Egypt. Right?

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On Being A Cruslim

Aside from the aforementioned dreaded birthday, the other time of the year that makes me neurotic (well a lot more than the usual neurotic) is Christmas and the end of the year. While many consider this to be a time of celebration and giving, I consider it one of loss, nostalgia and regret, but also one of gratitude and a sneaky, unshakable hope that I’m going to wake up to a pile of presents under the plastic Made-in-China Christmas tree.

This (like pretty much everything in my life) can be blamed entirely on my parents, who, up until I was ten (or four, depending on which parent you choose to believe) led me to believe that Santa Clause (and the tooth fairy) existed purely to buy me presents.

I remember every Christmas Eve being a festive, happy, gift-filled party, usually thanks to my unofficial godfathers, Uncle Mohi and Uncle Victor buying me excellent choices (for a ten/four/28-year old) such as a yellow tea tray set with beautiful tea cups, a quaint tea pot and even a sugar jar (it baffles me how my usually pea-brain-sized memory can still recollect these obscure little experiences when I fail to remember more important things such as why I left my car keys in the fridge again, most of my friends’ names and my sister’s birthday- thank god for facebook reminders). Singing in the Rain would be playing on TV, my friend Maya and her sisters, my sister and I would huddle in front of the fire and ladle generous spoons of brandy cream into our mouths (which led me to recently observe to my mother: “Have you ever thought that maybe I wasn’t sugar high as a kid, I was just drunk?”) and sing all the Christmas songs that my German kindergarten had hammered into my head.

Several years of jovial brandy cream and tea set gifts later, my dad one day decided to burst my Santa bubble by telling me that Mr. Clause doesn’t exist, and I should no longer get presents; as I’m Muslim and Muslims don’t have Santas. This I found to be extremely offensive, especially since it meant no more presents; but I was happily reminded of not one but two Muslim feasts where I get brand-new clothes and clean-smelling cash from all adults (including unfortunate guests who happened to drop by at the wrong time and couldn’t handle my thug-like ten year old attitude of ‘Yo! I’m Muslim! Gimme money!”

Still, the cash was usually a few pounds at the most and always ran out with one trip to the nearest grocers and a pile of Magic Gum, Bimbo, Rocket and bonbon Sima, or it got confiscated by the same Santa-ruining father who put it all away in a precious bank account “for savings.” Two decades later, we’ve forgotten entirely about those bank accounts, but I’m pretty sure there’s a few valuable twenties locked away somewhere with my name on them.
Today, the cash is no longer forked out, as I am rudely reminded that I am an independent, cash-earning career woman and new clothes are no longer necessary since I need two wardrobes in two different cities to contain my collection (and several suitcases and a few boxes under beds). But I’ve always thought that it’s the thought that counts, especially when it’s a well-thought-out wad of cash on Christmas or either of the eids or a new pair of shoes, but hey, I’m just saying. Not dropping hints or anything, Dad.

The whole why-don’t-I-get-Christmas-too debate recently came into question when my last boss decided to split work holidays according to religions; i.e. if you’re Christian, you get Christmas off, but if you’re Muslim, you have to work, etc. I understand that the man was a workaholic and wanted to keep the company running throughout the year, but I smelled religious discrimination and considered reporting him to some workers’ union until I remembered that, like most of my friends working in Egypt, I didn’t have a contract or any legit workers’ papers, and thus did not have a single (nicely shoed) leg to stand in.
Then I came up with the genius decision that I am a Cruslim. Yes, a Christian Muslim. A person of both faiths that gets both the Christian and the Muslim New Year’s Eves off and expects presents whenever possible. My poor boss blinked at me for a good five minutes, and then huffed off and threatened to throw his Café Greco double espresso at someone else instead.

He then got into trouble when Thanksgiving rolled around and the American colleagues got that off but I had to work, whereupon I pointed out that I should get Egyptian Labor Day, Sinai Liberation Day, National Victory Day, Sham El Neseem, May 15th, 26th of July, Father’s and Mother’s Day off. Suffice it to say that I don’t work there anymore.
Still, my closeted religious righteousness is appeased with every Christmas, as I get invited to many generous dinners, where people feed me for a change and I don’t have to raise a finger except to go for seconds, and sometimes thirds ( I eat for a living. I have the stomach capacity to prove it).

That, however, cannot always shake the sense of foreboding and regret that I feel around this time of year when I remember the people that I have lost and the opportunities that I have missed on this strange path that I have taken.
It’s always around this time of year when I look at what I’ve become and what I was supposed to be, and measure the drastic gap of difference between the two. When I was six (or eight or twelve) I had my life excellently planned out. I was going to be an astronaut. A champion tennis player, the grand dame of a ballet school, a dog breeder, the president of the world; all admirable and realistic aspirations that got lost along the way of growing taller and wider, saner and more responsible.

