Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Scenes around Cairo: Traffic accidents (Ring Road Pile Up - April 2009)

This is the kind of stuff I hate to see, but it is a daily reality living in Cairo. I drove to Nasr City with A today. On our way back this afternoon, M called us and told us to be careful because yesterday there had been a very bad accident on the Ring Road (a highway that forms a ring around greater Cairo). Apparently a flat-bed semi had jack-knifed causing a 33 car pile up. At least 62 people are believed to have been injured in the accident and upwards of 10 fatalities. It wasn't long before A and I were coming upon the scene. People were driving exceptionally slow today, perhaps because they wanted to exert a bit more caution than usual, but most likely because they were rubber-necking the wreckage that was still strewn about on the side of the road. I snapped these pictures as we drove through it.

This disabled vehicle had nothing to do with the previous day's accident, however, a wrecked pick-up is visible directly in front of it.





More wreckage was piled directly behind these sand piles. People were milling about the area taking pictures or just staring. (Click on picture to enlarge it.)








EDIT: Just to show you how rumors get started due to lack of on the spot news coverage - I came across this article on the same accident in another blog. According to this post, which quotes a published source - the accident was caused by a collision between a truck and a public transportation bus. 4 people died, 30 were injured and 20 cars were involved.
2nd EDIT: Update on the accident statistics: According to Al Ahram online (Arabic), 7 people died, 56 were injured, and 39 cars were involved including 2 microbuses, 1 public transport bus, and private vehicles, when a truck carrying steel bars went out of control and lost it's load.

The guys running Otlob should run the world

I swear they guys running OTLOB should be running the world. This has got to be, without a doubt, the most efficiently run organization in all of Egypt - if not the entire world. For those of you not familiar with this online food ordering service here's how it works:

  1. Log onto Otlob.com and choose your country: Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain.

  2. Register for a free account and enter your e-mail, phone, and delivery addresses (home, office, etc.)

  3. Choose the area of the city you are in.

  4. Choose from among the list of restaurants or food types.

  5. Click the menu items you want added to your shopping cart. Order from one restaurant or several different places at the same time.

  6. Choose your delivery location.

  7. Select your delivery time (order now or several hours from now).

  8. Click "place order".

It's that easy. The guys at Otlob take it from there. Once they receive your order, they phone it in to the restaurant and then send you a confirmation e-mail. Immediately after you receive the confirmation e-mail, a countdown timer begins on the Otlob order screen telling you to expect your delivery in 45 minutes (sometimes less).

I have to admit I was slightly skeptical at first, after all this is Egypt - everything takes notoriuosly long. Twice as long where food is concerned. The first time I ordered something, Chilis to be exact, I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived with 4 minutes to spare. Surely I won't be that lucky next time I told myself. But the next time the food also arrived with several minutes to spare on the countdown timer. Thinking that this, once again, must be a fluke I busied myself over the next several months trying to beat Otlob at their own game. I ordered large quanities, well done steaks, complicated the orders (no butter, no seasoning, dressing on the side) - all to no avail. Otlob deliveries arrived on time each and every time. Even more surprising was the fact that I could order a hot fudge sundae from McDonalds and it would arrive completely intact and unmelted. Amazing.

So what is so great about Otlob. Two words: CUSTOMER SERVICE. When you think of customer service in Egypt it is easy to get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the one that is usually followed by the words "insha'allah bokra ma'alish". Or getting told to go to yet another window and speak to someone who will be three times more annoyed to see you than the guys at the first 17 windows were. Or placed on hold for the umpteenth time then transferred to someone else who has absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Or going to the bank only to find out that you have to come back in one hour because everyone goes to their lunch break at the same time. But seriously, Otlob customer service rocks.

A few weeks ago my husband was travelling out of the country. I placed an order on Otlob and waited for the countdown timer to begin. After about 7 minutes it still had not started. Our Otlob account is set up with my husband's email and mobile number. I knew if there was any problem with the order and Otlob was trying to call, they would be unable to get through on my husband's phone since it was out of the country code. I was also having trouble accessing my husband's email account. So now I was kind of screwed. I went back to the Otlob page and clicked on the Online Support. Instantly a chat box popped up. "Hi this is Ahmed from Otlob customer service. How can I help you?"

I explained my situation and gave him my 8 digit order number. "Oh yes," he replied instantly, "we've been trying to call you - the restaurant is out of spaghetti bolognese."

