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www.sharmwomen.com • View topic - Moving out
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 Post subject: Re: Moving OUT of Sharm
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2007 8:31 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Moving OUT of Sharm
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2007 9:56 pm 
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International schools .. :) hehee thanks Chris I hope there are any schools :) at least there should be the one my husband went to and since he turned out quite OK I guess no school can spoil a good seed :)
But it was not a happy time to him like I remember my school time was.

And I've heard in Muslim schools, i.e all government schools I guess, there is no anatomy (???), for example, and also am not quite sure about the amount of religious training, Muslim or respectively Christian. Anyway she is 10 months now so it is not so pressing yet :). I'm more glad about all the relatives who are so eager to take care of her (I'll be able to SLEEEEP)

Inhabitants.... it's about like in Japan that we'll be living in a 'tiny' village of 200 000 and 2 km from us is a "small" town of around half million. :D Anyway, any dresses above ankle length and any shirts or blouses without sleeves (= nearly all my skirts and shirts) I can pack in and donate back to western countries. :( And since there will be no pool I asked if i can go running and my husband said yes he can show me a bit of a track 2 km out of the village where I can jog without anyone raising alarm :D

It will also perhaps be rather tiring, to pay proper attention to everyone who requires it etc etc

But I still like the idea of living there at least some time, it must be a family thing to be pioneers and discover new horizons I think, my great-grand-foremother travelled 1000 km in her time for her love, from an industrialised and paved city to the tiny island of my great-grand-forefather where wooden tableware was still used for eating in candlelight etc. The stories tell she sat and cried nonstop for the first two weeks, then the life went on. :)
And I hope it will do miracles to my half-begun Arabic.

I also hope the air will be nicer, not so dry while still clean, and there will be more RAIN.

As for El Menoufia yet, then stories tell that people with the hardest heads in Egypt come from there hehe but also by popular knowledge the President comes from there so even when taxi drivers etc laugh they do it rather politely :)


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 9:25 am 
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When I mooved in Egypt , my mother told me that "you will have the life that you will make for yourself".Which means that you can build a happy life everywhere.
I dont know how far this village is from Cairo and how much the changes of the lifestyle will be there.The only thing that I would worry is to be close to the husband s family.Egyptians are incredible nice and loving people but their traditions are so far from ours....no matter how rich or educated they are.I wouldnt like for exemple to spend all my time with the women in his family (very common here).
If I would be you I would take an appartment (or a house if everything is so cheap) in the other part of the town and try to set some limits from the start (as you are foregner and you cannt understand why they are all staying to your house, free to go everywhere...).Of course it is good that they can help you (I would prefere a grandmother instead of servants for my son) but dont have too much hopes - mother in law here (and everywhere maybe) wants to be served as guests rather then take care of their grandchildren. (my experience maybe you will have better luck)
So good luck and best wishes - in the end, your husband and your child is all that it counts - the rest you will build step by step.
And write more from there - for sure will be funny situations e - I miss a lot laughing here- foregners are smashed by problems and they dont laugh more and egyptians - very funny most of the time - have diffrent kind of humor and jokes.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 1:36 pm 
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So. Greetings from the very exciting El Menoufia governorate. While I am trying to find time from my baby and my work and the renovation works in the house, to describe the atmosphere here for you (and find time to really see it myself!) here is a well known old joke to get you "tuned" to our emotions here :)

And last week we had a minibreak trip to Port Said which I heartily recommend you visit, a beautiful and compact city full of very nice shopping, sightseeing and eating options. Will post a review, and photos, shortly. Among other things thay have I think Egypt's if not al Mediterranean's best seafood restaurant there, called El Borg.

But so back to my "conditioning story"... :)
An American consultant was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied "Only a little while." The consultant then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. Then the American asked how he spent the rest of his time.

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, and then stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."

The American consultant scoffed, "I am a very successful business consultant and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?"

The consultant replied, "Probably 15 to 20 years."

"But what then, senor?" asked the fisherman.

The consultant laughed, and said, "That's the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You'll become very rich, you would make millions!"

"Millions, senor?" replied the Mexican. "Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
:wink:


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 Post subject: Port Said
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:29 pm 
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A few photos now up at

http://en.album.ee/kaamerasilm


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 3:24 pm 
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Hi Pia, I think it is great that you keep us posted and I hope you will continue.
It is great to get an idea how it is to live in other areas of Egypt.

