Monday, August 29, 2011

Letters from Egypt: One Canadian’s Short-Lived Egyptian Experience

As teachers and other newbies begin piling into Cairo, I was told a story of one unfortunate Canadian teacher that I thought I should share just in case anyone NEW is reading this.

I know that not everyone moving to Cairo is a teacher, but for the most part, a great deal of newcomers are. And for some of you this is your first job out of university and/or first posting overseas. It’s unfortunate that the international schools do not provide new teachers a better reference guide or even valid contacts to give you the good, bad and the ugly of what to expect. I’ve seen some of these lists as to provide suggestions on what to bring. From some other teachers I know, apparently any tool that you use in the classroom that you feel pertinent, you should bring it. You are responsible for supplying your classroom – even getting the materials to do your bulletin board. And for a newcomer, we don’t have Hobby Lobby and getting valid materials can prove a difficult task if you don’t have help.

You’re going to get off the plane and be amazed at what you see – I mean, you thought donkeys running alongside cars was really like Yankees thinking that all Southerners still lack indoor plumbing – just a joke right? Wrong.

You get to your apartment and you say to yourself, “Hmmm, well, I thought it was going to look worse. This is totally doable.” Then you realize anything and everything falls apart with YOU, the tenant, expected to fix it – NOT the landlord and/or school (different schools have different policies).

However, probably the biggest warning I can give is to prepare yourself to see poverty like you’ve never seen. You do get desensitized after a bit, but for those North Americans out there (including Canadians), here’s a word of caution that I strongly urge you to exercise:

You will be bombarded by children coming up to you, trying to take whatever you have out of your hands, begging for money, etc. And sometimes these little ones are cute and full of personality. Alternately, you’ll see the women in black hijabs and abayas with lifeless babies in tow. Do NOT give money. If you want, give food, but let me explain where this money goes:

First of all, as I’ve mentioned in one of my beginning blog entries, many of these women drug their babies to look lifeless so that you give them more pity and likewise, more money. Ever see Slumdog Millionaire when the little children get acid poured into their eyes – why? Because a blind street singer makes more money than one who can see.

Second, the children are usually a part of these gangs that are either run by adults or older teens who have worked their way up the ranks. You give money to the cute, little kids and then the older person just takes it away for their own use. It never stays with the children. Don’t be fooled.

Now, onto the story of one Canadian’s short-lived Egyptian experience. This guy lands and not used to seeing such poverty, began giving LE 5 to every child he saw. Hey, I get it, it is really depressing at first and I’m even ashamed to admit that I’m so immune to it now. This school teacher went to pick up a few groceries at Seoudi market one day and all the children that he’d been so helpful to jumped him and took everything. And that’s the Egypt that he will only know since he immediately left.

I have to be honest, if you move here and don’t do your research then expect something to happen. Even if you do research your new digs, expect something to happen (although on a lesser scale). If you move here forgetting that it is a third world country, don’t be shocked to see the poverty (in addition, a little thing called a revolution took place which has increased the poverty levels and anyone coming from an educated background could have anticipated that).

I know that you want to see the good in everyone and think that you’re really making a difference, but if you REALLY want to make a difference, I strongly suggest that you purchase books. However, be mindful that these street children are most likely illiterate, so try to educate in other ways. The sad thing is once you give someone something, they are mostly unappreciative and instead of just saying thanks – they actually ask for more. A friend of mine gave his bowab (doorman) all his old clothes that he no longer wore. The bowab took the items and then came back the next day and said, “I need a pair of shoes too.” I guess that saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers” completely bypassed Egypt.

It’s going to take you awhile to get used to the culture and remember, you aren’t moving here to change a country. However, you can pick one thing that you would like to do and stick to it. My thing was to teach the kids around my office how to treat the stray dogs in the area. I also began getting books for a special little girl that I love with all my heart. I wish I would’ve thought of it sooner, but I suppose better late than never. If you do decide to opt for books remember to stay away from religion and politics. Also, remember what reading level an eight-year old is in your country and understand that eight-year olds here are less likely to be on the same reading level.  I can’t read Arabic so I had a friend help find an appropriate book that would at least allow me to gauge the girl’s reading level.

