Although Egyptians complain about life in Egypt 24/7, everybody seems to want to flee. We make up jokes about our country, ironically about ourselves, and make fun of anyone who says “bas walahi fiha 7aga 7elwa”. Nobody can deny that whenever we travel we miss lots of things about Egypt.
At first I started writing my own thoughts, then decided to ask all my Facebook friends who provided me with extremely valuable feedback, and mentioned things that would have never even crossed my mind.
My question was pretty simple: What do you guys miss when traveling or living abroad (other than shatafa)?
Food & Beverages
Nearly everyone agreed that it’s food; some miss Koshary, Molokheyah, Mango 3oweis, Fetir specially with Sogo2 and Gebna Roomy, Roomy Cheese, White Cheese (gebna beida) with Batikh (watermelon), Rice Pudding, Foul Medames w Ta3meya w Betengan Ma2li, Basterma, Basbousa, Kahk, Ghorayeba, Fesikh, Renga, 3esh Baladi, 7amam Ma7shi, Leb Asmar, 2asab and Karkade juice
Photo by Waleed Elzuhair
70% of females who responded miss being dependent. In Egypt there is always someone to give a hand whether a maid, a porter, a doorman, or someone to do the ironing, pressing and dry cleaning, and it’s not as expensive, or requires lots of complicated logistics as abroad.
Photo by Fred Seibert
Porters and Doormen
All mums and housewives agreed that they miss doormen, porters at the airport (specially when traveling with kids) and at the supermarket too. We Egyptians are used to going to the supermarket once or twice a month to get all our needs, hence we buy lots of stuff at a time. This is where having a bawab comes handy as he helps in carrying the stuff -in return of a tip-, the stroller, whatever it is. If you don’t have a bawab, then you can ask any passerby who wouldn’t mind giving a hand. No matter how annoying they can be, and keep nagging to offer help, having their help is like a call from heaven. But when abroad you’ll be super lucky if someone offered help.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Maid & Garbage Man
When you are abroad maids charge you hourly, and select the areas that they will be cleaning, or the kind of work that they will be involved in, and you can’t really complain, however in Egypt a maid cleans, cooks, does the laundry and sometimes irons as well. So it’s not that they don’t have it abroad, but it’s usually very expensive & very complicated.
When living abroad garbage can really be a nightmare, in most countries you have to take care of your garbage, separate it into plastic, cans, paper, organic, non-organic, bla bla, all depends on the country’s recycling system. There ain’t no garbage collection or help, you have to figure it out on your own. But in Egypt, you put everything together -which is not a good thing for the environment- and the garbage man comes at your doorstep to pick it up.
A tiring day of garbage collection (abroad) by Mary Crandall
The Makwagui (ironing & pressing specialist)
Ironing shirts is the biggest nightmare of all time. In Egypt, you don’t have to worry at all, it’s very easy to drop off your stuff or ask for a pick up and have them ironed, pressed and delivered to your place, or if in a hurry you could drop them off and wait for them to be ready at the comfort of your car, or even having someone to do the ironing and pressing at your place.
Admit it, we are couch potatoes, and if there was an award for the laziest people in the universe that would be us :). We always feel like “tayeb w leh waga3 el demagh wel bahdala eh el haynazelni if anything can be delivered to home?“. In Egypt, you’ll never go hungry, you’ll never run out of snacks, chocolates or beverages, even if what you are about to order doesn’t offer delivery you can order anything from the shop next door, then ask the delivery boy to bring your initial order with him, even airline tickets are now delivered at your doorstep. So anything can be delivered at home, anytime of day.
Photo by Kamyar Adl
Buying Medicine Anytime Without a Prescription
You don’t have to worry about visiting the doctor when sick, because in Egypt you don’t need a prescription to buy medicine, all you need is telling the pharmacist how you feel, or you know someone who “beyefti kowayes fel adweya”, or you know how to treat yourself and you are good to go. If you are not feeling well in the middle of the night, there will certainly be an open pharmacy who can deliver you medicine at home. But when abroad you have to make sure to get sick during the day, and to see a doctor, otherwise, mmm, there is no otherwise.
Photo by Paula Bailey
The Energy (Going out & walking the streets late at night)
The best thing about Egypt is that the streets are never deserted, you’ll never be the only one hanging around at 4am. People are energetic 24/7, you’d sense it more at night, so we go out and stay up very late and walk the streets without any problems, and always find places that are open to eat, drink, chill out and party. But when abroad most countries become dead around 6-7pm, and you’d be lucky to find a good place to eat at 10-11pm.