How do you spend your day there? Are there any clubs you can go to? Did you meet any foreigners?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:18 pm 
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Having waited too long for a quiet moment for writing I am trying to find way to somehow systematise my first impressions of the life in El Menoufeya, there are so many. Perhaps by factor of importance or how much one or the other influence my everyday life, disturbing it or, perhaps also, enriching it? In that case the first on the list is undoubtedly

SOUNDS
That life in Egypt is somehow noisier than it is up in the northern countries (where the well worn story goes that if your neighbour wishes you a merry Christmas and the next year you reply to him ? Merry Christmas, he will move away because you talk to much), that people her like their TVs and music louder, and really work their car horns, is not a surprise, but it is still a surprise after Sharm, how MUCH noisier everything is. First on the list are the most frequent ones ? the mosque loudspeakers. I deeply apologise to eventual muslim members here but what I am writing here is my honest physical experience. There are numerous small mosques near the house even thogh we live on a solitary road between a village and a town, and since now is Ramadan they broadcast full services through loudspeakers, which last well over an hour several times a day or night. My husband says that ?before? it used to be like this all year round but now outside the ramadan season in normal days they broadcast only the first 5 minutes or so of a service.
Still this kind of sound is almost musical and after a few days one gets used to it and even the baby sleeps undisturbed through it. But during my first week here we happened to visit the souk during a service and there it is broadcasted through loudspeakers all along the street so loudly it may make you deaf. In any case I grabbed my child and run for the taxi because I was afraid her ears would burst or other similar impairment happen. I felt like roaches in a TV advertising where they run from a spray of poison : -O. For the first time I felt really insecure in Egypt, almost afraid, because the volume pouring down on us was so aggressive, so cruel and uncaring that back at home that night I asked me ? am really welcome here, am I safe? Does anyone care enough to lend at least a bit of value to my life? I try now avoid going to the city during service times and the tenssion in my mind has relieved a bit, but the whole experience has made me more vigilant.

Second by importance (or loudness) are perhaps sounds of marriage parties. There are a lot, especially August is THE month for marrying because evenings are pleasantly warm still while no more hot and the harvesting has not yet begun so people have time. A marriage party in the village means that some time around midday a small truck arrives and a crew sets to hang up colourful lamps, put up a fancy stage where the couple will sit and ? of course ? loudspeakers. As soon as they are ready, around 5 or 6 or 7, the music begins although the real party starts at around 9 or 10. And because everyone should know there is a marriage and a party, if you live in a neighbouring house you?ll feel as if living beside the main stage at a major rock festival. Our neighbours across the street recently had 2 parties like this in one week ? one for their daughter who got married, the other because they dug themselves a well ? a real well for drinking water that is 30 metres or so deep, which was btw made manually.
Still, this kind of noise is a happy noise in itself and the party I must say lasts only 2-3 hours and is always over well before midnight.

Thirdly since now is harvesting season, there is the noise of a kind of sawing machine or grinder that moves from house to house and grinds corn stalks into a kind of dust that is then left fermenting for some time and then spread back onto the field as food for plants in the next season. Because there a just a few such machines or perhaps only one and everyone needs it, it works nearly 24/7, and the noise is really deafening. The first night they stopped at around 10 in the evening but yesterday it was 2 at night and they were still going... Luckily they stopped shortly after, probably to catch the last ramadan meal time before sunrise.
Even this kind of noise it is hard to complain about openly ? the harvesting needs to be finished and machines are scarce. Thus, one has to endure, luckily the neighbours are not so many either.

Fourthly the (comparatively) small ?everyday? noises ? the honking of passing cars, tractors and other machinery ? the bigger the machine, the more it honks to announce its arrival and free the road since it is one-way width here with only occasional wider places where one vehicle can stand and wait the other to pass.

Then the various vendors ? the seller of gas ?bombs? as they say here, he has a small boy running ca 200 m in front of him beating 2 metallic discs together, perhaps pot covers or similar and announcing the arrival of the main cart, for anyone who needs to know and be ready. Then a lorry that buys and sells old stuff, announcing this over a loudspeaker from the open cart. Then various smaller vendors that simply shout their business ? sellers of karkade, fool etc etc. All these pass once or twice daily.

To be fair there are also times when everything is absolutely quiet, no sound of passing traffic here, like usually during the night and early morning, and the middle of the day especially if it is hot. Since now is ramadan we once drove to the village for a (Christian) doctor?s appointment exactly during iftar, i.e.the first meal of the day the muslims have after the sunset, and the streets were absolutely empty. Not one person in this 200 000 strong village was out.
The sounds cease as the itar time approaches and if I go to the roof then I can hear the movements of people on the field several hundreds meters from me.


SIGHTS
Just as noise is sometimes a negative factor but it is also sweet sometimes because it makes one feel more ?involved? (and informed) so is what I see from my roof or balcony either negative or positive. I see a lot, indeed I do not even need leave the house because a big part of village life simply walks or rides or drives past me.

E.g. a few mornings ago I glanced down from the roof and there was a dead body in the ditch that carries water for the fields and also forms the main passway here in the meaning that it is dug right in the centre of a future road with the aim to cover it later but for now it is open and the vehicles climb forward on either ?bank?i.e. a 3 m narrow dusty strip between the ditch and nearest houses.
The body was of a full grown dog the size of a rottweiler or so. Of course no one does anything to remove it until it goes the way of all natural things in the world. Next to it swim heaps of common consumer waste, I was suspicious and one day I actually saw it ? the woman from the neighbouring house emptying the contents of her wastebin into water. I asked if there is no waste service why not start one with a cart and homaar. Families who did it in Europe a good few centuries ago, are multibillionaires by now and they do not even rememeber there is waste any more because everything they consume is unwrapped and esthetically served before is presented to them. My in-laws said no there is service and even by real compressor cars but the service ?ends? 200 metres from us (as does the communal wastewater line) and there is no way of joining it. ?No?is a word I hear a lot here, if back at home anyone of you is used to thinking that nothing is impossible then here clearly nothing is possible and it is not worth to even try open a discussion on it.