You’re a guest and as a guest, appreciate what Egypt has to offer. Yes, it will offer a great deal of frustrations, but it will also offer so many stories and experiences that you’ll be telling the grandkids one day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Another Child Kidnapped?

Taken from Handout from Pennsylvania State Police Chambersburg
After reposting a friend’s blog yesterday detailing a child getting abducted by her Egyptian father, another similar story appeared today about an American 11-year old being taken by his Egyptian father. The story posted yesterday is unclear to say the least, and even my friend noted the discrepancies saying, “The details surrounding what happened next are hazy.”

Initially, my friend discussed how she had heard two different versions (although it wasn’t posted on the blog) with one being that after picking Peggy and Soraya up from the airport, the car had problems. When everyone got out to assess the situation, the father Mahmoud jumped in and sped off.

Fast forward to American woman Kalli Panagos-Atteya arriving in Egypt with her 11-year old son, Stephano, to see her ex-husband after he claimed his mother was ill and his sister was getting married. The local paper said that the day after their arrival, Atteya picked up the family in a hired car headed to Port Said. “After claiming car trouble, the driver pulled over and all passengers but Stephano left the vehicle. Atteya allegedly got back in, shoved his ex-wife out as she attempted to get into the car and ordered the driver to go,” said The Daily News Egypt.

And now I’m having issues with both stories and their uncanny similarities. First of all in the case of German Peggy, she mentioned that Mahmoud had expressed no interest in being a father in the beginning. If that’s true, why did Peggy give her daughter an Arab name? Peggy had, after all, lived in Egypt for only a year and while I’m sure she could just genuinely like the name, I find it unlikely that she would just randomly pick that name especially since it is fairly uncommon here and it means chandelier (not to mention the father allegedly wanted nothing to do with the child).

Then fast-forward to US citizen Kalli’s story and I have a problem with the car situation. It is not normal for a woman to get out of a car to help men decipher a potential problem. In addition, why would everyone exit the car but the 11-year old? And I really don’t understanding the next part: obviously the driver gets back into the car and Kalli still remains outside? So Kalli sees her ex-husband get back into the car and she attempts to do the same, only to be shoved out of the way? Why didn’t Stephano run to his mother’s aid? Obviously, if this was true, then the driver would have been in on it from the get-go.

All in all, these stories are not cohesive. If you’ve lived here and dared to venture out into society (many expats choose to stay in a bubble), then you would find all this a bit coincidental and strange. Getting pregnant in a foreign land and having the baby’s daddy unwilling to take responsibility does not seem likely that you would be so willing to give your child any name remotely relating to that part of your life especially considering the fact she hadn’t spent that long in Egypt. Knowing the place of women in this male-dominated society also begs to question Kalli’s story about exiting the car. First of all, if you’re leaving the airport, you are likely on the Ring Road (deity) or Salah Salem/Autostrad – none of which any foreign female (particularly in Kalli’s case since she was seemingly married for a few years) would get out unless there was a replacement car alongside.

I'm not here to debate the truth, but I do feel that others should be made aware of problems within both stories. If these stories are true, there needs to be some serious clarification to tie up loose ends.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Help!!! Child Abducted

I am reposting a story from my friend’s blog Egypt Unbound: The Wild Ride detailing the alleged kidnapping of a young girl named Soraya. However, as my friend points out toward the end of her blog, I want to make everyone aware of an avoidable circumstance so as to hopefully prevent this from happening again.

I have been contacted a few times from women living overseas who have met Egyptian men via the internet. No, I’m not here to judge, but what I will say is that meeting someone from your native country online is far different than meeting a foreigner. You essentially have no idea of the culture and to be quite honest, there are certain cultural differences that you simply can’t overcome.

