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Ask a Stranger in a Strange Land

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DrFrylock, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. DrFrylock

    DrFrylock
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    It's still ancient Egypt week here at TiB.

    One of our members, RCGT, is living abroad in Cairo and has graciously agreed to be our "ask an X" guinea pig.

    Time zones being what they are, be patient for replies, please.

    Here are a couple questions to start:

    1. What are you doing in Cairo? How long have you been there and how long are you staying?

    2. You mentioned earlier that Cairo is like Bizarro World sometimes. Whyso?
     
  2. Disgustipated

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    My understanding of Egypt, like most arid countries, is that the majority of population live close to water. How far do you have to go before it's just nothingness? Or is that not the case?
     
  3. LessTalk MoreStab

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    What’s the booze situation like for you? A mate who worked there several years ago was forced to make “prison hootch” with several colleagues. What do you do?
     
  4. Super

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    Some basic non-intellectual questions:

    1) How attractive are the women as a whole?

    2) How do you get treated by the natives? (assuming you are not one).

    3) What is the most popular food people enjoy that is exclusively found in that region?
     
  5. Dcc001

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    Are you male or female?

    I've been to Cairo before. Admittedly my visit was brief, and a good gauge of a place cannot accurately be taken so quickly, but I left feeling like this: I would never, ever go back. Of all the places I've travelled to or lived in, including Africa, other parts of the Middle East and throughout Southeast Asia, only in Cairo did I feel threatened as a solo female traveller. I found it was impossible to even stand still on the streets - I had to keep moving if I wanted to wait for traffic so I could cross - otherwise I drew men to me like a beacon. And not in a good way. In a hostile, creepy way. I met up with a (female) friend there and in the days before I arrived she had been grabbed numerous times and even spat on. To clarify, she dressed modestly in Egypt; she typically wore a long skirt, long-sleeved shirts and covered her head.

    Speaking to some travellers in Jordan, one fellow confirmed that during his nine-month exchange program to Cairo (he was American), roughly half of the women dropped out of the program because they couldn't tolerate the harassment of simply living in the city. And these were typically well-travelled people who knew what they were getting into by living in a foreign country.

    So my question is: have any of your foreign female friends experienced something like this? What is their take on the city? The annoying/good thing about it, I found, is that if there was even one male present in the group, the treatment stopped immediately. This only happened when it was a woman or women travelling alone.
     
  6. AlmostGaunt

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    Hi,

    First off, I am massively envious. I was in Cairo about 3 months ago, and it was just an amazing experience, absolutely loved it. I'd love to go back.

    My questions: have you been to Aswan / Luxor? I'm told that they have turned the entire city into an open-air museum. Is there any truth to that?

    What do you eat to avoid salmonella? I had a budget much larger than the average young traveller, but still got sick. Apparently ~50% of western travellers to the region get it, and I'd like to avoid it next time.

    How fucking awesome are the tombs / museum? I'm not a museum person for the most part, but I could have spent a week in the Cairo museum. And to actually see the heiroglyphs on the tombs... just amazing. Ok this last one wasn't really a question, I just wanted to relive the magic... for the very first time.
     
  7. Ogee

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    How's the driving situation? I've heard Egyptian drivers have a death wish.

    If you aren't driving, how's public transit?

    What did you do for living arrangements?

    What are you doing re: taxes? Do you have to pay Egyptian income tax? Do they have income tax? How hard is it to file as an ex-pat? Do you need an accountant?

    .
     
  8. Danger Boy

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    Why do Egyptians walk so weird? You'd think it would be slow and tiresome. Are tourists expected to walk like an Egyptian as well?

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Diablo

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    Two questions:

    Who is Pharaoh right now?

    How does city life over there compare to city life on this side of the pond? ie. eating out, night life, etc.
     
  10. Captain Apathy

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    How are foreigners treated? Is there any outright bigotry directed towards specific groups?

    Do Egyptians see themselves as Africans? At the very least, they've won the Africa Cup of Nations three times in a row.

    How's the food?
     
