Sunday, October 28, 2012

Letters from Egypt: From the Bride

Anthony and Natalie on their wedding day

I hear often that I never write about positive stories in Egypt, particularly relationships. However, last July I featured a love story that unfolded right in Heliopolis from the groom’s perspective (A Love Story). And for the couple’s one-year anniversary, I decided that it would be nice to hear from the bride.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Natalie in person, but I’m still hopeful that we’ll all meet up again. That’s the luxury in being an expat, no matter where you go, you can always be assured there is someone from your travels nearby. Natalie arrived in Egypt in August 2006 after working in the UK as a teacher for a number of years and decided to take an offer to teach in Cairo. She said, “I wanted sun and fun for a couple of years before returning to Australia.”

Prior to meeting Anthony, the Aussie had briefly dated an expat and then an Egyptian for about a year. She said, “I realized that he was never going to take us seriously and just liked the idea of a foreign girlfriend.” Natalie admitted that she even seriously contemplated converting to Islam in hopes of making the relationship work. She added, “In the end, I just felt angry and used like many foreign women who have experiences with Egyptian men.”

And then entered Anthony:

“When I met Anthony - I was not looking for anything - I thought he was charming, although he was drunk and I was drinking diet coke, but I figured giving everything a chance at least once. We met at a trivia night at the BCA in Heliopolis. It was a friend’s birthday party, one of those ones you don't want to go to but feel you have to. I had only been there about 10 minutes I remember him staring at me and talking to someone I knew. Every time I looked his way he was just staring. At one point I went to get a drink and he came over, introduced himself and sat at my table. After about five minutes he had his number in my phone and that was it. I did give him a handshake goodbye which his friends thought was hilarious!”

Anthony told me that when he went to ask her out, she said: “Okay, but don’t ask me what I want to do, you decide and if I like it, I’ll go on a second date with you.” She told me that she just didn’t want any hassle telling him, “Just name a time and a place and I promise not to complain.” He took her dune buggying at the pyramids, sushi and then ice cream (Anthony – how impressive, got any friends?). The date didn’t stop there when they got lost, got a flat tire and then drove over a snake (apparently Anthony’s “greatest phobia”). She said, “So all in all, it was a pretty entertaining day.”

“He got a kiss and we had a second date the next day, and have never really been apart since. I guess we both knew pretty quickly that it was serious,” she added.

And then things started moving fast. They met in March, she was going to leave in July and by the end of April, he’d asked her to stay with him in Egypt. “He helped me find a new job and a place to live and the following Christmas, he proposed.”

The couple since wed in October 2011 in Australia, and recently moved to Kazakhstan. And all of that, I’m sure Egypt will remain significant to both of them as it was the place that brought them together.

Natalie said:  “Egypt - well it will always be special. I don’t think I will ever go as far as Alicia keys and call one of my children Egypt or Cairo.”

But the sad truth is that Egypt has changed from what Natalie knew upon her first arrival. “I have really seen a change in the people and the country – they were once so giving and honest and generous. Now I feel so many of them battle day to day to survive. It is getting more expensive to live there, and that is for an expat. In 2006 or 2007, you would never have dreamt of being mugged or attacked – now it’s a factor in daily life. I have to say I was happy to leave when we did (August 2012).”

Although, she admitted: “I will miss the sun, the beaches and the good people as there were many of them.”

Happy Anniversary to the both of you and I wish you many more years of happiness (I also hope to go dune buggying on a first date one day too - see if you can help expedite this adventure *wink*)

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