In Egypt, if you are a foreign woman and have a child with an Egyptian Muslim man, you essentially have no rights to your child. Naturally no one will tell you that he’s going to strip the child from your arms and you will never see it again, and no, your government will NOT get involved, but this is a risk that you take so don’t pretend as though you’ve never watched the movie “Not Without My Daughter” starring Sally Fields based on a true life story of an American woman who married an Iranian man, finally visited Iran with him and then was told she could leave without or daughter or stay because her daughter would not be leaving Iran.

When some of you have contacted me discussing the Egyptian that you’ve met online, I try to maintain an open mind; however, I do make sure to put you in touch with someone who was in a similar situation and/or recant a story to give you a better idea of what you could be getting yourself into. No, not all Egyptians are bad, but it’s just like that movie “He’s Just Not that into You.” The main premise was that we always want to think we’re the exception to the rule (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “No, he’s very open minded, he’s not your typical Egyptian” only for it to turn sour nine times out of 10), but the truth is, more often than not, we are the rule and rarely the exception.

Be smart. Learn about the culture and not just from the man you’re speaking to, do your own research. Look up the law to see what avenues you could take should something, God forbid, happen. You need to educate yourself and don’t go into a situation blindly. That saying “love is blind” is for the stupid. You can still have love and be smart too.

And without further ado, here’s Child Abduction Warning:

Meet Soraya. This is one of the last photos her mother has received after Soraya's father allegedly kidnapped her on May 10, 2011.

Soraya's mother, Peggy Dierich, tells the story of her daughter's kidnapping and the years that led up to this tumultuous event in her life.

Peggy first met Soraya's father, Mahmood Gaber, online in 2008. Their Internet communications grew into a romance, and Peggy agreed that it was time her and Mahmood meet in person. In 2009, Peggy left Germany and headed for Alexandria, Egypt, where she was to meet Mahmood for the first time and spend two weeks with him.

For many women living in Egypt, particularly those who live in touristic areas such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, what transpired next is not an altogether unusual story.

Peggy and Mahmood found themselves caught up in a whirlwind romance, and what was eventually meant to be a two week stay became a one-year period. During this time, Peggy got pregnant.

The details surrounding what happened next are a little hazy, Peggy was quoted as saying that she left because "it was not safe for an unmarried woman to be pregnant in Alexandria," whereas other sources claim the reason she left was that Mahmood was conscripted into the Army. Although the details as to why she left do matter, they are inconsequential to the grand scale of the story at hand here.

After leaving Egypt and returning to her home country Germany, Peggy gave birth to a daughter, Soraya, in January of 2010. Initially Mahmood expressed no interest in being a father.

Fastforward to 2011, Peggy was contacted and told that Mahmood was seeking a visa to come and visit his daughter in Germany. The visa process would have required that Peggy sponsor him during his stay, and would be responsible for him. It was a risk she did not want to take, so after a few phone calls it was decided that she would instead go to Egypt to visit Mahmood.

The initial plan was set. Peggy and Soraya would fly into Cairo on May 10, spend a day or two in Cairo, then fly onwards to the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to spend some time with Mahmood. He was even the one who had sent them the flight tickets.

"I had no reason not to trust him," Peggy says online. "It would be the first time for him to see his child."

Soraya and her mother were picked up from the airport on May 10, and were taken to where their were allegedly meant to stay in a hotel for the night. While Peggy was around the back end of the car to get her belongings, Mahmood jumped into the drivers seat and sped off with Soraya in the car, leaving her mother in the street with nothing more than the clothes on her back and her handbag.

After losing sight of the car, Peggy immediately went to the police station to report the crime. She notified the German embassy that her daughter, a German citizen, had been kidnapped.

Mahmood is originally from Alexandria. Police there conducted search raids in his home and a few areas around his home neighbourhood. They found no trace of Soraya.