  11. ex Animo

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    I'm so jealous. I have been obsessed with Egypt since I was in the 6'th grade. The only other places I obsess over are Japan and Germany. Fuhh.

    Anyway;

    I would like to visit Cairo within the next 5 years. What are some cool things to do? How much money would someone bring if they were to spend a week or something over there? Is the night life any fun? How did you pick up the native language?

    So many questions to ask. Fuck. I'll think of more as this thread progresses as I really want to check it out.
     
  12. Luke 217

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    What's a Nubian?

     
    #12 Luke 217, Sep 23, 2010
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  13. RCGT

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    Hey guys, I'm just gonna make a quick introductory post before I get to the questions.

    Some of you may know me as RCG Tiburon from the old board. I'm currently a junior going to a private university in the US. I'm majoring in International Politics, with a focus in Security Studies (the study of conflict and war) and getting a certificate in Arab Studies. I'm currently studying abroad at the American University of Cairo. I got here at the end of August and will be here until late December (my flight back is on Christmas Eve). After a little under a month of being here, I have to say Cairo is at the same time a fascinating city and one of the strangest places I've ever been.

    I'm sitting in a 300-level Political Economy class, which means about 60% of the time the professor is repeating things that I learned in introductory Macroeconomics and the other 40% is spent bitching about how lazy Egyptian workers are.* This means that I have a little time to answer the questions of our gracious forum denizens. On to the questions:

    1. I'm studying abroad here for the semester. I'm taking two Arabic courses (one third-year Modern Standard and one first-year Egyptian colloquial). I'm also taking two political science courses and the aforementioned Political Economy. I hope to work with/in this region in the future, preferably with the US government.

    2. Oh, where to begin. Since my battery's running out, how about I list a bunch of topics that deserve an in-depth treatment, and you tell me which ones you're interested in hearing about:

    • The endemic lateness
    • The endemic classism
    • The pandemic sexual harassment
    • The chronic idleness (not the same thing as lateness)
    • "Welcome to Alaska"
    • Assorted culture shock / "what the fuck" vignettes
    • I arrived during Ramadan, so that was pretty interesting

    I'll think of more, I'm sure. In any case, hi guys, and I look forward to answering your questions.

    *Holy shit this is actually a 400-level course and the professor just defined GDP. This is terrible.
     
  14. E. Tuffmen

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    What's the prevailing theory on who built the pyramids?
    Do people there wear tinfoil hats?
    I would like some experiments performed. Can you gather together several thousand Jews against their will?
    Have you ever been abducted by aliens?
     
  15. Maltob14

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    Have you become addicted to bongs (arguile/shishas) yet? If so whats you're favourite flavor?
     
  16. scotchcrotch

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    What decade of American pop-culture are citizens currently adopting over there?

    In other words, is 80's music still a big hit? Or have they moved on to the 90's.


    What would you say is the overall view of America?
     
  17. Glace

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    Hi RCGT,

    I was in Cairo last year and I really need to know...how big of a difference is it between "tourist prices" and "local prices". I've ran into that a bunch of times and I was wondering how much local Egyptians pay for juice, coffee, water etc.
     
  18. ghettoastronaut

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    I've heard that Cairo never sleeps. As in, you can do anything at 5 in the morning as easily as you could at 5 in the evening. Is that true?
     
  19. Crown Royal

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    Is is best to shoot cocky swordsmen in crowded market places?

     
    #19 Crown Royal, Sep 23, 2010
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  20. RCGT

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    Not too far, actually. Get out of the delta and you run into roads that just run through miles and miles of desert. Heck, even on the commute to New Cairo (where the campus is) from Zamalek (where my dorm is), you can see the desert. It really gives you a sense of the humanity of struggling to build something where Nature doesn't want anything to be built.

    Sidenote: New Cairo is basically emblematic of Egyptian craziness. How would you expand a city? Build a couple buildings, then build a couple more, and so on? Nah, fuck that. How bout we build all the buildings at the same time? All I see for the last half hour of my commute are half-built buildings and construction supplies in the middle of huge sand dunes. It's like a scene from Inception. And of course, I never see any building crews.

