Category Archives: Uncategorized

Endless Sexual Harassment in Cairo

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It is not a secret that the level of sexual harassment in Egypt has skyrocketed after the revolution. Some people still pretend that it does not happen and claim that it is a normal practice that happens everywhere in the world. Well this faulty argument still does not make it OK.

Today I got harassed by a bunch of school girls on the streets of Cairo. It is incredibly frustrating and sad that women harass other women, hence tolerate this kind of behavior in their own country. The girls were passing by when I was sitting in the car with an open window. They saw me and started cat-calling. One of them even touched me. I simply looked different, that’s why they felt entitled to harass me.

The society does not see anything wrong with this kind of behavior. A lot of men believe that women enjoy cat-calling and groping. They consider it a nice gesture. I once was on the plain with two Egyptian guys who truly believed that women secretly enjoy being harassed.

In spite of all this madness a lot of people try tackling the issue. A lot of women get harassed on the famous Tahrir Square. As the government does not do anything about it, different activists decided to take a stand. Some volunteers organized self-defense trainings for women.

Tahrir  Bodyguard

“Women have the right to protest in the square and we are here to protect them and help them protect themselves,” representatives of Tahrir Bodyguard say.

The group’s latest initiative involves helping women to protect themselves, not only on Tahrir Square, but all over Cairo. Through Tahrir Bodyguard’s volunteers, a group of self-defense instructors and the Samia Allouba Gym and Fitness Center, women all over Cairo will have the opportunity to learn self-defense moves and techniques.

These kinds of initiatives encourage women to fight back and end the impunity of this male-dominated society. Who knows, maybe things will change soon.

Source: Egypt Independent 

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Egypt: First Presidential Elections

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this is a pure image of Egyptian revolution. Cannot recall where I took this picture from.

Results of local elections are pretty disturbing. The leading candidates of the semi-finals are: Ahmed Shafiq and Mohammed Morsi. Egyptians remember Mr. Shafiq as a former Mubarak’s minister and a “butcher” who did not do much to stop the bloody Battle of the Camels that lasted for 16 hours on Tahrir Square. Mr. Morsi is a prominent leader of the Muslim Brotherhood ORganization. People found themselves between a rock and a hard place: what to do and whom to vote for?

But why all of that happened?

Various candidates participated in the elections: socialists, liberals, religious leaders, etc. the question is: why Mr. Shafiq a pro-Mubarak person was allowed to participate in it? It clearly seems that all the efforts and sacrifices of the revolution were useless. Liberals had various candidates and no unity. They are highly disintegrated and fragmented; they did not nominate one person and voted for him, but had many leaders. This turned out to be their biggest mistake. Votes of intellectuals were divided and spread all over the place: no one got the biggest chunk. This situation is not unique: unfortunately it happens all over the world. Liberal opposition has no uniting idea and no common candidate: one and for all.

While majority of the population remains uneducated and illiterate, the possibilities for manipulation remain widely available. Imagine if someone in the mosque would tell these people to vote for a particular candidate and go to heaven or vote for any other candidate and go to hell. What do you think is going to happen? Or imagine a poor village with people barely making their ends meet, all of a sudden they receive a lot of cooking oil, pasta and rice. Who do you think they will vote for? Or let’s take Coptic Christians who voted for Shaffiq as they were scared of the Muslim rule in the country. I believe no one can blame them for that.

So I look at it and understand that Russia is not very different from Egypt: the same methods of bribery (you can basically get a vote with a bag of rice, flour, sugar (underline) in Egypt, 500 rubles in Russia) and methods of mass manipulation and intimidation during the elections. Also don’t forget about the ubiquitous propaganda and lies on television in Russia.

However, there is one good thing: people here really can not vote more than once because a finger of each and every single person is dipped in ink before the voting, and you cannot get rid of this ink for a week or so. I think this innovative method should be implemented in Russia, otherwise some individuals have a chance (and get paid for it) to vote for United Russia several times.

