Edited April 21, 2009
Ok ladies, here is the one you have been waiting for. Any woman who has ever gotten involved with an Egyptian man knows that as soon as she tells anyone about it they will immediately go to work trying to get you to end the relationship. You will hear every horror story about them, their friends, and friends of friends who got involved with an Egyptian and ended up like Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter. So are they just coming up with a worst case scenario to scare the hell out of you? Probably. But with a good reason.
First of all let me say here in no uncertain terms am I stereotyping or generalizing all Egyptian men. I'm not. I'm also not saying that relationships between Egyptian men and "western" (I hate that word but will use it for lack of better term) women don't work. I am living proof that it does. I am happily married to an Egyptian and have friends who are happily married to Egyptians. But there is a definite problem out there and in some cases heartache is more likely than a happy ending. All you have to do is go on any chat room or forum about Egypt and it won't be long before you come across it. A question from a "western" woman: My Egyptian boyfriend is... And that's all it takes to get them to come out of the woodwork - all the bitter, scorned women with horror stories to tell about Egyptian boyfriends and husbands. You immediately go on the defensive about how "different your man is" and he's not like this or that. But maybe it gets you thinking a little and you soon find yourself questioning "Is my man really different? How do I know if I have a good one?"
There is no easy answer for that. That is something you have to find out for yourself. Unfortunately, you may have to learn that lesson the hard way. But experience talks, and all these women hurling advice at you on the chat rooms and forums are not trying to sabotage your relationship. They are trying to show you the warning signs. So what are these warning signs. In this article I will address some of the most common.
1. Did you meet him online? Did he randomly add you to his chat list?
So you are just sitting there minding your own business chatting with friends on Skype and all of a sudden a chat box pops up from some random guy in Egypt. It's probably happened to every woman reading this. Personally, I cancelled my Skype account years ago because I was tired of the random chats from men in Turkey and Egypt. 92% of them will contain an opening line something like this: Hi I'm ___________ from Egypt. I'm a nice guy. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen do you want to come to Egypt and marry me?
This one obviously screams RUN FOR THE HILLS, but you would be surprised how many women actually indulge these guys in conversation only to end up weeks later totally convinced he really is a nice guy and he really loves her.
The first most common mistake made by women in this situation is a simple lack of understanding of Egyptian culture. They translate the situation to what it would mean in their culture. In "our" culture if a guy says he likes you or loves you he is being very serious in stating his intent to want a relationship with you. In the Arabic language, the word LIKE and LOVE are the same. A guy saying he loves you might only mean to indicate he strongly likes you. I will not go too much in depth about Egyptian culture at this point. I will save that for a future post.
The second most common mistake made in these situations is confusing flattery with sincerity. Again, due to lack of understanding of the culture. Marriage is the single most important event that will occur in the life of an Egyptian. However, as "westerners" being on the outside looking in, it appears that they put more thought into buying a pair of shoes than choosing a life partner. The majority of Egyptian men know that their wife will be found for them by their mother or sister. They may not always be happy with this process, but they accept it as their fate and the way things are done.
For girls, it is pretty much the same. She waits for some guy to come and ask her father if he can marry her. If the father agrees, he asks the daughter "do you want to marry this guy?" If she does they get engaged. If she doesn't she goes back to waiting for the next guy to come along. The most important characteristic of the girl is her reputation and moral character. The better this is, the more she will be sought out for marriage. Men just don't walk around freely proposing to women and they know that no (Egyptian) woman in her right mind would accept such a proposal.
If an Egyptian man says he wants for marry you in the first few minutes of conversation, he is most likely paying you a compliment. He's telling you that "you are of good moral character". He's only flattering you. That is one possible explanation. The other is that this guy, resigned to his fate of marrying a woman his mother chooses for him, is trying to capture a romantic notion that will elude him in reality. And what better way than on the Internet where there are a plethora of available women found by entering age and location into the search parameters. Women that he can actually talk to and fantasize about romance and love and living happily-ever-after with the woman of his dreams.
So if you met your guy randomly online - proceed with caution. I have a good friend in Mexico who had an online relationship with a guy in Egypt for 2 years. They chatted everyday, talked on the phone, etc. After two years she was feeling pretty confident that he really loved her and that they were in a serious committed relationship. After one year, he told her they would get married and she should come to Egypt. She had no money to do so, but asked him instead to come to Mexico and they could get married there. He told her he would and made plans to go to her. That was in February. Something kept coming up that would inevitably delay his travel plans. In November he assured her he would be there by December. December turned into January. In January he emailed her a copy of his itinerary and she took vacation time from her job on the day he was to arrive. But he never arrived. Instead he emailed her and said he was not coming and that he was involved with another woman. So she lost 2 years of her life waiting around for this guy to keep his empty promises.