These are the things that I still regret.
1. I regret listening to my ballet teacher when I was twelve, who told me I was too tall and too heavy to ever become a ballerina. After eight years of loving ballet, I quit cold turkey. I still tear up when I watch ballet, and my feet always twitch whenever I watch So You Think You Can Dance. I could have been something.
2. I regret all the amazing trips and job offers that I passed up on, like the free trips to Cyprus, Sharm El Sheikh, Beirut and Damascus, or the job offer at AP, the exchange program in the US, or the writers’ program in Gouna. All these opportunities I relinquished because I was committed to a person or a job, and time has proven neither to be worthy.
3. I regret the friends that I’m no longer friends with, whether because words were spoken and pride got in the way, or we drifted apart because my life was filled with other (more temporarily interesting) people. I’ve found out the hard way that you don’t choose your best friends; they’re the ones that stay when the smoke clears and the glitter fades.
4. I regret the advice that I never took, the people that I never listened to, and as a result, let myself get hurt by people who didn’t deserve my trust. Since then, I’m borderline anal about taking my friends’ advice on who I should date, what I should eat, and does that haircut really suit me even if the hot Lebanese/Italian/French hair stylist tells me I look fabulous.
5. I regret the people that I’ve hurt, whether through carelessness or not being able to control my car or foresee the future.
6. I regret never telling the people I lost how much I love them. Mohab believed in me more than I did in myself, and wouldn’t stop calling me, no matter how often I ignored his phone calls. Roba insisted on cooing at me down the phone, even when I begged her not to sing Hammaki or Tamer Hosny off-key to me, but she was charming and she loved me.
7. And the biggest regret I will always have is the fact that I never answered Vanessa’s calls. She called me every day for five days when I was mourning Roba, and I was too stuck in my bubble to call her back, or even just text her. The day she stopped calling, I decided to call her back, and it was too late. And that’s something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.
My very wise grandmother once said that you don’t regret the things that you do, you regret the things that you don’t. With all the mistakes that I’ve made in my rather short twenty eight years of life, I rarely have pangs of regret other than the next morning of what-the-hell-did-do-last-night-and-how-did-I-end-up-singing-karaoke-on-the-bar-table-and-why-did-my-stupid-friends-take-photos-and-post-them-on-facebook.

At this time of year, I weigh my list of regrets versus all the little milestones that I’ve achieved, and try and spin something positive out of them. I’m young, I’m loved, I have several talents that should channeled into something more productive than feeding a few friends (sorry, guys) or writing a blog that possibly thirty people (including my mother) know about.
So this year, I resolve to stop whining about nostalgia and regret, and start doing something about it. Starting with presents. You know what I want.

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The Question of Courage

If you know me well enough, then you know that I don’t take risks. I’m not exactly the brave, daredevil, bungee-jumping type of girl. I’m afraid of heights and flying- which is quite unfortunate, considering I love traveling. Thankfully I’ve come a long way since the summer of 2002, when I literally cried all the way from Cairo to London. The fact that I was howling and reading my Koran at the same time didn’t go down too well with the elderly British couple next to me.

I don’t eat exotic foods (if I can squish it with a flyswatter or make a leather handbag out of it, I’m not eating it), and I don’t dabble in recreational drugs, though I do have a worrying weakness for painkillers and cough syrup (ask me about Toplexil later), and several eyewitnesses can probably testify that they have pretty much the same effect on me as mind-altering substances.

I used to fear cockroaches, especially the flying ones, but if you’re in a family where two out of three will climb on a chair and scream at the cockroach below, someone has to step down and kill it with a slipper. That someone is usually me.

Nonetheless, it’s dawned on me lately that I’ve never been the one to shave my head, get a tattoo, jump off a cliff or dive into the deep unknown (I’m claustrophobic under water, so I don’t scuba dive). If anything, I’ve always been the kind of girl that plays it safe in a boring dependable way, which is sad when you look at my family.

In his youth, my father had quite the reputation for meeting confrontations head on. It’s not that he picked fights; it’s just that his large-as-a-cupboard frame, crushing handshake and could-make-DeNiro-cry glare tended to attract fights to him. Friends would call him for help whenever a fight was going on, and usually he would win. I’m sure he must have lost at least once or twice, but I have yet to meet anyone alive who will attest to that…. My dad’s friends love to tell me stories about him, while he sits blushing slightly, like the one about him playing a volleyball match and disagreeing with the referee, whereupon he slapped the referee so hard that the man went deaf in one ear (myth). Or the one where he got into a fight with a driver on Stanly Corniche, so to make a point he picked up the front of the driver’s car and dragged it for a bit (I’m sure this is a myth; I don’t care if two of his friends swear this happened). My dad had guts; he would literally dive into the deep end and save drowning swimmers from the deceptively strong tides of Agami. Sometimes, he would bring them back alive and other times he wouldn’t; but he had the guts to keep going back.

When she graduated from university, my mother took on a teaching job that took her to different parts of the world every year, from Prague to Belize to Egypt, all on her own with her family left behind. Growing up in a society where it’s completely normally to live with your family till you marry, my mother’s spontaneous adventures through Europe (driving to Greece with a friend in a beaten up car) or her Greyhound journey from the Grand Canyon to New York City with only $40 in her pocket is an adventure that most Egyptians will only dream of or watch in a Julia Roberts movie.

With parents like these, you’d expect me to be a tobacco-chewing, sailor-swearing hippy traveler, and yet I literally hide from confrontations and when I travel, I have an itinerary, budget and every meal, sight and expedition planned down to a T; so that absolutely nothing can go wrong. I am, as one friend called it, ‘an obsessively neat traveler.’

But now that I think about, maybe risks can be taken in different ways. Maybe I’ve never done anything reckless, crazy or highly adventurous before; but I do have courage (surviving breakup, moving across the world, independent woman of substance, blablabla.)

So now, I’m about to embark on a little adventure of my own. A trip to Barcelona and Paris, alone, unplanned, unmapped. Buy a camera, take photos, taste their tapas and cavas by the beach. Sit in La Segrada Familia in silence and sunbathe in the Gaudi Park. Finally make it to Paris; a dream I’ve had ever since I was twelve and watched An American in Paris. Tie a scarf around my neck like Syd Cherisse and sip café au lait by the Rive Gauche. Flirt and cuss in four languages. See the Tour Eiffel at night and walk through Montmartre.

It may be your average vacation, and you may have already been and done that several times before. But to be out of my comfort zone, without my friends, family, maps and itineraries to depend on, takes a lot of guts on my behalf. Perhaps adventures don’t happen to you if you sit around and wait all day. You make your adventures; and I am making mine.

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