Peggy has since been desperately searching for her child. Mahmood has intermittently been communicating with her via email, taunting her that "she will never see her child again," but that she can "contact him every Friday to find out if she is ok."

The below picture is one of the recent shots sent to Peggy. Initial reports indicate that this might be in the area of Marsa Matruh, to the west of Alexandria. If you know where this is, please contact me immediately.

Although Soraya's story is a tragic one, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this. Soraya's story is not the first of its kind in Egypt, whereby a foreign woman falls in love with a local Egyptian man and is swept off of her feet in a Hollywood-esque love story.

That fantasy rarely lasts. The ratio of relationships that actually do work in crossing the cultural divide are few and far between.

It should also be noted that in Egyptian culture, as in most Islamic cultures, in cases of disputed custody over a child the law almost always favors the father. Thus, in the eyes of many Egyptians, Soraya was not in fact kidnapped, her father was merely assuming his custodial rights. Countless stories of women who have brought their children to visit their fathers in Egypt and end up with an alleged exist.

I hope that Peggy and Soraya are reunited. I hope that the power of people on the Internet will effect change. And I hope that this story will serve as a reminder for women in the future that if you do "trust" your partner and plan to return to visit with the child, that you have all your back-up plans in place.

Peggy will now have to seek the services of a lawyer, who will face an uphill battle in proving that the mother should be given legal responsibility of the child. If Peggy were to merely show up and take Soraya with her, she may end up with an entirely new scope of problems to deal with as under Egyptian law, she would then have kidnapped her daughter from the father. The lack of a marriage contract between the two may only worsen the situation for Peggy here.

Please, share and post this story. If you have any information that may lead to the whereabouts of Soraya, post here or contact me.

For more information on Soraya's case, you can see here: (Links are in German)

Berlin Online

Bild [1]

Bild [2]

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Letters from Egypt: The New Barracuda False Advertisement

It's not as great as this picture would portray
I have now secured two different boats out of Porto Sukhna for a 24-hour fishing excursion on the Red Sea and would highly recommend going. What I do not recommend is the New Barracuda boat that seems to be the most popular boat in the marina.

First of all, you can take a gander at its website and say, “Wow, this boat looks phenomenal,” but remember, you are in Egypt and pictures can be deceiving (and/or taken over a decade ago). I wish I would’ve taken photos to counter their website, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The boat costs LE 2,100, to be paid in advance (usually have to reserve the boat a month prior to the desired date) and fishing equipment also has to be prior to the day of departure. Each regular rod/reel costs LE 25 and you may have one large trolly reel at LE 100. The reservationist Hassan said that only one large trolly could be purchased for the boat because there was no space, but this is obviously not the case after seeing the boat.

Unlike the first boat that we took (Yusef Salem), the boat crew just stood and watched us unload all of our equipment without ever attempting to help. I’ve detailed the fishing part in the “False Advertisement #1,” but one of my major concerns is that when all of our group – minus myself – went to bed at around 8 pm, the captain came out and said to me that he wanted to dock the boat back at the marina because the water was too choppy (this was around 10:30 pm).

Dear New Barracuda staff and owner: if I wanted to stay at the marina, I would’ve just gotten a hotel room at the luxurious Porto Sukhna hotel and/or stayed at a friend’s flat in Ain Sukhna.

Then when I complained to the captain about the so-called fishing, his response: “This isn’t a fishing boat. This is for relaxation.” Then change your website and also let me know in advance so I can relax at the hotel since I could literally swim back to shore and I’m NOT that great of a swimmer.

False Advertisement #1:  “Fishing the Gulf of Suez”
When you first pull up the New Barracuda’s website, you find these words etched in the top. Funnily enough our boat captain Islam (also pictured on the website) refused to take us out of the Porto Sukhna bay and instead parked us between two barges because” trash from the barges would attract fish.” When that turned out to be incorrect, we asked to change locations. Rais Islam turned the boat in a 180 degree circle – I’m assuming he thought we wouldn’t notice just because the barges that were previously east/west and then north/south…

The first boat (Yusef Salem, price: LE 1,200) took us about 2-2.5 hours near Ras Sedr for fishing. When we wanted to swim, the boat also took us to another swimming location. What did the New Barracuda do? Had us swim amid a sea of jelly fish. Sign me up for THAT again.