2. Did you meet him on Craigslist?
Not a good sign. Guys on Craigslist tend to be serial daters. They are very likely to have more than one ad running at the same time, as well as re-post every few weeks. Enough said.
3. Did you meet him in Hurghada or Sharm? Does he work in a hotel or restaurant?
Not a good sign either. Men in these resort areas have 24 hour access to foreign women who are in town on holiday. Translation: I can tell her whatever I think she wants to hear now and in 2 weeks she will be back in her own country and I will never see her again. When you are with this guy you might notice that his phone rings non-stop and he sends an awful lot of text messages. Most likely he is conversing with his "ex-girlfriend" in Poland or the Ukraine who is not yet aware she is his ex and is still under the impression she is his girlfriend. After all, it's only been a month since she got home from her vacation to Egypt. (EDIT: This guy will most likely tell you he is a virgin. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. For most of them, it's part of the "this will make her fall for me" game.)
In Egypt, men traditionally live with their family (mother and father) until they get married. It is uncommon for a guy to have his own place. When they move to Sharm or Hugrhada for work it is similar to an 18 year old in the States going away to college for the first time. They find themselves suddenly surrounded by things (namely foreign women and alcohol) that were not easily available to them in their home cities. Needless to say, they go a little crazy. It is important to also bear in mind most of these guys have never travelled outside of Egypt. Their perception of western culture, the western world, and western women are based on what they see in movies and on television. In the majority of cases, the picture painted is stereotypical of a scantily clad woman who readily jumps into bed with every man she meets. Without having a full and accurate sociological understanding of the culture, in their minds these guys believe all western women are prone to behave in this manner. And we all know - this is far from the truth. These guys are "players" in the traditional sense of the word.
I can't find it now, but there was a website in Russia for women to post photos and info about the guys in Sharm and Hurghada to watch out for. It was a pretty busy website. I found it once by accident as a link from somewhere else, but because the URL name was a Russian word I can't find it again. I tried googling different things, but no luck yet. If I find it I will post a link here.
EDIT: Here is the link for the Russian website that has a blacklist of guys in Sharm and a blacklist of guys in Hurghada. Also, check out the Wanted board of Egypt.
ADDITIONAL WEBSITES: An internet search today (April 21) resulted in 2 more websites being located that maintain blacklists of Egyptian scam artists and bad guys. This one is in Russian only. And this one is in English although it is smaller and less active.
4. Is he a tour leader and you met him on a tour of Egypt.
(Red lights flashing everywhere! Loud sirens in the background.) Proceed to the nearest emergency exit and get out immediately. If necessary read #3 again.
5. Does he avoid letting you meet his family?
Not a good sign. If you always have to wait in the car while he runs in to talk to his mother for a minute. If someone from his family calls him while he is out with you and he says "no, I'm not doing anything". If he comes up with an excuse every time you suggest meeting the parents. These are all warning signs. Family is very important in Egyptian culture and approval from family is the utmost. If a guy is keeping you from his family then this is an indication that there may be lack of acceptance of their part. By keeping you away he is subscribing to the theory that what they don't know won't hurt them.
6. But my guy has introduced me to his family...does that mean I have a decent guy?
Not necessarily. Unless you actually heard him use the word girlfriend when he introduced you, chances are (if he's a scammer) he told everyone that you are a friend visiting Egypt and he's showing you around. Hospitality in Egypt is something that is taken very seriously. If someone asks an Egyptian to show a visitor around, not only will they do this, but they will become responsible for every aspect of that visitors health and well being for the duration of their time in Egypt. They become responsible to ensure that you are not only having a good time, but that you are fed, are warm enough, have a comfortable place to sleep, have enough to drink, and get safely on the plane at the airport when it's time for you to leave.
So if a guy has brought you to meet his family and friends, he may secretly be seeking their approval, but he will not come out and ask for it directly. He won't say: I'm thinking of marrying this girl - what do you think of her? Instead he will just say: Isn't she lovely. Let's make her feel very welcome in Egypt.
