Since my homey the Helms is very much in the known we get around a lot more then we used to. (F*cking typical that you tend to meet these people towards the end of your stay and not in the first few months but malesh, never mind). A few days ago the Helms took us, Anna, sister Dutchie Saskia and me to Cairo for a Big Fat Party. We were staying in a charming villa in Mansooreeya just outside Cairo, which belonged to his cousin and we went to one of the fanciest bars in town – reservations only- right on the Nile, where the prices for drinks can rival with those of a fancy West End establishment. We had some good food, a few drinks a good laugh and a proper boogie. When we were ‘kicked out’ of the club we had a nightly felucca trip on the Nile and when we returned to the Cousin’s mansion we enjoyed an early morning smoke with great views over the garden and surrounding grounds . After a few hours sleep it was time for ‘breakfast’. As there was no food whatsoever in the house we went to a cafeteria with Lebanese food in a newly constructed upmarket suburb of Cairo. As the weather was pretty hot we chilled at a pool in one of those gated communities, where you’re allowed to forget you’re in Egypt. One of the residents of this community, who is a friend of the Helms, arranged some tickets for a freestyle motocross event at the pyramids sponsored by a popular energy drink. Top entertainment in magnificent settings; we had an absolute ball.
Now, there is a lot of ‘western-style fun’ to be had in this country. That is, if you’re willing to forget you’re in Egypt. All those ‘posh’ friends of ours kind of complain that we have a ‘wrong image’ of Egypt. They claim that there are plenty of people who ‘get the western lifestyle’; women and men can be just friends, showing a bit of flesh or drinking alcohol does not make you loose and it is indeed very uncool to verbally harass a woman. We are aware that that side of Egypt exists. An Egypt with way too much money and tight connections for whom the country is their playground. The point is that that is not the ‘real Egypt’, where half the women can’t read or write, an average monthly salary is 500 Egyptian Pound (ca £60), people never leave the country and drinking alcohol is deemed very uncool. Now, I very much like ‘Playground Egypt’. You can live like a queen for a fraction of what it would cost at home and, as we do know now, if you have the right connections and live in a ‘good’ neighbourhood you don’t have to deal with the Egypt that we all find such hard work. The question is, is that a just thing to do? Although our friends, who are all from good (read wealthy and connected) families are incredible good and kind people -they wouldn’t be our friends otherwise- they also very much contribute to maintaining the status quo of inequality and corruption. And by joining them in their playground we are silently approving. But, just like our friends say, what can we do? And then it all comes back again to (self-) responsibility. If it is always up to someone else to solve it, nothing will be done and the country will keep on deteriorating and although we would like to believe otherwise, we foreigners are not complete outsiders to this.