"Ok well cancel that order then," I told him. "I will order from somewhere else."

He immediately confirmed it was cancelled. I went back to the menu page and decided to go with one of my usual favorites from Euro Deli. I placed the order and then went back to the chat box to see if Ahmed was still online. Surprisingly he was. I informed him I had placed the new order. "Please stay on the line with me while we call this into the restaurant," he told me. About 30 seconds later he came back online. "Euro Deli is out of chocolate cheesecake but they have blueberry," he informed me. "OK then," I replied, "make it blueberry."

After another minute he reappeared and informed me my order was placed and confirmed. "Enjoy your meal," he told me signing off.

Now that's what I call customer service! Seriously, why can't these guys running Otlob all go work at the Mugamma Building or the post office. Wouldn't that be too good to be true?

EDIT May 6, 2009: It has come to my attention through tracking statistics on my website that this article is possibly getting considerable attention by OTLOB employees. I recently noticed a link back to this blog post appearing on an OTLOB employees intranet page. I just wanted to go on record and say that the name "Ahmed" I used in the article was not the real name of the actual OTLOB employee who assisted me during my recent contact with customer service. However, that does by no means, change the positive experience I had. At the time of writing the article, I just decided to change the name of the employee for artistic reasons and to protect the employee's privacy. But now in light of this recent information, I don't want the wrong employee to get credit for the call. In my opinion, OTLOB still has the best customer service - no matter which employee takes the call.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How NOT to get killed by the Craiglist killer

In light of the recent incident where an American man allegedly murdered a woman after responding to an ad she had offering "erotic services" on Craiglist, many people may begin to think twice before responding to personal ads on the service. But it was not the first time it had happened. In 2007, a 24 year old woman was murdered after responding to an ad for a nanny in the help wanted section. In January of 2008, FBI agents arrested a woman who had placed an ad offering $5,000 for a hit man to kill the wife of a man she was having an affair with.

Personal ads have long been the place for crazies, psychos, and stalkers to find their victims, and for years, women have been advised to always meet in a public place, never give out your phone number, etc. Today, personal ad respondents are given similar advice in websites such as this one.

So does this mean you have to be afraid of every personal ad you see on Craiglist? Not at all. The majority of them are just nice people who sincerely believe they will find love by actively searching for it. Whenever S and I get together at Costa, a favorite pastime is to peruse through the personals just to see what's out there. Here is a random sampling of some things men have said about themselves in ads. We found them amusing and we hope you do, too.

  • I like pie.
  • I like my meat well done.
  • I like hanging out with my car.
  • I can give you tall children with nice teeth.
  • I am skinny.
  • I want to learn more languages because it is important for everyone to have 2 tongues.
  • (This guy was offering to marry someone so they could get US citizenship and asked for) Interested parties only.
  • I want to bang sexy egipt (sic) lady.
  • I cook, I'm fit, I'm a macho man. Here is my pic (below ad was a picture of the poster in pink shorts).
  • I live by my won (sic) and have traveled.
  • 45 years old man search for a waife (sic). (Cambridge International Dictionary's definition of WAIF: a child or animal without a home or enough care, people without anywhere to stay for various reasons.)
  • I will marry you for the sum of $50,000 USD. I have a 10 inch endowment.
  • Nice gay (sic) looking for good women.
  • Be bug free.
  • Would love to smoke if you have some.
  • Generous gifts are available if needed.
  • Do you need honestly relationship.
  • E-mail me and I will reply fast like in 30 minutes.
  • Let's to water together the love flower.

There's someone out there for everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Post edited yet again

A search on the internet today, resulted in the discovery of 2 additional websites that maintain blacklists of scam artists and bad guys in Egypt. Also, additional warning signs have been added.


Here is the link: Obvious warning signs and pitfalls of online/holiday romances with Egyptian guys

Monday, April 20, 2009

Scenes around Cairo: Funny pictures

While out walking this morning I saw a guy riding a bicycle and pushing a lawnmower at the same time. A classic "Only in Egypt" photo. Too bad I could not get my camera out in time to snap a photo. But here are some others I came across on a recent trip downtown.

I was afraid to go into this store:


More scary mannequins


Come see Mickey Mouse in Luxor.
I wonder if Disney knows their logo is being used.


Can you believe they actually named the place
Virus net caffee? I'd feel real safe using my
computer there!


So stylish.


No comment!


Another fine translation.


