My Access to internet was not so great, so this post was from 9/13/2011.
I have been in a Egypt three days and the best way to sum it all up is: Culture Shock!
I know that it may seem strange for someone with experiences elsewhere in the Arab world to feel this way, but Egypt is “”Haga taniya khaaaaalis” (حاجة تانية خالص)= a completely different thing.
I don’t even know where to start, but I have decided that lack of an internet connection in my apartment (for the time being) will not deter me from sifting through my thoughts.
As I wrote above, Egypt has been surprisingly different for me. When I say culture shock, I don’t mean the fact that Egyptian cultural mores, daily life, food etc. is vastly different from what I experience in America. I mean, that Egypt is unlike any other Arab country I have visited.
There is a grittiness to being here that I never felt in Qatar, Morocco or even Yemen. And this, bothers me. I have trying to put my finger on why and this is what I have concluded thus far.
Treatment of me as a black foreigner/foreigner altogether
I know that I complained about Qatar (Gulf) society’s hierarchial/racially based social structure. But, I think somehow, I got used to it, it seeped into my consciousness.
In both places, the assumption is that I am African— (Sudanese once they find out that I speak Arabic).
But Qatar all I had to do was let people know that I am American and 80-90% of the time that was the end of my problem. Americans in the Gulf are ranked extremely high on the totem pole. We are feared. We are revered. We are preferred. (I don’t make the rules, I just play by them).
Not so in Egypt. Last night some neighborhood guy greeted me with exaltations of how Sudanese people are the best on the face of the earth… only to later show his disappointment at my being American. (can you say awkward). I’ve already heard epithets hurled at the USA (usually when I am walking with white people though). Needless to say, we are not preferred.
However, I am not feeling funny/ not adjusting too well to Egypt because I’m not hot stuff anymore. I think the American distinction points to something bigger, and more important: I don’t get a free pass here because I’m foreign. I think there were things in terms of dress and composure that I got away with (and maybe even took advantage of a little) when I was the Gulf that I can’t do here. This, I think is making me chafe just a smidgeon. In this way, Egypt seems like a much more conservative place (religiously and socially).