So the country voted. Who wins remains a mystery, but we are all doomed so far…

Exploring Egypt: ugliness and beauty combined

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Me at the Nilometer. The day when I wore a skirt in the local metro

Me at the Nilometer. The day when I wore a skirt in the local metro

 

Cairo keeps amusing me every day. Almost every day I get harassed on the streets of the city and it does not really matter what I wear and how I look like. Once I went to the local metro wearing a skirt. It was boiling hot, no air conditioner inside and everyone was sweating. My knee-long skirt attracted everyone’s attention and brought some judgmental looks. But I learnt one thing: I have my way and will wear what I want.

 

Some people might say that it is not a good strategy in a foreign country and that I should respect their traditions and be more culture sensitive. Well, I will say that cultures do matter but no one should revoke fundamental issues of human rights and dignity. Country with high rate of illegal Female Genital Mutilation should not say that it is in its culture, therefore it is ok; it is never OK and never fine. Cultural relativism should not be used as an excuse for something like that.

 

One day I took a cab and it was too late when I noticed that there was no meter in it. So I expected a long fight over the price and already wrote my price on a piece of paper as I don’t really speak Arabic. On our way the driver was nice enough to offer me a cigarette and asked if I did not mind him smoking. How sweet of him. Yet, I would imagine the same taxi driver harassing me on the streets of Cairo. Paradox.

 

At the end of the ride he claimed he had no change. Such a liar! He worked all day and had no change? No way!!!! We asked a security guard by my house to translate the whole issue from/to Arabic as we could not agree on the price. This security guard helped me out with 5 pounds [that I was missing] to pay the ride as the driver had no change. I did not even know the guy! But he helped me out just like that! That’s what I love about Cairo: friendly people willing to offer their help.

On destruction and Egyptian randomness

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I am in a car. Sitting here with the laptop. My ridiculous flat has no phone coverage and my internet USB stick does not work either. In order to make a phone call I need to try dialing for ages until the line gets connected.

The reason for that?

Mubarak’s prison is literally 10 minutes walking distance from my place. Several weeks ago the government started blocking the signal. I have no clue what the reason behind it is, but it is incredibly uncomfortable for me. I bet it has something to do with the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

Well, life in Egypt is unpredictable – that’s for sure.

Today I am proud of myself. I cut the cord, I ended the pain. I am now free again and no longer attached to a person who has been destructing me on a daily basis. Enough of misery and pain. I deserve to be loved and happy. At least I did not spend years trying to figure it out.

Note to self: never again spend time with people who have no idea what love is

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Today is a very very sad day

The day when I wish I lived close to home, to my family and my old friends. I am devastated

I promised myself to write for this blog every day. And I am doing this right now, even though it is not the best day for it. I just know that I am a perfect procrastinator and if I skip a day I will start skipping more.

I believe in Darwin. She believed in god. Where is this bloody god if she is gone? The sweetest girl I knew, always smiling and happy. I will go to a church tonight and put a candle for her and her god that did not protect her.

hard to understand, comprehend and digest.

Living abroad and being on your own means being a survivor. Surviving every day, avoiding dangers on streets and roads, staying safe. Safe for everyone you know. For your family and friends. My heart is broken into million pieces and these pieces are scattered across the world with my little sunshine people. But I am 13 flight hours away from where my heart belongs to. Kilometers and days … Where the sun is still mild and autumn is the best. Where you can see the Japanese sea wherever you are … Where tigers walk in mountainous forests and the sea freezes in winter.

There will be no more art house movie nights with you, picture exchanges, tea breaks and chit chats on skype. No more anything. Gone.

Sugar Cane and Hungarian words in my head

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Sugar Cane Juice by Flickr user indi.ca

I am adapting. Slowly but sure thing I am. I hope my English will not get retarded here. I started using local accent for fun, I hope that this mocking exercise will not turn into my everyday language. I am good in picking up accents.

In some café: I would like to get some peach smoothie pls. – “Bich Zmuuuuziiiiie?????” – hahaha

“Ze prinder iz nod workingggg” – the printer is not working

I started saying “Halas” – that means something like stop or enough! I already feel that there will be more words of this kind that I will start using soon.

