An Egyptian living in Europe but her heart stayed back home. Having some random thoughts about the before and after pictures. Ghawayesh means bracelets. In my context it symbolizes the cuffs of my culture. I don't know if I like them or hate them. Thanks for passing by.

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I started this blog in 2006 as a joke. Now that I look back, I have decided to take it seriously!

16 August 2014

My Culture.. Her Culture

While airports are a melting pot for cultures; you can immediately recognise Egyptians from the content of their luggage.

Some 15 years ago I was walking my way through Milan airport when an older Egyptian lady, dressed in her traditional galabeya dress, stopped me to ask about the way to her gate. She seemed so distressed, and was so far away from her destination gate (and land), and it seemed impossible for her to decipher the boards; because, sadly, she was obviously illiterate.

I luckily still had some time before I had to be at my gate, so I took the small effort to carry her massive bag and walk her, arm in arm, to her gate. During that trip she proudly told me about her son who lived in America and that it was her first time to visit him. She cut me like a knife as she said: "It's very difficult to be illiterate."

As we arrived, she was so happy and grateful that she gave me an affectionate hug and kiss, then sat down, placed her bag strategically between her legs, opened it, and revealed a massive 7alla (pot), opened it, and there was about a million soba3 ma7shi lying there- each in the size of a full-term fetus. She got one out, and pointed it in my face like a gun.

"Take this."

I froze.

Not only did the whole airport start to smell like ma7shi, but also my body is conditioned to produce toxic weapons of mass destruction just by the sight of it, let alone eating it. I could feel my intestines telescoping into each other out of horror.

It took me about 15 minutes trying to convince the kind Egyptian lady that I couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't eat ma7shi kronb at Milan airport.

I said goodbye, thinking, I wonder how many Egyptians are in her situation every day,  only, ONLY, because they can't read.

One day, I'll help people like you, nice lady. I can't die before I do my part, even if it takes me 50 years to do it.



On board Dusseldorf-Zurich flight..

I have this habit of taking food with me on board any plane, no matter how long or short the trip is. It might be something I learned from my mother, or an Egyptian thing, but you can be sure that Egyptians have food in their travel bags- plenty of it!

As we sat on board for the 55-minute flight, my boy was to my right, and a Swiss lady to my left. She was around her 60s, plump, and with a cute smile.

There was no sign whatsoever that food was coming. It was 3:30 pm and we hadn't had lunch. Of course I started doing my ritual. Opened my bag and took to making sandwiches for the family (yeah, making sandwiches. I'm Egyptian, I can make sandwiches even in my grave).

"Give her one."
My inner voice told me.

"Give who?"
I surprisingly asked my inner voice.

"The lady next to you!"

"One what?!"

I told my inner voice with one eyebrow raised.

"One punch in the face! A sandwich! Duh!"
My inner voice started to get impatient with me.

"Buddy, she's Swiss! They don't like being talked to and offered things from strangers!"

"I just have this inner feeling she needs one!".. The inner voice sadly mumbled.

"I wish I could, and it feels truly unnatural for me as an Egyptian to not offer her a sandwich, but I don't want to bother her! Go fly a kite for now please. Can't you see I'm busy and all this turbulence is causing Philadelphia spread to be all over my forehead?!"

"Alright then, I'm out of here."

I gave my 3 men their food, and sat to enjoy the taste of my sandwich.

Suddenly a massive turbulence caused the whole plane to scream of horror. My Egyptian hand (that with a mind of its own), unintentionally landed patting on the arm of the cute lady, trying to comfort her distress; as she seemed super panicky and gasping for air.

Literally 10 minutes before the landing, they start to spray us with boxes of ice cream. It was like the delivery to the plane had just arrived or something! #Yaoming

The next scene looked like a piece from Hamlet. The lady snatched the box, opened it nervously with shaky hands, and was engulfing the ice cream like it was her last 5 minutes.

After she finished, she suddenly turned to me and said: "The food was so late and I had no food with me. I'm diabetic and might have died without this box of ice cream."

*Ice water bucket pouring on my head*

"See? I told you, bitch! Next time listen to me, alright?"

I struggled to focus on ignoring to shout back out loud at my inner voice: "Shut up, bitch!"


Now I'm here in my bed, wondering, if I'm here in Switzerland, should I do like the Swiss do, or just be myself? I mean, I faked it so I wouldn't bother her, while if I were myself, I would have saved her life- somehow!

To be Egyptian or not to be.. Zat ist ze qvest-shion.

Well.. At least I'll go Egyptian in airports.


Tamer Sobh said...

Many thanks for sharing a piece of your life. Someone, miles away, like me, is having fun reading these. I learn a lot too. This inner voice is awesome I always listen to him ;)

Raouf said...

Loved the two stories, thanks for the special post.

It is actually one story, the two sides of you and which one you want to show to the world.
Then there is the inner voice (who is she, what does she want, why does she only drop hints but not carry an argument)
Please be kind to her, she sees farther than you can imagine.

Culture is like ghawayesh, it can be comforting but can also feel like handcuffs.
"To be Egyptian or not" it is too late to ask this question, you are no longer Egyptian than you are Swiss or Vietnamese. It is not that moved beyond it but that you are no longer need to be bound by the restrictions or demands of any particular culture.
You are yourself and people love your uniqueness, your honesty, your perseverance, your humor, your wisdom.
You could teach the Swiss a thing or two about spontaneity.

PS. I am amazed at the foolishness of both ladies, one carries a huge pot of food when she could fix it when she gets there. The other, a diabetic leaves home without a bag of snacks (peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, ..) in case she needs it,

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