Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Letters from Egypt: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Musician performing in the Khan el Khalili

I have a confession to make – perhaps I wasn’t extremely honest in my last blog. I was discussing with a friend other things I’d learned in my first year in Egypt and she suggested there should be a continuation blog – I agree.
Don’t mistake all kindness to be genuine, because unfortunately, often times it isn’t. Image is a big deal here. Many people sit outside at cafes to be seen, a rumor that a new A-class place is open catapults the place to overwhelming popularity – why? Image.
You’ve probably always heard, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Never more true than in Egypt.
Something I have noticed among some is the ease of falling in and out of others’ lives. It is hard for me to fathom how some people that I know practice this so often because you see, I’m not a “sometimes” friend. It’s all or nothing with me. If you knew my background, perhaps you’d understand why my friends are my life.
I am very lucky in meeting people, and I usually have a high ratio of good, true friends. However, Egypt can be deceptive. I’ve had many people come into my life here that I thought were genuine. I trusted. I was wrong. I opened up somewhat easier than usual because different circumstances make you more vulnerable, and I suppose I was reeling off of having some of the best friends you could ever hope to find. Once again, I got too lax in my judgment of others (similar yet different scenario to the cab incident). 

While I say that to survive Egypt you must look to the small things that make you happy, I can’t deny that I have been hurt plenty of times. I had a “friend” that schemed behind my back for months trying to maneuver his way in order to obtain the companionship of another close friend. I’ve had money stolen by someone I trusted. I’ve been fed lie after lie just so others can move up the social ladder. And there are plenty of other instances that would just take up too much space and provide too much negativity.

There are others that I think about and while I had always said they did a lot of great things for me, as I sat down and began thinking of things they had actually done for me – well, I couldn’t think of one positive thing. What does that say about my perception? I think that I came into this thinking I was more prepared, mature, intuitive and yet, I feel as though I must’ve had my head up my ass this past year.

I have always been told that it is difficult to get to know me. If it was difficult before, I feel it is almost impossible now. I’m outgoing, but always know that I will tell you exactly what I want you to know.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some genuine people in my corner. However, you know that duped feeling you get when you find out that everything you’d thought was totally wrong? Yeah – well, I feel like that now. I don’t know where my head has been, but clearly it hasn’t been where I needed it. 

So what else have I learned: be careful of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Inside a Mosque at the Khan


  1. That is an interesting observation about Cairenes. I tend to think you are right on. I felt uneasy around people there. They were either totally not friendly or brimming with officiousness. I also think that when you are not one of them, and they know you are American they can't see you for who you are. They see you as a means to an end. I realize I am being horribly stereotypical here, but I just am tired of being politically correct all the time. I think they respect people more when they realize their guard is up and that they are not a pushover. It is self preservation. I remember I worried so about being offensive. I didn't want to be perceived as racist, prejudiced, bossy. I went out of my way to be passive and kind. That was a mistake. All in all I learned a lot about myself and what I would do if put ina totally forgein circumstance. I know it benefitted me to identify the black sheep from the white.

  2. Life is full of surprises some are good and some are real painful and I don’t think friendship and trust can be imaged to one particular culture. Betrayal and dishonesty is part of us as humans. Friendship is very precious commodity and it might take a life time to find it. I grow up in Egypt until I was twenty and I lived the other half between Europe and the States and I can assure you that I met a lot of people but no one that I could call a true friend. It is all about convenience.