Don’t be fooled by that large fish pictured on the homepage. The boat crew told us they had not caught a fish in years.
Lies, all lies

False Advertisement #2: Air Conditioned Suites/Bedrooms
If there was an AC, I failed to ever find it.

False Advertisement #3: Stainless Steel Swimming Ladder
While this isn’t AS important, it was not stainless steel yet wood.

False Advertisement #4: The various cookers
When you think of electric cookers, I’m almost certain you do not think they will be located on the floor of the so-called luxury boat with various sized roaches. I know I like roach pasta *shudder*

You could not use the upstairs bar since the two generators are from the 1940s and make such noise that you can’t hear the music and/or your friends’ conversations. And let’s not forget the refrigerator that had a broken door, didn’t cool and before we left the boat, the fishing line holding the door in place apparently gave way and voila – fridge without a door…now that’s useful.

I would never recommend this boat and its staff that was unwilling to remotely do what they were asked – especially given the nearly doubled price. The only positive of this boat was the space.

However, if you would like a boat that while not seemingly as luxurious, offers a wonderful staff, a great trip that is far away from Porto Sukhna’s marina, I highly recommend Yusef Salem. You may email me for the phone number (Arabic only).

The trip wasn’t horrible as it was the group that made it – as anything in life goes – but please pass this information along to any interested parties that may be thinking about reserving the New Barracuda. With the boat being in such “high-demand,” perhaps it’s time for the owner to make a few upgrades.

Please see: Renting Your OWN Private Yacht on the Red Sea for pictures and information about Yusef Salem boat (Letters from Egypt: Three Years Later)

FYI: Help Finding Medicine
I have added a Medical Corner page to give those of you new an idea of what to always have in your medicine cabinet. Make sure you check it out and if you have any other additional items that you feel pertinent, feel free to email me for inclusion.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Egyptian Theatrics

Photo source: Egyptian TV
Although I posted the previous blog on August 2, I actually wrote it on August 1 detailing how probable it would be for Hosni Mubarak to show up at court in a hospital bed. Egyptians in general are very dramatic, so does it really come as that much of a shock that Mubarak did, in fact, fly from Sharm el-Sheikh to Cairo and enter into court via his hospital bed? And on the flip side, was there a need to put all of the defendants in a metal cage?

When I first moved here, I got into this soap opera called Noor. I began watching it because the acting was so horrible and dramatic. Before I knew it, I was pulled into the stupid story line. This soap opera is actually a Turkish soap translated into Arabic, but all Arab cinema is dominated by Egyptians meaning Noor was just an offshoot of something from Egypt. This is why throughout the Arab world, everyone understands Egyptian Arabic.

I’m going to attempt to embed this YouTube video of Egyptian cinema to give those of you unfamiliar a better idea; however, if unable to view, please click this link featuring one of the most famous Egyptian actors, Adel Imam.

There are plenty other examples in normal, daily life. Women at – they fall on top of chairs, screaming, wailing, etc. Did I mention this could just be a passerby and not even a relative?

I suppose you could say Egyptians are just very passionate (nice way of saying drama queen). I was at a party last year and on a rooftop, this Egyptian doctor and his all plastic date made sure they were in the center of everyone, standing on a platform and as the wind blew through her hair, they stared lovingly into one another’s eyes as though cameras were rolling. They would periodically look around to make sure that eyes were on them.

A friend’s plastic surgeon recently recanted how cumbersome it is to operate on Egyptians because even before the surgery, they walk in and faint. All the other women rush to fan, provide water, say soothing words, etc. delaying the onset of the surgery.

