Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Letters from Egypt: Meet Frustration

Taken on a stroll through the market on Road 7
Last week was an extremely rough go of it. I learned a great deal. If you are moving here for a job – no matter your occupation – go ahead and take my advice: you will never, and I mean NEVER, understand the typical Egyptian work mentality. It will by no means compare to what you are use to. Be prepared for the guilt trip some will undoubtedly lay on you and understand you cannot be friends with your employees – it will be used against you.

I know what you’re thinking: oh, she just had a bad experience. Oh no no no, even my Egyptian friends, albeit westernized, agree. Simple things that you take as common sense need further explanation. For example, in my line of work, I simply asked someone to cross check phone numbers to their website. Instead, the person looked at our website.

The main issue is when something goes wrong, no one takes blame for it. They either a) beat around the bush or b) place the blame anywhere but on themselves.

Oh, and quickly, allow me to give an update on the gender bias. I have been followed more as of late, even to the point that a man would not allow me to cross the street (he was in his car and inching up each time I made an attempt). I had someone stick his elbow out in order to hit me in my chest. I way-laid him. Egypt has just passed a law that a man can get up to three years if he assaults a woman. Good luck explaining to police when they never speak English. It has also been said that an accused man can pay 500LE (about $100) to avoid charges.

98% of foreign women are assaulted and 80% of Egyptian women encounter the same. Yes, if you are a female, you are going to get some sort of unwanted attention. It is also important to note that if you have low self-esteem, you will never feel better about yourself than when you are here. I suppose it is a Catch 22, but either way, no matter what country you are in, no man has the right to touch a female inappropriately. Be careful, be cautious and most importantly, be patient. I lost my patience last week and slowly but surely, I’m trying to recover.

I feel that I have to relay the bad times in order to be objective. Note my disclaimer: this is not all Egyptians, but it is a majority. Being a female with my boss out of town this week, I realized just how little I am taken seriously because of my gender, despite my education, working knowledge and background. These are things that are very hard to understand being from the US where equality is demanded.

I’ve decided to start listing places that I feel foreigners would love, and it is important to know where to do simple things such as getting your hair done (which will be featured in the next post).

Sushi Lovers Enjoy

This sushi place offers an excellent variety and my favorite, maguro (tuna). It is fresh and the service is friendly. English is spoken, albeit not fluently, but enough to get by. The inside is clean and very cozy. My selection always includes the salmon salad and the spicy boston roll with tuna – a must have for a first timer.

Sakara Sushi

23 Road 205

Degla Maadi

012 140 4984

022 521 3323