I’ve been in Egypt just over two months now and I’m getting to know the neighbourhood. I'm still not a huge fan of Roushdy (where the post office is) but the Wingat area to the east is pleasant and starting to feel more familiar. I’ve adopted a local coffee shop, baker, market and produce vendor. When I walk to and from the school I often exchange a small wave or head nod with a boab or a vendor who recognizes me. It’s a small thing but it makes me feel more like a part of the community.
Many of the folks who used to stare at me appear to have gotten bored, since I pass by them four or more times a day and I am really not that fascinating to look at. Venturing further out of my regular area I do still get some looks. Sometimes I pretend that I am a super famous actress trying to be incognito. Next time I’m considering wearing a headscarf, sunglasses, high heels and bright red lipstick. Not sure if I would get more looks or less looks that way.
I’m still not great at discerning who is being genuinely friendly and who is being weird. I chatted with an old man today who seemed friendly enough and asked me to take his photo. Later he called me over and insisted I take a photo of a dog, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck until it whimpered. I yelled at him to stop and he did, but I was left a bit shaken.
I think most Egyptians are genuinely friendly though. It helps that I’ve been taking Arabic lessons. I’ve noticed that since I started using Arabic in the open-air market the prices have dropped by about one third. Egyptian vendors seem to be very trusting. Often if I don’t have small change they will say I can pay next time. When "next time" arrives and I try to pay, they seem to have completely forgotten about it.
Kids are much loved in Egypt. They are welcome anywhere, including restaurants, and tend to get fussed over. Oscar, being 6-years-old and blond, attracts a lot of attention. He (and I) have gotten used to having his hair ruffled by strangers. If I ever want really good service I bring him along. There is a dour bread baker near my apartment but when I get Oscar to buy the bread he actually cracks a smile. Oscar loves coming to the grocery store with me because someone will often sneak him a candy.
We rode the tram to the mall the other day and Oscar had a bit of a meltdown when there were no seats available. At the next stop, some Egyptians saved a seat for us so he could sit down. Then when Oscar was getting off the tram forgetting his toy on the seat, a man ran after us and gave it back to him.
The biggest surprise about Egypt is how safe it feels. Before I arrived I was very concerned about terrorism and local attitude towards foreigners and women. I’ve had a few… uncomfortable moments, but I have never felt unsafe. I’ve walked around by myself at night plenty of times with no issues at all. It’s probably safer here at night then many western places because there are no drunk hoodlums around.
I post here when I have something to say, but I've started posting daily photos on instagram. If you want to see the random things that take my fancy, you can follow me.