Hungarian words are constantly popping out. When I go to any store or buy anything in some small street shops I always want to say thank you in Hungarian. The problem is that Hungarian thank you or “köszi” means pussy in Arabic, which is somewhat misleading. So that’s why I got a very strange reaction from sales people and in restaurants. Two years of living in Magyarország do not go away that fast. I still try to be nice and say viszlát on my way out of any store.

What I love here is the amount of exotic fruit. So today I tried the freshly quizzed sugar cane juice – never tried such a thing before. I have a feeling that I am drinking a sweet corn with a straw. Incredibly sweet and taste like a pure starch. I am drinking this small glass for two hours already. I remember living in another country in the Middle East and we loved buying fresh orange juice before going to the local beach. Sweet memories. I hope they have orange juice on the beaches here as well.

Update: they said I had to drink this sugary thing asap since it goes bad really fast. Ugh. Waaaay to sweet

Cairo: food

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Dinner at Bondokah by Flickr user bastique

Food is one of the most important things in my life. I love cooking and trying new things. However, I am not open for some exotic food, such as marinated cockroaches or anything like this. My favorite food is Thai – I could never get bored eating it and trying to cook it as well.

Hummus is among other things that I extremely love. I tried it in London for the first time and even thought this hummus was from TESCO it was one of the best that I’ve tried in my life. Or maybe it is just my memory tells me that it was good and I did not have anything to compare it with. Budapest has the great Israeli Hummus bar. Hummus plates made me the happiest girl in the city: different vegetables and meat mixed with falafel and tahina. On top of this I always ordered LimoNana: lemonade with mint. So now I am here, in Cairo. And I am on a mission, called a hummus hunt. I have not found that many hummus places here so far. Well at least I dunno any in my area of this giant city, OR my work colleagues just prefer ordering a delivery of some junk-half-food/ half-chemicals.

The city seems more expensive than Budapest, which is surprising. Central market in Budapest is simply amazing: I could find anything there and the prices were reasonable. If I go to any local market I will get ripped off immediately. And the shop next to my house does not have the magical hummus. Hmm… well it turned out that everyone is making it at home and don’t really buy it in stores.

I remember having constant fights with waiters in Budapest. One of my good friends is “lactarded” – how he calls himself, he is allergic to milk. Hungarian cuisine is impossible to imagine without sour cream – they put it almost everywhere. We had our favorite food place in the city center, however, this place was also strange. Even though the menu remained the same for months, the food was different every day. If you order curry one day and it would be mild, the next day the same exact curry from the menu might have a totally different taste and texture. We tried to figure out the trick and it still remains a mystery.

Once we asked not to put the sour cream at all and the waiter responded that it would be like Mojito without mint. Another time my sweetest lactarded friend ordered curry and asked a waiter to put sour cream on the side. What did he get? Chicken on the side and the bloody sour cream on top of the curry plate.

Here in Egypt we went to a grill place once, the average dish there cost about 20 USD. So it was supposed to be a decent place. However, we had some bizarre experience in there. Important fact: male-female ratio was 3 to 2. I and my friend ordered some shrimp/fish grill. Well, I love fish endlessly. The waiter was really slow and did not bring all the food at once, but in long intervals. The fish was not edible at all: too much salt and rosemary.

So that’s when the fun part started: my other female friend started complaining and wanted to return the food. It would be ok if only a waiter had some tact. I thought that getting the same dish would be a terrible idea, so we decided to cancel it at all. The male waiter was speaking to our male friends only. The waiter totally ignored the fact that WE (women) were unhappy with the food. This situation totally pissed us off and we started a fight. So the evening was eventually ruined with all this fighting stuff.

However, yesterday night was very sweet. We went to smoke hookah at Sequoia by the Nile. The place and the view were simply incredible. That’s the type of places that I love: great interior design, nice waiters, good food and a fun
company.

I miss Budapest and our endless conversations about everything and nothing.

Sequoia: Open-Air Dining in Cairo