Next there are the roofs, something that is a romantic sight anywhere in Europe where you succeed to rent or own in a location where you can look down at them. Here roofs are an alternative wasteland for anything the household does not need now but thinks it might need later, and home for the household?s poultry. Thus, all corn that is harvested, is dried here for animals, all old bread for chicken, all old furniture and tree trunks that have been felled (because all wood is really expensive), and all this is mixed with old rags and whatever the wind has carried along. Here and there a more affluent household appears who has a clean roof with only lines fo washing, or a quiet corner for prayers or perhaps the household?s wife to escape from it all and have a peaceful moment on her own. All this stands in a healthy mix, one beside another.

Fields are an important sight too because the village is surrounded by them, here it is corn on one side and some kind of orchards on the other. My husband says the corn is grown only for households? own purposes as fodder to their animals, meaning the households gain no money from growing it. Since city is just 2 km away I guess most families make living from having a job in the city or some artisan job in the village ? carpenters, plumbers, barbers, electricians etc etc, or government employees, and farming right here is just a supporting not the main occupation. Still, when we drive out to other villages or towns in the region we spot also what my husband says is cotton and linen fields, which I guess is grown for selling. Everything is on really small scale, 50 metres of linen alternates with 100 m of cotton which gives way to corn, then again linen or cotton or corn. The road to the largest local town Tanta is lined by plant schools since it passes a village that is a local centre for all horticulture. We buy 10 rose plants for 20 LE and return a week later to buy some more flowers and climbing plants for our roof pergola that is beginning to take shape, again 10 plants for something like 120 LE, including a small jasmin bush and a bush-like plant that spreads aroma in the dark especially. Roses are called ?baladi? or ?peasant flowers? here and when we arrive with them my father in-law says ?didn?t you find any real flowers?. Though he smiles of course, this opinion is honest from him.

Also other trades are readily displayed everywhere along the roads ? the carpenters, gipsum shops making everything from ceiling ornaments to faux fireplaces and Roman pillars, or perhaps your own little Ramses, shops that disintegrate old houses or furniture and then sell the less aged details ? mostly heaps and heaps of beautiful ornamented doors, second- or third-hand. This is how we acquired the wood for our pergola ? buying second-hand and paying 40LE per beam. All-new would have cost 60LE which my husband said was ?outrageous?, while third-hand would have been 30LE but this ?low? we considered we would not go : -). The beams are well cracked and the paint is worn but considering the most expensive jeans also should look faded when you buy then, it all looks quite cozy and hmm.. fits the environment. We covered sparsely with new wood and are now waiting for the plants to pick up speed and go climb up there.

Animals. I am glad my daughter will grow up knowing where milk and eggs come from. Beside the flocks readily displayed on surrounding roofs ? chicken, ducks and geese ? the four-legged animals pass us along the ?street? all day ? kamooza or buffalos, ba?ara or cows, donkeys, camels, sheep and goats. I see almost no cats or dogs, guess they would be an unnecessary burden to the family budget or maybe there are government anti-measures or something. But on a usual day I can see cows and buffalos passing to drink from the well in front of neighbouring house, a small boy riding a small camel carrying what might be earth in huge leather pouches, a few horses, and donkeys in all possible combinations ? with carts single or double, without carts, carrying a lone rider or sometimes two girls or women and once I saw an old man and in front of him an ewe sitting and riding on a donkey. Maybe the ewe needed a doctor or something.
The family is not entirely without animals either, ours specialises in rabbits, that to my relief are kept relatively cleanly in a little room on the roof, on a clean concrete floor that is sometimes washed. How ethical it is to poor rabbits I do not wish to start discussing but my initial demand ? no animals in the house ? I have long ago dropped because it would be unthinkable to them to go without this ready availability. The good side is they delight my little girl whenever the grandma is kind enough to pick up a few and bring out into sunlight, by now she is not afraid of them any more.

Vehicles. The donkeys, horses and camels I already listed. Of motorized vehicles the motorbike is the most frequent. Considering it is the pet choice of a lot of ageing well-to-do men in EuroAm now ? not to buy a sports car or SUV but buy a motorcycle as the most masculine and sexiest, the number of masculine sexy men in El Manoufeya must be one of the highest in the world. On a sunny morning driving to the city we encountered one such, fashionably unshaved, riding on his silvery hot rod, immaculate white galabeya riding up to the musculous hairy knees... I later saw the bike parked beside one of the humblest little huts on the village road. Does not hurt if you come from humble background I thought, if are of right material you can still make it ; -). Speaking of men and their baring habits here, on another hot day, I glimpsed a man walking in same village holding his galabeya well over the waist of his underpants! I guess it was so hot.
All this in the environment of women covered from head to toes under unshapliest heaps of clothes ever, each in own way, some donning their niqabs even when they need hang out the washing on the roof.