    Having gotten pretty drunk last night, I'm gonna say the situation for me is not exactly the same. There is a party scene here, but it is very "word of mouth"; luckily I got to know one of the guys who's a "Connector" (as TrembleTheDevil might say) so I get informed of some of these things. Last night I went on a yacht and went down the Nile while drinking LE 7* shots. The thing they are really strict about is alcohol in the rooms. It goes by a point system**, and even if you are of legal drinking age, two incidents of alcohol-related behavior can get you kicked out of the dorms. And did I mention they have very broad rights? Sway a little and they will search your room. Have beer on your breath (even if reasonably sober) and they will search your room. Heck, they have bag searches whenever you enter the building.

    *7 Egyptian pounds = $1.22
    **It's more of a high school atmosphere than anything.

    1) Egyptian women, generally speaking, are pretty hot. The university I go to is more like daycare for rich Arabs to send their 16-year-old daughters, and you can definitely tell the difference between the girls who are here on scholarship and the girls who are guaranteed a spot in Daddy's company on graduation day. The biggest difference: the scholarship girls wear the hijab, by and large. Daddy's little girl is all Westernized, so she has free flowing hair, skinny jeans, etc. She still won't give you the time of day, though.

    2) It really does depend. I'm Indian (dark skin, dark hair) so I get mistaken for Egyptian regularly. If you're white, you'll probably get ripped off regularly. If you're female, you'll get sexually harassed to kingdom come. That said, generally most people are nice - definitely more so than most cities in the US. I realize that sounds like a bit of a paradox, but that's the way it is.

    I'm male, but I will confirm that Cairo is like this.

    If you're female, at some point (probably quite early on), you will get harassed. And I don't mean "oh he commented on my body", that's barely even worth mentioning here. I mean getting groped, followed, etc., by anyone from a nine-year-old boy to an old geezer that tries to follow you into your apartment building. And as you mentioned, it's not like my friends are dressing in miniskirts and heels here - they're wearing conservative clothing, long sleeves, etc. If you are traveling from place to place or walking the streets by yourself or in a group of women, here is my advice: Don't. Bring a guy, and generally things will be alright.

    If I was in that situation, I'd hate to let the opportunity to live in another country slip by, but I can't honestly say I would stay either.

    I haven't been to Aswan / Luxor unfortunately. I think it's more of a saying than a formal arrangement, though, given how much the city depends on tourism for its economy. I did go to Dahab, on the Sinai Peninsula, and if you haven't been there - you fucking missed out. I cannot recommend Dahab enough. Shark attack notwithstanding.

    (Aswan and Luxor are two cities in southern Egypt along the Nile River. Aswan is the ancient Egyptian city of Swenet and Luxor is the site of Thebes.)

    As far as stomach troubles and food poisoning... If you're here, you're going to get it, most probably. Apart from the obvious (don't eat street food, don't drink the water, etc) I can't say I have much advice on this front. Try asking any Egyptians you know what the good places to eat are. My roommate is Egyptian so he gives me advice on that front.

    And, sadly enough, I haven't been to the museum or the pyramids yet. But I'm here until January almost, so I have plenty of time. Worst case scenario I'll just miss some class to do it.

    I don't drive; I catch a bus at ungodly hours of the morning, and have an hour-long commute to class each way. Egyptian drivers are not exactly concerned with safety. Lanes are beyond their realm of experience, and speed limits are basically nonexistent. Our bus hit somebody's car the other day and the driver just kept on driving. At night, they barrel down narrow roads at 50 mph with no headlights on. Woe to the pedestrian with slow reflexes. That said, the driving here doesn't hold a candle to Indian driving.

    I have yet to use the metro here, but it's literally the only subway system in Africa. I'm not sure how to take that.

    I'm a student and I don't make any money, so I don't file taxes here. (Yeah, yeah, I know - for all the complaining I do about rich kids, I'm here on my family's dime as well.)

