Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Cairo, etc.
I am a freelance writer, editor, and photographer, born and raised in England, my heritage stemming from Egypt and Syria. During my annual summer visits to Egypt I was always enchanted by the land of the Pharaohs, which made me dream of moving there. A little over a year ago I felt it was time to start a new chapter in Egypt with my family. I only found it fitting to choose a pen name that was Egyptianised (the word being half English half Egyptian-Arabic) to reflect the hybrid I am. I feel comfortable writing under a pseudonym so I can express my thoughts as freely as I want to.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging a few months before moving to Egypt. I wanted to write about the challenges of being a hybrid, in both England and Egypt. When I finally moved to Egypt I decided to write about my observations on Egyptian society and culture, describing my plight when it comes to belonging to two very different cultures. A year after the revolution, with tourism dwindling, I decided to write a series on my blog promoting the beauty of Egypt through my photography and writing.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
It would have to be a recent post called Why This Expat (Still) Loves Egypt. During the tumultuous period Egypt is currently facing, I hear a lot of people express how much they hate Egypt. This inspired me to write this post, explaining how I feel about Egypt, despite what it is going through, hoping to inspire others to see the difference between hating a country and hating the country’s system.
I’m also fond of the post describing my walk through Orman Gardens, The Bride of Cairo that Once Was because it describes beautiful parts of Egypt that could be improved with a little TLC.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Cairo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I visited Egypt every year since I was a little girl, but like I’ve written on my blog, I have always been overwhelmed because of how different the attitudes are in Egypt. Egyptians are friendly, funny, and laid back, but there are things major cities like Cairo suffer from, such as the lack of cleanliness in the streets, queue-jumping, aggressive driving, ulterior motives from people who aren’t being genuinely nice but want something in return, being a female on your own on the streets, in a taxi, etc, and fearing harassment, and other such cultural differences that make it challenging to get used to living here.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Cairo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wasn’t fully prepared for a revolution, as we had moved to Egypt just a couple of months before. Although it was a terrifying time, I loved how people came together to defend their homes against thugs, protest against the status quo, and clean the streets after it! I had never seen hope, determination, love of one’s country, and strength of community like that before, which made it a valuable experience for me.
I would definitely have thought more about where I wanted to live in Egypt, far from the bustling city, but close enough, in a compound with a strong expat community where I felt safe to walk on my own.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Cairo?
- Have an open mind, acknowledging that Egypt isn’t a bouquet of flowers, but also isn’t all thorny too.
- Be patient and take one day at a time, don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Research your rights as an expat, foreigner, etc, in Egypt; ask advice from your embassy if need be; browse online expat forums, twitter accounts, and blogs and ask any queries you may have.
How is the expat community in Egypt? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Since I live far from expat communities in Maadi and such areas, it is hard finding like-minded expats or hybrids like myself. But the online community is an alternative way to get to know and learn about expats’ lives in Egypt, so one doesn’t feel isolated.
How would you summarize your expat life in Egypt in a single, catchy sentence?
Discovering something new about Egypt every day, taking my life here as a smooth learning curve.