Of other vehicles bicycles perhaps come next, then tractors, then cars. There is a funny tractor and behind it what looks like a small bus without doors and windows and painted in all the colors of rainbow that passes twice a day or so, packed full with small children that my husband says belongs to the local (muslim) nursery just a few hundred metres from us, a kind of ?school bus? then.

Buildings. Better expressed by photos perhaps but in case of oldest of them the total picture is slightly reminiscent of biblical scenes ? low mud huts covered or surrounded by dried bamboo, often with a cow shed beside. There is even an old waterwheel left behind one house which is driven around by two buffalos, it raises water from the big ditch to smaller ditches on ground level from where it runs to the fields. But most families use huge motorised pumps by now that are actually a high noise factor too since they sound like a really huge tractor and there is normally at least one going any time of the day. But now is harvesting time and for a few weeks no one waters until the next crop ? wheat ? is sown.

The newer houses are all pretty similar red brick boxes, each with balconies and windows as creative as the owner?s thought and money stretched, and though they look unfinished now I would say they are rather beautiful actually, especially when will be painted after a few years when the families become more affluent. During our rides to other villages and towns I see a lot of quite spectacular balcony designs indeed, even villas with glossy glass and marble... again the picture is very varied and interesting to the eye. There are a lot of new half-finished buildings in the city as well, always a good sign showing the economy is on the rise if there is demand, or money money, for construction. When I asked for prices however my in-laws suggested around 170 000 LE for a simple 2-room apartment in nowhere fancy surroundings even, in a town that is not exactly a dream destination either, and that I think is rather high for Egypt where people expect buy apartments for 40 000 LE or so and even then they consider themselves rather well-to-do. Even in Alexandria I remember an apartment not far from Corniche, 100+m2 cost just 115 000, so have no idea why they are so expensive here, is the demand so high or what.

I still need to mention tuktuks, yes the same that you see in Thailand or surrounding countries, which serve as taxis in villages here. Because the villages look something like towns in Italy (albeit much more poor of course) ? with thousands and thousands of houses tightly cramped together leaving room for no more than a 3-4 meters street between, no other vehicle would easily pass through. Tuktuks even appear on the highway occasionally, the Alexandria Agricultural Road as a plate proudly declares, that passes all the most important local towns from Banta to Shebeen to Mansoura.

COPING WITH LIFE
What concerns normal everyday life then the environment is easy enough. Starting from the most unescapable ? food ? there are no major supermarkets here so normally we tour the ?top 4? that are about the size of let?s say Zaza in Delta Sharm, and all carry some of the items we need. There is even fresh milk sold in ordinary plastic bags tied with a knot and tasting really surprisingly good (and getting spoiled very fast), I am indeed surprised there is no kind of by-taste of plants or impurities or whatever what one might suspect might appear in a simple farm product in a country where hygiene does not seem such big deal.
Fresh meat we buy from butcher and bread from bakeries and green things from the souk, as usual, the markets do not carry these.

For the more intricate supplies, and any kind of alcohol, Cairo with its Carrefour etc is just exactly an hour?s drive away. No chance for a can of beer or bottle of wine here about, and even our nearest family although they are Christian and it is in no way forbidden, decline any consumption of it. So I guess some habits are geographic rather than religious, as is the way of dressing, the girls of our family do not wear hijab exactly, but they are covered from toes to neck outside of house and only once have I seen a local girl wearing trousers here ? all wear skirts or frocks available in most imaginative designs. Very modern girls from other cities nearby (or also in Port Said a glimpsed some) may wear miniskirts with ? leggings and strapped sandals tied high up around the shin but that?s almost outrageous then. I normally wear trousers though and they do not mind, I guess my hair colour is explanatory enough (btw they think I iron my hair daily..)

Most goods for house are available in lavish choice and good quality, even quite modern kitchen furniture with built-in swivel shelves etc, steel cooking ware, though most locals prefer aluminium because it is cheaper, or enamel, for its prettier designs. It is tricky to find anything without lavish design or without a golden rim, I?ve been searching for good simple everyday juice&water glasses for ages now, all are kind of narrowish small (because you do not serve juice to 5 or 6 guests here, you serve to 20 or 30, my in-laws explained) and lavishly decorated. Equally tricky was to find simple cheap faience for our first months until we finish renovation and get any selves for storing anything more lasting. Most families use plastic or enamel plates and bowls here and these are also what are usually available in shops. Though lots o shops carry hideously expensive and complicate and overdesigned dinner sets for 12 or so that every young couple buys or receives as present for their wedding and then displays it in the dining room cupboard, perhaps never taking it out in fear of breaking a piece. We discussed china with some people and they said ?yes we have it!? and what they brought was first an Arcopal bowl : -) and then a faience plate. A typical housewife here owns perhaps hundreds of small plastic or enamel or aluminium plates and bowls because all dishes are served separately. At the same time there are perhaps no personal plates on the table so everyone just picks from plates nearest from him/her and if you are lucky then the number of these equals that of eaters but not necessarily. Also water is placed on the table in just 2 or 3 glasses for 6-7 people so who is first and lucky can grab it. I guess those tall water glasses are rare and intricate to wash and then also drinking anything to a meal is not so common here. People eat the food dry and then drink a tiny glass of incredibly strong (boiled) tea after.