    Well, they can actually stop walking like that after sunset. It's a religious thing. Tourists aren't expected to walk like that, but they are expected to refrain from speedwalking or running, as that is seen as insensitive.

    The Pharaoh is our Great Good Master and Savior Hosni Mubarak. You should read the articles about this guy in the local papers. It dispels the notion that Egypt is any kind of meaningful democracy.

    As far as city life, there are a couple of cool things about Egypt to note here. First of all, everywhere delivers. Everywhere - small shops, big shops, McDonald's, whatever. You can call them up and ask them, or use the interwebs.

    Secondly, the clubs themselves are kind of weird if you're coming from the US - no bumping and grinding, no sex in the bathrooms, etc. Egyptian youth seem to be very good at skirting these sorts of lines. Drinks are ridiculously overpriced, just like anywhere.

    This city never fucking sleeps. There is always something to do.

    Outright bigotry? Maybe towards Asians. I can't say I've experienced any (being I look Egyptian), white people don't experience much (in fact being white gives you the invisible "white person advantage" - the color of your skin is kind of a currency in that regard), black people I'm not quite sure. I'll try and find out more about this one.

    Egyptians do not see themselves as Africans, by and large. Just like anything, some are more passionate about this than others. This has a lot to do with Islam, proximity to Arabia, the Umma, and a ton of other stuff. I generally stay out of discussions about this when I'm talking to Egyptians. They are obsessed about their soccer, though.

    The food is not bad, if you know where to eat. Generally you can get a falafel sandwich, fava beans and a Pepsi delivered to your door for LE 10, or less than $2. You've got your ta'amiya (falafel, usually in pita bread), fuul (mashed fava beans, by itself or in a pita), kushari (carb central, like six different foods in one - ridiculously filling and cheap too), shawarma (I haven't had a good one yet, but I haven't looked too hard), grilled chicken, fried + breaded, lamb, sausage, etc. And of course aish (bread) and arooz (rice). You can find American restaurants and the like around as well. They make a decent quarter pounder with cheese, but they never give you enough ketchup for your fries. Oh well.

    I'll tell you though, I miss the hell out of some tamarind rice.

    Money wise, as I mentioned, you can eat pretty cheaply. I'd say a rough guideline of LE 30 a meal (LE 10 for breakfast) should be more than enough. The exchange rate is about LE 5.50 = $1.00. Some goods will be really expensive though - a box of breakfast cereal will run you around seven bucks. The solution is to not eat those things. I'm not too sure about prices for apartments and the like.

    I've taken two years of Modern Standard Arabic, so I'm taking another class in that and a class in Egyptian colloquial. I really enjoy my colloquial class, but it's kind of a head trip - the 'ammiyya (colloquial) is very different from the fus'ha (MSA). They use MSA for the newspapers, TV news, etc., but that's about it. Some of the colloquials across the Arab world are mutually unintelligible, so that tells you something about the diversity of the language.

    I made some comments about the nightlife above, ask if you have any specific questions.

    Flies are everywhere, but other than that the insects aren't too bad. I haven't noticed any scorpion problems, but then I live on the sixth floor of a pretty modern dormitory building. Also, I don't wear shoes here. For me it's sandals about 90% of the time.

    Is there a way a man can get laid here? Yes, but I haven't found it yet. My dorm is completely gender-segregated (guards are posted to make sure of this) and you'd have to go to a hostel downtown or something. Plus, I suck with girls. So yeah, haven't run into that problem yet. I hear that prostitution happens here (like everywhere else) but with a twist... Islam doesn't allow unmarried sex. Enter the one-night marriage. Yeah.

    I would say that by and large, no, the Egyptians are not very jealous of our crazy American debauchery. They see most of it as... well... debauched. Besides, they have their clubs and their hashish and their alcohol here as well.

    Giant ants.
    Yes, they line their turbans with it.
    Do they have to be unwilling?
    Yes, but I don't remember it. But sometimes I get this itchy feeling in my nose...