We had dinner with a couple of Egyptian friends tonight and conversation turned inevitably to the anti-foreigner comments we’ve heard so much about lately. One of my friends, from Sweden, asked just why Egyptians might think that foreigners would want to harm the country.
The answer was interesting. “I think some of them just don’t understand why you’re still here,” one of them said. “There was no security, the country was falling apart and we expected you to leave. There wasn’t any reason for you to stay – unless you were spies or journalists.”
It made me think. I can see the logic in that argument and it’s one I’ve addressed before – that bemusement I see in some people’s eyes when I say that I’ve chosen to live here, instead of my comfortable first world country. It doesn’t apply to tourists – Egyptians are justly proud of their country and would be equally bemused at someone who didn’t want to visit it. It’s just that living here and visiting are two completely different things.
So – and especially in light of all the things that have happened over the last two weeks – this is a personal list of just a few of the reasons why I love Egypt – and why I chose to stay:
- This is my home. I’ve lived here for two and a half years now and my life, many of my friends and my work are here.
- Egyptians: I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve never met a warmer, more hospitable, down-to-earth and downright funny bunch of people. (My standing joke about Jordan was that all the nicest people I met there were Egyptians.)
- Egyptian warmth and hospitality, part 2: apart from the countless “Welcome to Egypts’ you hear on any given day (up to and including the last two weeks) this is a country where a smile goes a long way. That’s the way life should be.
- The Egyptian sense of humour, part 2: whether it’s sly, bawdy, raucous, smart or just plain hilarious, everyone here appreciates a good joke. There’s very little that can’t be, or isn’t, laughed at.
- Cairo. I read and dreamt about this crazy, beautiful, fascinating city when I was a child and, so far, it’s never disappointed me.
- That it’s multi-layered and multi-faceted and never, ever dull – from the chaos of Cairo to the beauty of Siwa to the hippy charm of Dahab and the sophistication of Gouna. And that’s just a fraction of its charms.
- That nearly everything is open nearly all of the time, which makes life so much easier. I can buy my groceries at midnight if I need to, which takes away a lot of the stress of city living.
- The sense of community and the ease with which people relate to each other – things that have only been strengthened over the last two weeks.
- That there’s always time in the day – or night – for an impromptu gathering or spontaneous party or just a coffee and shisha with a friend.
- That all the Egyptians I’ve met have always been more than happy and willing to share all of the above with me
One final thing: if you’re outside the country and ever thought of visiting, don’t let the last two weeks put you off. A lot of things happened but, for most of us, the good definitely outweighed the bad. If anything, it’s made the majority of us, Egyptian and non-Egyptian, fall in love with Egypt even more…