We readily found everything we require for finishing our apartment ? the ceramics, the paints, the bath and all numerous pipes and bends required to set it all up. A Cleopatra jacuzzi bath I noticed only costs 3000LE here that I think cost 7000 in Sharm. My pet horror when shopping is passing the bedclothes shop because they have really fast turnover and almost always display something new. I already own 2 quilted bedspreads ? one beige cotton one with tiny embroidered flowers, made in Egypt, one of flowery chintz made in China and looking very properly ?baladi?, and one nice thick cover of oriental brown and blue chenille with sky blue silky borders complete with 2 pillows with tassels, made in Syria. All come with 2 matching ?display? pillowcases and the chenille one even has a beige bed sheet bordered with chenille. My husband was happy because he said it will be handy for the winter chills awaiting us shortly. I also glimpsed heavenly unbleached natural beige towels bordered in one end with 15 cm hand-crotcheted lace on our first shopping spree but did not buy and now they are gone but I hope perhaps something better will appear instead. I also keep seeing too many beautiful linen galabeya shirts, perfect for wearing with jeans or during the hot season and a far cry from the ?quality? sold in Sharm for blue-eyed tourists. The ones here are really lasting and the designs and colours are nice enough even for wearing in Europe.

We are also using the local carpenters, I am now waiting for a wooden folding screen that I saw in a magazine, to protect us from the sun when it is low and the pergola roof does not help any more, and my husband said yes they can make an exactly similar one, with beautiful latticework patches, though since wood is still expensive it is going to cost around 1000LE so not exactly a bargain as one might expect from work here. Pretty bamboo chairs from a nearby village on the other hand cost just around 100LE if you bargain a bit, bamboo grows locally here. We bought 6 to use for dinners in the roof pergola and were shown a full catalogue of various other designs that they were also willing to make for us, even full wickerwork sofa sets complete with cushions for 2000 or so. Next come a bed and a work table for me, am curious to see how they cope with designs and what the quality will be. The cupboard we hastily bought for the temporary kitchen cost just 350 full 2 meters but the quality was most terrible ? came with mountains of sawdust, blotches of varnish and the inner surfaces are totally untreated rough as they emerged from the sawmill. I guess though that local people would rather save a few pounds than ask for better quality so perhaps there is not much motivation to finish them nicely. We plan to retain all old furniture left over from previous generations in the house and use it for what we call our ?baladi? floor where we plan to house all perspective guests ? more interesting for them! I am now sitting on a hideous big faux Louis XIV (or so) style sofa but you know it is still good full wood and the cover is real thick cotton gobelin, so if we can get off the golden paint somehow and replace it with a romantic pink or blue or white, the set might look quite nice actually. The chairs due their size are really comfortable to sit in, too, and built with real steel springs inside.

That?s about it. The first month went into fixing a temporary apartment by installing a/c, buying an oven, cupboard, new matress for bed, more bedlinen, everything for cooking and eating because in Sharm of course we did not have nearly anything own. Then we spent some time building the roof because it is the only spot where we can spend time in the sunlight and fresh air. Because every meter of land outside is valuably used either for building or farming there are no yards or gardens around houses here, not even Hadaba size strips.The street starts from the door.

Next we started the work with the new apartment, the electrician, the plumber, now we are waiting for a carpenter to install a new door where there was window, for added light in main bedroom, and my husband just surprised me by finding iron flowerpot holders for me in the city and doing the heavy masonry required to install them into balcony walls. As every woman here I will be hanging my washing outside the balcony but, as the trendier women here, I will have round loops for flowerpots on the rods that hold my lines : -). Next will come the painting, Jotun is present here, then the ceramics and the wooden floors. The latter are an almost unheard of luxury again due to high price of wood (all is imported and 1 m3 costs around 2500 LE) but we thought it might help against winter chills since the house has no kind of heating of course beside the a/c and perhaps an electric battery for the worst days. We are contemplating building a fireplace but the question is from where to find anyone to make it, it is not exactly something to practice one?s hand with. (And what would we burn ? bamboo? : -)

The good side of living in a village is we know exactly whom to ask to perform any of the jobs ? in most cases they have worked for the family for years and years already. The bad side is you cannot really criticise the work because they get offended; and if someone starts anything, another man will not come to finish it because they do not want ?steal? work from each other. In general you need to treat them with good care and lots of respect, and feed them well : -), which is not bad in itself, of course, but is to demonstrate that in general one is very very dependent on craftsmen here and they (seemingly) less on you. Also, it is hard to find help for simple jobs ? carrying or cleaning or even babysitting because the poorer the man the prouder he is so in no case will he work for his neighbour because that would mean he would be inferior and the other one superior, and it is not good tone either to stick out as too ?rich? or uppish or whatever and then use this kind of help.