And I’m sure those of you living here have other stories, but on that note, I’m going to end with one of my favorite Egyptian actors, Mekky in his Ramadan series called Kabeer Awwi (LOVE LOVE LOVE HIM).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Accumulated Misgivings

Islamists gathered in Tahrir on Friday, July 29 (Al-Ahram)
Cairo is getting geared to host one of the biggest trials seen in the country in over three decades on Wednesday and I wonder if former president Hosni Mubarak is thinking right about now, “Should have gone to Saudi.” However, there is the possibility that he remains unmoved by these events. Since nothing has changed to date in regards to the defacto rulers, could this just be another ploy to momentarily pacify the masses? Or he could just completely go all Egyptian soap opera and continue to “claim” the inability to eat solid foods and pull up in a hospital bed – sadly, this sounds like the most probable option.

Mubarak Police Academy (NewCooler)
Mubarak will be tried alongside his two sons, ex-Interior Minister and six senior police officials for crimes including brutality and murder during the 18-day revolution. And just when it looked like it couldn’t get worse for the ousted leader, the trial will take place at the police training grounds aptly named Mubarak Police Academy. No, I’m not joking.

On July 23 more than 231 people were injured in demonstrations as a result of clashes between groups of unidentified armed men and pro-reform protestors marching toward the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. News reports claim this is a turning point signifying a military crackdown. Not true.

The conflict was a result of residents growing angry over what has now taken over the revolution and Tahrir Square: opportunists. In Abbassiya, an area within Cairo, main streets – particularly Salah Salem – came to a halt as protestors used cars to block traffic. It was reported that unidentified men then attacked demonstrators, accrediting these “thugs” to those sympathetic with the ruling military forces. Not true.

Many Egyptians are growing restless with the continuous protests. But more so, these protests are full of empty, unrealistic demands. This is a turning point, but not in the way that international media is viewing it. This is a strong indicator of disunity and a potential civil war should the military continue to ignore the restlessness and discord among citizens.

And then the Day of [Dis]Unity brought out groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, etc. to the square to demand sharia (Islamic) law be enforced – once again playing into fears that these extremists have power. Not true.

Journalist and political analyst Diaa Rashwan said in an interview to Al-Ahram that while these groups packed Tahrir on July 29, half came from different governorates. “All over Egypt, they’re estimated at only two million which is not nearly enough for their political ambitions.” Rashwan continued, “Their numbers might have been impressive for the protests, but winning elections is a whole different story. If they were two million on the streets, plus two more who supported their demands from home, that makes them four million overall. In Egypt, there are 48 million voters. According to these numbers, the Islamists comprise a minority, a negligible one, and that fact is obvious now.”

Thanks. Took the words right out of my mouth.

And agreeing with another journalist friend of mine, does no one find it strange that these groups refused to take part in any of the demonstrations leading to Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, but the last weekend before Ramadan, so many show up in support for sharia? Come on, we all know some Sunday Christians (you know, the ones that only go to church on Sunday and fail to uphold the morals throughout the rest of the week), so why should Ramadan Muslims be considered any different?

Meanwhile, 26 political groups announced a month-long hiatus from protesting in Tahrir Square during Ramadan. What do you think the chances are that before departing, they cleaned up their trash? Funny how people are too lazy to clean up after themselves, yet they continue to wonder why government employees never seem to get the job done. Good job guys, all of you have transformed Tahrir Square into an offshoot of Manshet Nasr’s Garbage City.

It was said that other smaller groups will remain in Tahrir to continue protesting for (unrealistic and unknown) demands. If you happened to see this in the news, please allow me to translate:

smaller groups = individuals
protesting = whining about being in the square while fasting
demands = requiring free food because it’s Ramadan and how dare you not supply them with their necessities

That’s  a wrap folks.