7. My guy is not after my money because I don't have any.
The average monthly salary in Egypt is between $500 and $700 (US Dollars). Even if you work part time in Taco Bell you still make more money than he does. He does not only have to look at your actual bank balance to be after your money. He may be looking at your earning potential or the fact that you can offer him an opportunity to increase his earning potential.
8. My guy is not after a visa or passport because he wants to stay in Egypt.
Of course he's going to say that. If he is after immigration he's not going to come out and admit it. He's going to use reverse psychology to make you think it's your idea to move abroad. He might even use the tired, sorry, old line: I don't want to leave Egypt but if it will make you happy to live in the US I will sacrifice everything to make you happy.
9. Is he constantly talking about the apartment he just bought?
In Egypt, this is the first step that a man takes before he actually begins to look for a wife. He must have the apartment semi-finished and ready for his new bride to be to pick out the paint colors, bathroom fixtures, floor tiles, etc.
My friend Jane, was involved with an Egyptian tour guide who constantly told her about the apartment he was getting ready for them. She was thinking that meant he was buying new furniture, and was mildly shocked when one day he texted her in Canada to tell her the windows were being installed and that in a few more weeks he should have enough money to buy the front door. He promised her they were going to live together in this apartment as soon as it was ready. She gave up everything and moved to Egypt believing his words. As soon as she got here, he disappeared. She had called his bluff. He never expected her to actually move to Egypt and when she did he was busted. Jane never did find out if there actually had been an apartment. If there was, chances are there was already a wife to go along with it. Another thing she did not know was that it would have been illegal for them to live together without being married. He took advantage of the fact that she did not know this and that it is common in Western culture in order to make his lies seem believable. They were already believable to him...and in his mind the fantasy of having a Canadian girlfriend/fiance was much better than the reality of his actual existence.
10. Did your guy claim to have an instant connection to you as if you were destined to be together?
Lame. Not even original in the least bit. If I had $1 for ever time I heard that, I would be a rich woman.
11. Do you have to pay for everything when you are out with him?
If you find you are the one footing the bill every time you go somewhere with him - even if it is only to McDonald's - then that is not a good sign. It may be that he has learned how to turn on the charm in order to be wined and dined. Is he always asking for gifts, or asking you to send him or bring him things from your home country?
12. Is he more than 10 years younger than you?
Ok, so maybe Demi and Ashton made it cool to be in a May - December romance (younger man/older woman), but historically speaking, it is not that widely accepted in Egyptian culture. There are many single Egyptian women over 30 who worry that they have a slim to none chance of getting married because the men their age will traditionally look for younger girls. If you think about it, you will find that in any culture eyebrows will be raised if a 24 year old guy is seen snuggling in a coffee shop with a 40 year old woman. In any country these relationships are hard - after all, how much can they possibly have in common? I'm not saying there are not some age gap relationships that have proven a success (check out Edna and Simon) but it's very rare, not to mention virtually unheard of in traditional Egyptian culture. If there is more than a 5 year age gap (7 tops) between you and your guy, you might have cause for concern. If your man is telling you "don't worry you and my mother will get along great" you might want to think twice. These guys are usually after only one thing: SEX.
13. Does the guy go missing for long periods of time and then suddenly reappear with all kinds of unbelievable excuses?
My friend Jane reminded me of a very important element of her story with the tour guide, Omar. Remember she is the one who left her home country to move to Egypt based on the empty promises of an apartment and eventual marriage? When she first arrived in Egypt, her phone calls and texts to Omar went unanswered. Jane was very puzzled by this since when she had been back home in Canada, she and Omar were in constant telephone contact. He texted her on a daily basis. Then when she arrived in Egypt, however, a period of over three weeks passed without a word from him. He suddenly reappeared one day with the excuse that he had been unable to contact her because he had been in the hospital. Jane believed him and forgave him at the time, but looking back on the situation now can't believe she was that naive to believe such a story. After all, if you were sick and in the hospital, wouldn't you get word to the person you supposedly loved even if you had to have a friend call for you?
14. Is he a police officer?
As a matter of national security, police officers in Egypt are unable to marry foreign women.
Ladies, if you are getting involved with Egyptian men and any of these stories sounds all too familiar or you find yourself facing similar circumstances - it is advisable to proceed with caution.
Step back and try to evaluate your experience objectively. Are you, yourself, succumbing to some romantic notion of Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome? What is it about Egyptian men that cause seemingly intelligent, strong, independent women to lose all their sensibilities?
Something to think about for sure.