The craftsmen are also an interesting source for local gossip, since they move from house to house and love to ?complain? about previous clients, while secretly being proud of coping with the new or outrageous demands. This is how we learned there is at least one more ?girl? from Europe here, from Switzerland, who lives about a kilometere from us and is also renovating her house. In this case our electrician ?complained? that he?d had to change the whole system in that house three times, and that the client had required lights be installed even into steps on the staircase. : -)

Of local traditions so far I only know a bit more about marriages, because these happen all around and because a near relative is about to be engaged. Luckily the Christians at least do not have the habit of marrying near cousins though there are remarkably many variously impaired children in families so it might have been so before. Instead, the church fathers or priest here often act as ?referents?. Normally a concerned father of a bride or groom asks his nearest priest whether he knows any suitable young people of opposite sex, and priests then exchange that information. The young people then meet each other and family and if they like each other and the family likes them, a next meeting is planned where both families (mainly fathers) meet to discuss the economics ? where the young people will live and which side will provide what or pay what. Normally the groom?s side stands for the home and the bride?s side for its furnishings ? all from furniture to utensils to bedclothes etc. Or then they divide it somehow.

Next comes the customary buying of jewels that each groom must present to the bride. It is an event of itself where both families are represented up to uncles and aunts with their children and it ends with a meal in the bride?s house. The jewelry set itself is traditional too and consists of a necklace, earrings, bracelet and 2 rings of which one is the wedding band. Some may choose differently but usually this is what everyone buys. The price depends of afflucence but is in any case at least at the level of the groom?s 1 or 2 year?s salary, quite outrageous burden all this
is I think. Then come sets of meetings to discuss the engagement party but before the invitations are set out both young people must pass medical checking that they are of good health in any way important for the offspring and otherwise ? since the Copts do not or nearly do not divorce, but hiding one?s health impairment is almost the only legal reason for divorcing for them, this is important. The exact content of these checks I am too shy to inquire about but in any case when the answers come and are satisfactory only then does one start discussing the dates, invitations a s o.

The engagement involves signing a contract between two parties and supported by that the families can then start preparing the home and when this is ready the couple can marry and start their life fully supplied with everything. The sums spent are enormous compared to income and lifestyle, again, so I am mostly awed all the time. E.g. to rent a special room for the party, complete with a decorated stage and round tables for the guests can cost from 2000-7000 LE easily, here in middle of nowhere, for 3 hours and with only a piece of cake and refreshing drinks served.

Now I am switching from Christian to muslim or maybe Menoufeyan traditions spotted from our own house when the neighbours wed their daughter. First, a week before the wedding contract is signed, all the bride?s belongings are transported from her home to the future common home. All relatives gather and the women (!) carry everything out of house and into the car, on their heads. The heap of bags and boxes was really huge and included perhaps then also some furniture items or kitchenware or whatever the bride?s side was supplying. Next comes the signing of marriage contract followed by a party at the bride?s house, following which the couple still continues to live&sleep each in own parents? house because as my in-laws explained, it is not so much the contract that makes the marriage legal for the muslims as it is the fact that ?everyone must know?. That these two people now belong to each other must be made as public as possible. After one week then when everyone should sufficiently know, party at the groom?s house follows, again everyone eats till drops except the couple who sit on public display on the stage and are not supposed to eat anything (! - I specifically asked about this). Then the couple leaves together to their common new home where they are not supposed to be disturbed by anyone until late afternoon the next day. Then, a procession starts from the bride?s house again, this time the women carrying food on their heads ? mountains and mountains of foods ? meats, vegetables, breads, cakes and sweets, crates with Cola and Sprite, whatever. I asked whether the people will then stay there and help eat it all, no they do not, the couple simply stores all they cannot consume (if are still alive and not dead of hunger, especially since it takes some 7 hours before the party for the bride to prepare herself at the hair salon during which she also does not eat).
About this food procession I have some photos, too.

What else? There are about 4 ATMs in our town and it very often happens that none of them works in which case if we need cash badly we need take a half hour?s drive to Tanta where some bigger and multinational banks (CIB, HSBC etc) also have offices. Nowhere am I able to pay by card yet.
During one such drive I spotted small boys, perhaps 10 years old or so ...riding on the roof of a passing train! I asked if they do it as some special proof of bravity or something, no my husband said they do it to escape paying the fee, he had used this handy solution himself at similar age. :-O

Price level... it probably differs a lot even between "villages" like ours, and I'm not very aware of either, since there are no prices on goods here and my husband does most of shopping but for just a few examples:
We bought a 2x3 natural (not dyed) wool carpet from a peasant in souk for 50LE. In Sharm these go for something like 250, minimum.
Using taxi inside city costs 2-3LE most distances. When we shop for fittings and ceramics etc we usually tour whole city and using the car for 3 hours non-stop (it waits for us everywhere) costs a hefty 30 LE.
A visit to the pediatrician, we were referred to the No. 1 and No. 2 here costs 25 LE and 15LE respectively, and these are the most expensive men here. If one of them receives us at the Christian medical centre where he serves for free for some hours a week, it costs 8 LE.

There are of course also drawbacks, if for example in Sharm one is used to getting almost all ruits any season, and the difference is just that off-season fruit are more expensive, then here only seasonal fruit is available, and imported apples. E.g. now is mango season so anywhere in the town only mango juice is available. No oranges, no lemons, no strawberry or even sugar root.

