Sacred art from Tibet, British Museum (London, UK).
Loughborough park, UK (2013)
Development and Revolution: Gilbert Achcar Speaks
El Moez st., in the heart of Islamic Cairo.
My first attempt to make sushi! Not bad :)
Three wise monkeys in Cairo, one of the many post-revolution graffiti.
A beautiful view on the Nile only 100 meters from my office in Giza. On the other side of the river you can see Cairo; in fact the river is the actual border between the two cities. I love walking along the nile, and this part of the city is lovely for this as there is a very large path for pedestrians and beautiful views.
In the picture you can see a small fisherman boat, where the man was working with his wife, and then yachts and 5 stars hotels like the tall building on the left. One of the many contraddictions of this city.
A view of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy). I took this picture in December 2011 when I went back home for Christmas holidays. It was a wonderful day even if terribly cold and windy, that cold wind that is well-known to who lives there. I miss that cold wind in my face and the smell of the sea.
I arrived to Cairo for the first time on January 3rd 2009. I was a fresh graduate and in desperately need for a change, and moving to Egypt to study Arabic sounded like a great opportunity to be for many reasons. Supposenly I was going to stay until May, then I postponed till and of June. I left Egypt on the 28th, excited to go back home for a while and then spend the summer in Cardiff for a change. After that, on September 11th I decided to move back to Egypt. And here I am, still living here.
Funny how I still remember the dates so precisely, and usually I’m so bad at it.
Living in Cairo has been a great chance for me, but sometimes also a pain in the ass. This is why when they ask me if I like Cairo, my answer is “I love it and hate it”.
I think Cairo is one of those places that to live in you need to love, otherwise you end up feeling miserable and just torturing yourself. You need to love it, but also learn to live with it. When you are a foreigner, you cannot expect people to adapt to you and to change the place you live in. It is not your job, nor your right. Why do we travel if not for getting in touch with new cultures and exploring new harbours? In Egypt I never felt so much of a stranger. I guess the Mediterranean influence did its job here, along with my look that often makes people think I am Egyptian or anyway from some other Middle Eastern country. People are generally nice and helpful, and always ready to talk to anyone wherever. No one would ever make you feel you are bothering them if you ask them for directions in the streets, and they won’t ignore you if you do not speak perfect Arabic, but they will try to help you out instead, understanding the situation. Egyptians are also very sociable and keen on knowing new people. But when it becomes real friendship, they you can rely on them. They will take you to the doctor, help you with the heavy groceries’ bags, and go with you to buy souvenires to take back home so that you do not get ripped off. People are genuine and down to earth, and they remind you how at the end we are all human beings and we all have the same needs and fears.
Apart of this, Cairo is home for a big expat community coming from all over the world. People whose interest is usually the same, focusing on the Middle East and its language. Thousands of youth that move there on their own and will never feel lonely, because when you travel you also tend to create your small world of friends and loved people. Cairo is an intense city, and so are the experiences within it. Friendship is not an exception. Maybe also because all in all, as foreigners, we all kind of have the same problems living in Cairo.
Not to mention the importance that living in Egypt has for my studies and personal growth.
At the same time, living in Cairo can be pretty hard for some aspects. Who knows me well knows how much I sometimes complain about it. But I know it is my choice and I shouldn’t do it too much. Especially considering that as Italian, I’m treated in a pretty good way and we do have a quite good reputation in here.
The thing that bothers me the most is probably sexual harrassment, especially because it is not something linked to culture, traditions or religions, but it’s only an annoying behaviour which affects especially Egyptian women. It’s pretty frustrathing to feel treated, or even only looked at, as an inferior being. More than once I reacted verbally to verbal harrassment, and all I got it was anger and more harrassment, as if I were not allowed as an woman to speak up. But unfortunately for them I always do and I’ll always do.
Also, being an atheist, it’s not always easy to live in a society where religion has such a huge influence in daily life (and I am not only speaking about Muslims, which are the majority and so it’s more obvious, but also about Copt Christians). It goes without saying that is pointless to explain my non belief, as most people won’t understand and only think I’m a freak. I feel like sometimes I cannot express myself and it drives me insane.
There is a million things more I hate about Egypt that I could talk about. This is probably because generally people tend to remember negative things more than positive ones.
Still, I do love Cairo. I love it because it’s always a surprise, because of the sunsets on the Nile, and because of the smell of spices in the bazars. I love it for the donkeys in the traffic, for the thousand minarets and for the Ramadan atmosphere.
And now that I know I’ll be living in a few months, I appreciate it more than ever!