If you like those, you can see more "Only in Egypt" photos HERE and HERE.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Things I really miss

  • Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

  • Tropicana Orange Juice

  • Homogenized 2% milk in a one gallon container

  • Parking lots

  • Drive-Thru windows (there is only one in Cairo that I know of)

  • Taco Bell


AND STOP SIGNS!!!



(Photo taken in Oakland City, Indiana)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Living in Egypt: An Islamic marriage ceremony

I get many emails from women wanting to know about getting married in Egypt. One of the most common questions is from women wanting to know what happens during the Islamic religious ceremony. It is know as the "kabt ik kitab" or contract signing. This procedure usually takes place at the mosque, but there are many Sheikhs that make house calls. There must be two Muslim male witnesses present and usually only family and close friends attend this event. The contract signing usually takes place before the legal marriage at the Ministry of Justice. Even though the kabt ik kitab makes the couple married in the eyes of God, couples do not consider themselves married and do not co-habitate or consumate the marriage until after the legal marriage at the Ministry of Justice and the official wedding celebration party which resembles a typical western wedding reception. The wedding celebration parties are commonly held in 4 and 5 hotels compltete with live singers and belly-dancers, gourmet meals, loud music, cake, etc. There are other smaller moderately priced wedding halls available. Depending on the financial curcumstances of the couple, the wedding party celebration can immediately follow the kabt ik kitab or it can take place up to one year later.

Here is the video of our wedding:

video

(EDIT: The woman does not have to be Muslim - as it is acceptable for a man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Quick Look: Even the dog is dusty

One of the worst things about living in Egypt is the dust. It gets everywhere on everything even if you keep your windows closed. I am a clean freak, but even I have given up trying to keep things dust free in Cairo. This morning, the dog was outside on the roof. She came in with dust all over her side. Take a look:



A Quick Look: My husband as Jim Morrison

My husband loves Jim Morrison. He had this postcard for years and it's one of his favorite pictures of Jim. I got the idea to recreate the pose using him and our dog. Unfortunately, the dog did not cooperate for very long and I had the camera on the black and white setting for the picture that ultimately became the best shot. It would have been better in color all details were recreated perfectly - minus the graffiti on the wall. It is now one of my favorite pictures.


The original:

The best shot:



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blacklist of bad guys

A reader provided the name of the website that blacklists bad Egyptian guys in Sharm and Hurghada. The post has been updated to indlude the links.

See it here: Obvious warning signs and pitfalls of online/holiday romances with Egyptian guys.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sorry, I don't speak British English

My friend N, and her mother both speak with such a thick British accent that I have a difficult time understanding them. N tells a funny story of when her mother first moved to Cairo.

Anxious to use some of the Egyptian Arabic she had learned, Mom went out shopping one day.

"Shukran" she said proudly as she handed the clerk her money.

"Afwan" he replied handing her the change.

"I've already got one" she said.

"No. AFWAN" he repeated.

"And I told you - I've already got one!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Living in Egypt: Riding the Metro in Cairo

I know many foreigners living in Cairo who ride the microbuses. They are a cheap and easy way to get around, but are usually jam packed with people and not very comfortable. I have never had occasion to ride in one yet - mostly because they do not service the Maadi area where I live, but also because my husband and I have a car. If there are times when I need to go downtown by myself, however, I can easily hop on the Metro. The Cairo Metro (known as subway, underground, or "el" in the States) is a fast, cheap, and reliable way to travel around Cairo. While not all areas of Cairo are serviced by the Metro, you can easily get as close as possible to your destination and take a taxi, tram, or microbus the rest of the way. At the present time, there are two lines, with a third under construction. Line one runs from El Marg (Northeast Heliopolis area) to Helwan south of Maadi. Line 2 begins in the northern area of Shobra, intersects with line 1 downtown in Tahrir Square (Sadat Station) where it then crosses the Nile underground, heads west into Dokki, then south terminating in the outskirts of Giza. Line 3 will run West to East serving parts of Mohandiseen and terminating at the airport in Heliopolis. The train runs underground in some parts of the city and at ground level in some parts. Unlike New York and Chicago, the tracks are not elevated above the ground. It costs only one pound to ride the train. Service begins in the early morning hours 5:30 am and finishes at midnight (1 am during the summer). You can view a map of the Metro here. Station signs are in Arabic and English.