Lastly because I do not remember more differeing moments right now - people here do not smile. In Sharm I developed an understanding that Egypt is a land of smiling people but when I arrived here I was shocked at first because no one smiles. I thought they are so bitter or unwelcoming and the life is so hard too, while of course in Sharm they are happy to have the well-paid job there. But it is not fully so. Life is harder of course, but also people are simply more inbound, as also shy. They open up fast if you are the first one to smile or wave, at least women do. Men, at least the craftsmen, seem pretty hard stuff and not the type that pay much attention when a woman speaks :D.

Thanks to anyone who followed me through this monstrosity of writing. If I missed out on something important that anyone might be interested in, let me know.


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 Post subject: Egyptian country living
PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 5:57 pm 
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Thank you PIA for sharing your story with us and enlightening us on an often ignored aspect of Egyptian life-usually overshadowed by the Pyramids and the Fauna & Flora of the Red Sea.
You have given me the motivation and the desire to discorer the Egyptian countryside.
For the ones who complained about PIA lengthy posts, I hope they realize now how amuzing and generous she is with her helpful insights and much needed details.(let us not get wrapped up in any verbal attacks-either real or perceived. It does distract our attention from the heart of the matters)

I hope your move is more enriching than disturbing. You are living the life I dreamt up in my mind. I am kicking myself for not having the campervan with me in Sharm to do a long trip along the Nile and visit every town & village along the way. Unfortunately, I had to take it away from Egypt for six months and abandon it in Jordan until the end of six months period in order to be able to bring it back again. Unlike all the countries in the world, Egypt requires the holder of the International "Carnet De Passage En Douane" (CPD) to drive a foreign registred car a maximum of 6 months in a year at a time without the option of leaving and coming back the same day through a land border (Libya & Jordan).
Anyway, I hope some of the Sharmer do realize that there is so much to Egypt than Sharm & Cairo.


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 Post subject: Roaches or sarasiir
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:18 pm 
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I already remembered more things I should point out. Starting from the more important here ;)...

...sosaar in singular, sarasiir in plurar it is a most helpful word to know which I somehow never learned in Sharm though I made my first acquaintance with them there. Still, it was nothing compared to the frequency and the healthy sizes here in El Menoufeya that in the end brought me to the state where I simply sat down and looked up a site on roaches in the Internet because I wanted to know what is the food that draws them and how often they produce the young ones (how feverish it will be), and how to control them as best as we can. One such with photos, if you have a strong heart, is here:

http://www.doyourownpestcontrol.com/orientalroach1.htm

It appeared that whereas in Sharm only American roach appeares (from what I saw), here Oriental species is dominating but we have both of them (sigh). They live only a year or so (not interminably as the stories go) but every female produces at least 100 young ones during that time. I thought they might been drawn by oily food and meat mostly (all this deep frying...) but instead it is starchy foods ? any cereals, for example, even old newspapers. I had a first hand proof of that when we recently arrived from Carrefour one day with a bunch of these freshly baked long baguettes, and early in the morning I sneaked into the kitchen to steal a bit, then what jumped out of the baguette bag was the siziest oriental roach I have yet seen anywhere, I think it was some 4 cm huge. Either it was a visitor or then the wisiest of the ?old generation? that could not resist the smell of fresh bakery I do not know because we had thought we had got rid of the big ones during our first week here already (that contained some really terryfying night encounters for me) but anyway already baby size roaches 2 mm are appearing from time to time so I guess this battle is continuous.


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 Post subject: Of gold, food and flowers (in order of importance)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:26 pm 
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A recent 1st birthday of our daughter opened my eyes to some more local customs. We expected some 30 guests, all of them near relatives, so I thought there will be lots of flowers (since flowers are really cheap here) and prepared a pail with water to which my husband laughed heartily but did not say much. In fact, there was just one bouquet from a family we had visited before and I had insisted taking flowers to them so they ?knew? one should bring flowers. Indeed, when we discussed with husband what to take with us to a dinner invitation, I suggested flowers, mostly because I love flowers myself and we use a lot of flowers in Estonia for own home or as present. No no no my husband said, this would never do, they would take it as offence (!), as if we did not have enough money or did not regard them highly enough to bring something useful(!), e.g. mostly food like cakes or fruit or chocolate. Flowers simply are not something a housewife here appreciates because even if families are relatively well off food is still, perhaps culturally, the first concern (and source of joy). In Cairo it may be quite different my husband said, but depends of the family and their exposure to the outside world or simply modern ways. Thus, since I insisted to take flowers because I said I am Estonian and plan to remain so, thus I need them get used to me behaving my way just like they are free to behave their way, my husband bought a bouquet but he also made a stop at a fruit store and bought 2 kilo of mangos, as a compromise. As it was the mangos were received with many thanks and were happily consumed at the end of the dinner together with 2 kg of figs that that the family had bought themselves, whereas flowers caused a lot of surprise and were then forgotten onto a cupboard. Dry flowers are perhaps a better bet because the family can display them on a commode in the dining room, but if you take a fresh bouquet they will dry and display that one also, probably dry it first and display after.

