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Expats of Egypt

In Uncategorized on 13/11/2012 at 2:52 am

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Life is what happens

(Be aware that this is a rough translation of the Spanish text done at four in the morning. Don’t be too harsh on the hundreds of mistakes that the text might contain)

I’m leaving and I don’t know if it feels stranger to think that I’m leaving Egypt or that I spent here two years of my life. Actually, what feels strange is to suddenly become aware that what is happening to me is, exactly this, life.

I leave Egypt and I haven’t been able to explain what has made me feel so strongly attached to the place. My friends and my family still look surprised when they ask me ‘what do you like so much about Egypt?’. They have heard me complain about pollution, the noise, men and dirtiness. Some have even seen with their own eyes how Egypt is today at the antipodes of the rich, elegant and cultivated country that describe all the chronicles since the invention of writing to about fifty years ago.

‘People’. That’s what I usually answer. And once again, it’s difficult to understand for someone who hasn’t lived close to the Nile. I know it because my answer raises surprise, scepticism or condescension. What do people have here that makes someone attached to a place where everything else is, obviously, hell on earth?

Now that I only have a few hours left in this country, I end up concluding that the answer is the magic of Cairo, which gets inside its people. Here some call it Allah and others the universe. I prefer to think that it’s the same miraculous inertia that keeps Egypt working. Savage country, impossible society, failed state, frantic capital, brutal language.

Cairo magic was responsible to turn a formal gathering in the Spanish Embassy in Egypt in an unforgettable night where not only I met my beloved Cairo family, but also the Fausto which later on I would decide to move to the other side of the world with.

It’s Cairo magic, invisible but always present, what forges friendships stronger than time and distance. Magic has turned us into what we are. A family of misfits and weirdos with something in common: our Cairo.

What unites us is the adrenaline of the frantic city, the daily adventures, the titanic battle against the elements and the tingle in the stomach when we see the sun rise on the other side of the Nile after a night of dancing and drinking bad beer.

I think about all those who left and I believe they haven’t left the city nor the family. On the contrary, they took with them a bit of this magic. That’s why I smile when I think about those of you who are in Barcelona, Bilbao or Madrid. When I remember that Chris is in Paris, Fuad in Geneva, Johannes in Jerusalem, Rosa and Yara in London, Oscar somewhere in Myanmar and Ben… well, I’m never sure where is Ben.

It’s because you are there that names and countries that didn’t have any meaning to me before have become small centres of Cairo magic. Its because you are there that listening those names means to feel the warmth of friendship, the laughs and the hours spent inside burning taxis cursing cairean traffic jams.

I like to think that Fausto and I are going to open our little Masr embassy in Sydney. A home that will be yours and that will keep the essence of this magic. A place for the expats of Egypt, which are not the ones who felt as foreigners in Egypt, but those who adopted the country as theirs and that feel outside home almost everywhere else.

Starting a new adventure next to the person I love after a year of hard long distance is the reason I’m leaving Egypt. The fact that Fausto is another expat of Egypt and the conviction that I will come back and that I will see you again is what allows me to leave this country without the feeling that I’m leaving behind a really big part of me.

I’m leaving the Middle East sad, but calm because I know I have done here much more things than I thought in the beginning. Actually, Egypt has done more for me than what I have done for it. The revolution, the fall of Mubarak, the transition that hasn’t finished, the Nile, the desert, the Red Sea, Alexandria, friendships, love and also, of course, writing.

I created this En Medio de Oriente as a weapon to fight nostalgia. No the one I felt when I arrived, but the one I knew back then I would feel when I left. I was conscious that Egypt had caught me since the moment I arrived at the dusty airport, I breathed the burning air and I saw from the corner of my eye three solitary palm trees dancing to the rhythm of the night wind at a side of the airstrip.

I confess that I’ve written all this for me. That if I made the effort to explain how is the Egypt that I have lived, it hasn’t been for you, but for me. So tomorrow, when I’m not in Cairo anymore, I can feel a bit closer to all the things that have kept me here for two years. I hope you will excuse my selfishness.

I remember the first night I went out after the revolution. A month ago I had left Egypt with tears in my eyes, a small bag and my computer. I left everything else in my room so I would have to come back at least once more, even if it was only to pick everything up. Egypt was already my home. I spent a month of hell in Spain and when I came back Mubarak had fallen and dozens of people painted the streets of Cairo in red, white and black.

Chris had left quickly, but everyone else was back and we met, still shaken by the impressions of the Revolution. As the rest of the cairenes, we ignored the curfew and went to Cairo Jazz Club, our favourite joint. We entered and we listened to the band. It was Wost al Balad and they were playing ‘Sout al horreya’ (the voices of freedom) in front of one or two hundred people that sang the chorus rising their fists and tears in their eyes.

Cairo magic had gathered us all again and that night, as all the other nights until tonight, I understood that Egypt had caught me and that it wasn’t going to let me go. Actually, I didn’t care that much.

I’m going to Australia to fulfil a dream that’s more beautiful, if possible, than the one I had when I arrived to Egypt. En Medio de Oriente is not closing, but I will let it rest until I come back. Meanwhile, take care of my Masr, guys.

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  1. Beautiful. We will all mis Cairo for the same reasons. We’ll miss your blog and your love for people, your love for your job, your love for Cairo. And we are already begining to love also Sidney. We’ll be looking forward your news from there.

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