Looking at Articles from a Different Angle

A friend of mine sent this article “Blinded Iranian Acid Victim Pardons Attacker” which details how a woman’s refusal of marriage prompted her suitor to throw acid severely disfiguring her face and body. While reading this story, you might think this woman is saint-like in being able to forgive such an attack. Here’s a different perspective:

The courts ordered the assailant to be punished with a couple of drops of acid poured into his eyes THE DAY BEFORE RAMADAN. Had the woman not pardoned the man, she would have had backlash from her peers and community over her inability to forgive (it is Ramadan after all). However, you will never see honor killings of a female whom allegedly committed adultery take place the day before Ramadan. But if you did, it would be justified for a man to carry out such an action. And if a man pardoned the alleged female adulterer (I say alleged because often times this is just a rumor unlike the undeniable evidence of the man throwing acid), he would've been an outcast from the community. Always a double standard. So does no one else find it odd that this MAN’s punishment was to be carried out on July 31 when Ramadan began August 1?

So just maybe the courts were unsympathetic to the woman, but knew that something had to be done. In order to show its intolerance for such acts (although that’s clearly misleading), it ruled that the punishment be carried out on July 31 knowing that the woman would not, in good conscious and based upon peer pressure, be able to follow through. Just a thought.

Letters from Egypt: My Visa Update

I proceeded down to hell again, aka Tahrir Square, to renew my visa. Normally when renewing your visa, your passport is taken the same day and you’re told to return after 2 pm to pick it up. Things were a bit different this time around.

The first day I went, the same woman that I’ve been dealing with for the past three years took my paperwork but returned my passport. I thought it was weird and mentioned it to my colleague, but what can we do?

The next day I entered into the Mogamma and go to window 38 where my colleague was rudely told that I was supposed to have a number written in my passport. Back to the initial window with the same familiar face to ask for the number to which she inquired, “Are you sure I was the one [who helped you yesterday]?” Yes lady, I can never forget that face caked in whiter than white make-up and those very tan hands.

20 minutes later…

Return to window 38 for rude woman to take the passport and say, “Come after two hours” (basically, come after 2 pm). Why is it so different now than usual? I bet you’re thinking it’s because the officials need to look over the paperwork more than pre-revolution. The real reason is because the women had not even given the proper authorities all the visa applications from the day before. I guess they were too busy sharing jokes with colleagues, reading the newspaper and/or drinking tea.

Flashback to last time I went for my visa renewal, I showed up at the Mogamma at about 10:15 am. The same white make-up/brown hands woman sat behind the glass and told me to wait. Why? So she could finish her breakfast. And there I stood for 15 minutes watching her gobble gobble, slurp slurp.

Two hours later…

The lovely security checkpoints into Tahrir require ID. What do you do if your passport is in the Mogamma? I’m not even going to get into how long it took me to explain why I had no passport.

Back to window 38. No one behind the glass – undoubtedly it was one of their many breaks… I sit down while my colleague waits in the long line and I see something I’ve NEVER seen in my years living here.

In the Lost Passport line, filled with Egyptians and other nationalities, one bearded Egyptian man that looked to be holding a US passport began shouting in Arabic which soon escalated. This 30-something man was single-handedly trying to organize a line. A LINE!!! This concept evades most Egyptians so to see someone trying to organize such a thing was shocking. Naturally the ONLY person who refused to get into the mostly non-Egyptian line was…wait for it…AN EGYPTIAN! This 50-year old man began arguing back saying: “Who are you to tell me what to do?” While the 30-something tried to explain that things would go quicker if a line was created. Then a 20-something came and said that people like the 50-year old will never understand and it is pointless to continue trying.

I’m sick of that being used as an excuse for this kind of inconsiderate behavior. This older man knew exactly what he was doing, but could care less about anything other than himself.

And although the line was only halfway formed, it made me think that maybe, just maybe, there were other Egyptians like this man. After my passport was finally returned, I stopped and told the line organizer that I appreciated his effort. It might sound silly to those of you that don’t live here, but for those of you that do, I’m sure you understand.

And after all of that with a lot of hassle in between (too cumbersome to write in detail) my visa was approved, and I headed off to the subway to return to Maadi.