The most common gift is still a box of cakes which should be huge, at least 12 pieces if you go visit a family of 2 or 4, but 36 is also a good number, and it can happen that if you pay just a quick visit no one has time nor appetite to even touch these so most are just thrown away but it does not matter and you cannot question this ?tradition?, it has always been so and folks would be disturbed if you tried to break it. Thus our house is full of giant chocolate boxes, we all mostly hate chocolate and no one eats it but still most often a visitor arrives with one more such.

So, if you need visit someone outside of Cairo and you want your gift be appreciated but not totally thrown away, a fruit basket, maybe with some more exotic fruits like pineapples or kiwi included if you need to make it special, is your best bet, though a chance exists that they will leave the kiwi untouched as something a bit too ?new?. Or bottles of better kind of fresh juice, e.g. they make a delicious sweet and golden pineapple juice at Carrefour Maadi.
A box of cakes comes second, but in any case whatever you take better have it big.

Continuing with food habits, when we started discussing the menu for the birthday, I initially thought (I am still naive) that they would expect something European and different from me, that they would be curious (=that healthy curiousity to know and to learn exists in Egypt, but I am not so sure any more) and in any case I do not like the fuss around food so I said no way shall we spend all day cooking and then stop sweaty and tired at the moment the guests arrive. I?ll just bake some cakes the day before and make a cold potato salad the German way and we can grill sausages because grilling meat to 30 people really requires hiring a separate team (and a huge grill). Anyway, I hope everyone will come to rejoice over our little girl and not for eating as main purpose, I said. Are you kidding they said, in fact we almost divorced over that topic, the family will be coming for the good food of course and better make more of it because the uncles will be grumpy otherwise. It had happened so to my mother in-law (who also married into the family so we are nearly soulmates) that she had thought to have an ?easier? birthday when my husband was still a toddler, so she had offered sandwitches and Coke and cakes. They still recall it sometimes, she said. So in the end to solve the situation she said since she is the grandmother and it is her first grandchild, she?ll prepare the party with all ?right? ingredients. And thus it happened like always ? with mountains of food most of which will be thrown away, and a huge chocolate cake which we almost succeeded in eating up, except that the guests brought 2 more....
There should be food, and it should be Egyptian, too.

And lastly of the importance of gold, so we did not receive much flowers, but our girl, still 1 year old, already owns 2 gold rings and one little gold chain with a pendant. The rings are so tiny they are exactly her size now (but she would eat them if I let her wear them) and will be too small by the time she is old enough for them but the in-laws said I can always then go exchange two tiny for one larger or something. They said gold is the most customary gift to a baby here, especially when the baby is born, when all the relatives visit the mom and baby and all bring gold.
The importance of gold for the bride I already described, indeed women wear most of it daily even if otherwise wearing their dirtiest galabeya, and ?weigh? each other by how expensive the other one?s pieces are. A popular Egyptian TV series even depicts a historic criminal story from Alexandria where 2 women searched women wearing the best, nicest jewellery, at the souk, and then tricked them into their house and killed them and hid under the floor of their house, for years. Actually, there are 2 versions running simultaneously, one set up as a comedy the other as a drama.
One should buy at least 18 carat gold, which they say almost retains its value over time, but 21 is preferred if one looks at it as investment (as nearly all do). 14 carats I think is not even represented here. Men, or families, spend copious amount on ?jewels? as it is called, and the local jewellery store we visited, which sides with the souk and the poorest areas around it (there is of course a whole long street filled with jewellery stores plus numerous ones elsewhere) carried more diamond rings than I think you can find in the whole Estonia, with of course just a gap where the center diamond should be which everyone can pick according to own purse then. I read in another forum, a post by a bitter young man, that pickier girls in Cairo expect their grooms present them rings with diamonds worth at least 30-40 000LE for engagement, a real knock-me-over stone then.


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 Post subject: Concept of BEAUTY
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 10:55 pm 
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 Post subject: The importance of proper mourning
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:53 pm 
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 Post subject: The BEAUTIFUL table
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2007 2:25 pm 
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 Post subject: 2008 and spring on way
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:13 am 
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 Post subject: (continued from previous)
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:40 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Moving out
PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 12:54 am 
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Your writing is so beautifully vivid and at the same time informative. Thank you so much for sharing all these experiences, I've read through it all and I admire you so much for taking it so well. I wish everything has continued to be well with you both till this day :) your baby girl must be starting school quite soon too. I hope you can all be happy :)


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 Post subject: Re: Moving out
PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:44 am 
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Thank you, HeartDream! I had indeed forgotten I had written even so much here :). But our second daughter was born towards the summer of 2008 so I guess after that it just became totally hectic for a while, with one child clinging to apron and one to breast, toe good old historic way :D. Thankfully or perhaps regretfully soon it is now phasing out, I am more at ease again. For those who wish to follow, I am keeping a blog on our life in Egypt

http://innovatsioon.wordpress.com/

it is in Estonian but I usually put a lot of photos so even these tell something, and you can use Google Translator (with some backfire from that it totally does not get the Estonian syntax), or simply ask, if find a more interesting set.

Greetings to all Sharmers, seasoned or fresh! :)


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