Women are permitted to ride in any car, but there are cars designated for women only. It used to be the first car of the train, but now the women's only cars are towards the back. You can find the women's car by looking for the signs (see photo on right) on the platform. The women's cars will stop adjacent to these signs. I prefer not to use the women's cars during rush hour because they tend to get more crowded. I personally have never had any problem at all riding the train. It can get pretty crowded at times so be prepared to push and shove your way through the crowd trying to get on. Not all the cars are air-conditioned and some have fans mounted on the walls, but they don't always work. For the money, the Metro is still one of the best, and fastest ways to get around Cairo.

In this video I was riding in one of the women's only cars:






Saturday, April 11, 2009

Who puts ketchup on pizza?

Previously, I wrote about something I found on the menu at Beanos which did not sound very appetizing: chocolate cake with maple syrup.

My friend, A, and her boyfriend, M, came over the other night to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (they were highly disappointed, and so was I) and we somehow got on the topic of food in different countries. We were discussing the things we miss from home that we just can't find in Egypt. Even if we can find them in Egypt, they just don't taste the same. Like French toast and pancakes. M, who is from upstate New York, lived in the South for a while and really misses grits. Being from New York myself, I never heard of grits until I moved to Southern Indiana. I tried them once or twice, but never acquired a taste. But, M, apparently did and started describing a steaming hot bowl of grits with melted butter and cheese. A had never heard of grits either, "I'm glad these things have not found their way to Canada yet", she said.

Next the conversation turned to condiments. "Who puts ketchup on pizza?", I wanted to know. That is kind of like putting butter on bacon. When you order pizza in Egypt, it comes with packets of ketchup. The first time I saw this I was confused - what the heck is this for - ketchup on pizza? I never heard of such a thing. I am from the Bronx - the pizza capital of the world - and I have never seen a bottle of ketchup in a pizza joint. When I first moved to Indiana in 1997, I walked into a Papa John's and ordered a slice. The guy behind the counter stared blankly at me. "A what?", he said. A slice - you know - a slice of pizza. "You can't get that here, you have to buy the whole pizza - do you want small, medium, or large?" So just like that my slice eating days were over and I was relegated to getting my pizza at chain restaurants. But I still never saw a bottle of ketchup in Pizza Hut. I never got a single packet of ketchup with my Dominos delivery.

According to A, she never did this in Canada either. Instead, she said, Canadians put maple syrup on everything. I suddenly remembered the chocolate cake with maple syrup. Of course! It all makes sense now. It's a Canadian thing. I told her about the cake at Beanos. She said it sounded pretty good. A few minutes later our pizza delivery arrived. I removed no less than six ketchup packets from the crevices of the boxes.

There were no takers for the ketchup, but A asked if I had any maple syrup.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Living in Egypt: Driving in Cairo 1



Driving from Maadi to Mohandiseen on the Mounieb Bridge.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Things I really wish I had

  • A microwave
  • A toaster
  • A coffee pot
  • A George Foreman Grill
  • A crock pot
  • A blender
  • A dishwasher

AND AN ELECTRICAL OUTLET IN THE KITCHEN!

Interesting Egyptians: Huda Shaarawi

The United States had Susan B. Anthony. Egypt had Huda Shaarawi.

I first heard of her when reading Max Rodenbeck's book Cairo The City Victorious - which by the way is a fantastic book if you are interested in Egyptian history and modern day Cairo. In the book, he writes of Huda stepping off a train at MaHatta Misr in 1923 (today called Ramses Station) and publicly removing her veil. Many women followed her example, and within 10 years very few women in Egypt remained veiled. Huda's feminist movements were coordinated with Egypt's efforts to gain independence from English occupation. After Egypt did gain independence, the men tried to, once again, return the women to their harems. Thanks to Huda's efforts - it was not to happen. It is because of her pioneering, groundbreaking feminism movement, that modern day Egypt does not resemble modern day Saudi Arabia with it's segregation and women hidden behind black veils and high walls.

To read more about this remarkable woman go here and here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Scenes around Cairo: Window Shopping

Two women in niqab shoe shopping.


One of the many lingerie shops with provocatively posed mannequins.


An endless sea of baby "chuckies".


The new Spring fashion line?



Friday, April 3, 2009

Obvious warning signs and pitfalls of online/holiday romances with Egyptian guys

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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day!

Sorry for the light blogging last few days. I had a migrane yesterday and had to go to the dentist today. Will be back on track tomorrow.