Blessings. 2010 is our year
On the last day of the year I fled the relative boredom of Alex and went to Cairo to spend New Year’s Eve with my friend Moina and her friends. Now, I like Cairo. I am very fond of Cairo. This mad, dusty, dirty, exciting, way- too- big-a-town was my first meeting with Egypt and it was love at first sight. There is proper night life, proper culture, tourist attractions, proper shopping from upmarket malls and the shops in Zamalek and Heliopolis to the souk (market) of Khan el-Khalili with its junk and its gems in islamic Cairo and then there are people from all over the world; Europe, the States, the East, Sub-Saharan Africa, the South Pole… Like with most capital cities Cairo is not Egypt, it’s a world of its own. I expected Alex to be like Cairo, only smaller and at the sea and therefore a bit funkier. But I’ve been rather disappointed. Alex is the second city of the country. Officially the city counts around 4 million inhabitants but Alexandrians speak of twice as much. Despite half of Cairo and the Gulf fleeing to Alex in summer and despite its size I find Alex very provincial. Alex might be the summer breath of fresh air to many Cairenes Cairo is the exciting breath of social and cultural fresh air to me. When Moina and I entered the streets to do some shopping no one bat an eye lid or shouted a word. We were just two chicks minding our business and preparing for an eve of celebrations No one was overly keen to try their English on us or was horribly surprised that we spoke Arabic. We went to a New Year’s Eve Party at the Swiss Club, which is a social club of which there are many in Egypt. I hadn’t seen such an international and multiracial crowd since I left London. Foreigners and Egyptians alike, black, white, Arab, muslim,christian, spiritualist, atheist. It was one nation under a Cairenian groove. In Cairo you stumble on Egyptians who are interesting, educated, well travelled and not that impressed by you being foreign in comparison to Alex where they seem to be a rare species and once you find them you treasure them like they’ve been the best thing since sliced bread.
I told Moina that I didn’t want to go back to Alex. That I wanted to stay and live an expat life as I imagined it to be. Exciting, interesting. Socializing with Egyptians on a inter-personal level rather than a foreigner/expat one. A life in which you don’t have to keep up appearance because they know you do things slightly different and that’s okay. But I did board a train travelling to el-Iskandereeya and I am back at our mansion and I guess that’s all good. After all I have met some really nice people in this ‘Pearl of the Province’ and the distances are not that big and the air far less polluted. I would only be distracted or horrible frustrated if I would be studying in Cairo. Distracted by all the cultural and social events and there would be no time left for studying or frustrated because there are so many things to do and I wouldn’t have time for them because I had to study. Now, if I choose to indulge in some escapism, want to be inspired or just want to have fun big-city style I can catch a train and within 3 hours I am in the city of cities.
Alex is loved by many and I do understand why. It could be that funky smaller version of Cairo at the sea. A true Pearl of the Mediterranean. I would say give it some time but perhaps those who love Alex have different ideas about what makes a pearl a pearl. It’s a free world. Each their own…