Not referring to the weather, but to emotions. People in Egypt are warm, sociable, hospital and very friendly. Something that is hardly & rarely found abroad.
Photo by Rowanhill
Yeah we agree that it’s not as intense as before, however it’s still there. Got a flat tire? Your car broke down? Your battery is dead and you need to make a phone call? You are lost and need someone to show you the way? You need help? You’ll always find someone offering help and ready to assist you. The western culture is more independent, so everyone doesn’t really care about others.
Photo by Ktoine
Egyptian Hospitality & Generosity
The more you visit villages and small towns in Egypt the more you’ll sense hospitality and generosity, don’t be surprised if everybody you met or passed by offered you tea and food for free. When you head to big cities, it’s not exactly the same, however splitting the bill between two people is not an option, and when it happens it’s usually after fighting over the bill. It is considered very rude and cheap if a guy takes a girl out without paying the bill (unless they make a prior agreement). But when abroad, splitting the bill is just common sense, no fighting over the bill, and don’t expect from anyone to invite your over anything -it’s rare-, you can be offered a drink, nothing more.
2a3det el ahwa & el wa2fa 3andel koshk (for guys)
After a long day at work boys love to hang out together in Cafes (3al ahwa) to smoke their favorite shisha flavor or have a drink, while playing bolet estimation, tawla, watching a football game or just staring at each other without speaking a word.
Photo by Peter Morgan
Who would have ever expected that pumping gas in your car, and filling your tires with air are a luxury, and not a normal practice!!!
That’s how a gas station looks like in most foreign countries by Clyde Robinson
Egyptian Taxi Drivers
Other than enjoying some crazy driving, they always share the funniest stories ever, most of them are made up, lots of cursing and swearing are involved.
Photo by Rutger
Shops and Supermarkets open till late at night
Having shops and supermarkets open everyday -even on weekends- till late at night is the best thing ever. You’ll never have to worry about buying everything before the weekend, or before a certain hour during the day.
Photo by Tom Magliery
Hairdresser (for ladies)
Having our hair and nails done abroad is very expensive and we can’t really complain about the outcome like we usually do in Egypt, whether we like it or not, we’ll have to draw a smile upon our face, pay and leave.
At the nail spa by Ianquie Doodle
Come on nothing can beat our beaches, they are simply stunning; sandy, with crystal clear waters, and amazing views. If you long for swimming in winter go directly to the Red Sea where the water remains fresh and the weather stays warm, but if you prefer to swim in summer time then head to Alexandria, Sahel (North Coast), or Marsa Matrouh -you can still go to the Red Sea as well.
The North Coast by Mohamed Saeed
Yes our summer is insanely hot, however we are lucky to be having 365 of sunny days, and we don’t have to check the weather forecast hourly to make sure that it hasn’t changed. The climate is very stable, so no surprises involved.
Photo by Andrew A. Shenouda
Be it in Cairo or Aswan, nothing beats a felucca ride on the Nile specially at sunset. It completely disconnects you from the hustle and bustle of living in Egypt.
Nile River in Aswan by Dennis Jarvis
And it goes without saying
The Shatafa (water hose)
I don’t think that non-shatafa countries should speak or even mention the word “hygiene”, as not having a shatafa is the filthiest thing ever. Egyptians find their ways to use alternatives -now there is a portable shatafa- or try to install them, however not having a shatafa is their biggest drawback.
I would like to thank all my friends who have taken the time to answer my question namely: Ingy Assem (my sister), Sarah Abdel Hamid, Tasnim Hassanein, Nassimah Francis, Omar El-Zorkany, Aladdin Nabil, Rita Rizkallah, Dina Samy, Sarah Rafik, Omar Helmy, Mohamed El-Far, Muhammad Abousteit, Sarah Rafea, Samy El-Sheikh, Mostafa Said, Mohamed Sherif Aggag, Donya Hassan, Tamer El-Rayes, Mariam Ihab Ghaly, Bisha Stino, Marwa Abaza, Chaimaa Yassine, Yasmin Helal, Radwa Saleh, & Aisha Saad.
And Emil Wessels & Angela Gibson: Both are foreigners, but Egyptians by heart.