When people ask me how I like living in Cairo, I tend to say it’s an acquired taste meaning it’s not been as good of a fit for me as Bangkok. Despite my efforts to like it and hope for the best, it has been a constant struggle. It has been comprised of some highlights and low points because it’s a dirty city with trash in the streets, stray dogs and cats, horrible traffic, and driving and the occasional sexual harassment. For me it has been good in a lot of ways, challenging on some days and downright frustrating on other days…yesterday was one of these #ifailed. Some of My frustrations come from the lack of personal space that Egyptians observe when standing in line behind you, or even next to you. They seem to be in a hurry for you to finish so they can get their turn. Sometimes this can even play out as impatience and trying to push ahead of you. I sat next to a man on a flight recently who was in the middle seat for 4 hours even though the aisle seat was empty seriously why? 🤷🏾♀️Then there’s the smoking that happens almost everywhere here – in malls, offices, restaurants, bars, taxis. I often have to ask drivers to put out their cigarettes. I was recently in a police station and the men were smoking inside…imagine. This has made more of an introvert than usual, I refuse to go to clubs here because I can’t stand the cigarette smoke and don’t want to pay for it the next day. So I often miss out on fun times which can be tough.
The biggest challenge of living in Cairo for me is dealing with my landlord, maintenance men and the fact that they have no respect for time. My landlord typically refuses to fix anything in the apartment and likes to remind me that the last person who lived there for 2 years had no issues…sigh.🤦🏾♀️ My latest parlay with plumbers have left me jaded and frustrated to say the least. I have lived in a lot of apartments and countries and this has been the most frustrated I have been since I lived in the DR where I had to deal with hot water and mold issues.
After a short lull of no maintenance issues, I returned from my trip to find that the lock on my front door is not working so my skelton key won’t work and I can’t get into my apartment. I call the landlord 3 times before he returns my call and tell him the problem and ask him to send someone to fix the lock. He tells me he is out of town and asks if I can wait until Sunday. Ummmm no I have to work on Sunday. So he sends a person who doesn’t seem to know what to do and he says he will come the next day. No problem I say 10 am, he says 12…fine. Yesterday I got there a little after 12 and he’s not there so I call the landlord who says he will call him. 1 pm comes and I’m still waiting even after the landlord told me he would be here in 10 minutes Ugh. When I call the landlord again he tells me “this is Egypt not America” as if to say I should expect to be kept waiting for an hour. Why not just give me an accurate time instead of keeping me waiting for over an hour? Too much like right. So the man finally shows up 30 minutes later and says he needs to wait for his brother to come but can’t say when he will get here. By this time it’s almost 2 pm but I have no choice but to wait because unlike plumbing issues where I’m safely inside my apartment and can reschedule. This time I’m sitting in my hallway on a cold stairwell hoping it won’t take the entire day to get inside. Hoping that they will finish at a reasonable time so that there will be time to get my massage and relax and that the issue will be fixable so I won’t have this problem again #hopeandfaith.
Another hour goes by and they can’t get the door open and So they break down the wall because the lock won’t cooperate and it can’t be removed as it is a specialty door…Damn. They get the door open then proceed to take the door off the hinges to fix the mechanism that is broken. They leave to go buy supplies but not before demanding money to buy the supplies and then they’re gone for over an hour. The landlord has not called to see how it is going because he often doesn’t respond. Luckily my friend Kalimah came by and rescued me by hanging out with me and distracting me from the complete mess at my apartment door. She even brought an Egytpian friend who helped me communicate with the workers and the landlord and for that I am so grateful #thelittlethingsinlife
All in all it took them from 2 pm until after 9 pm to repair the lock, put the door back on and rebuild the wall. By then I was exhausted, trying to keep it together and upset that they kept smoking in my apartment even after I asked them not to. The landlord decided he will only pay less than half of the repairs because it’s a sturdy door that has worked for 15 years and it’s not his fault that the lock stopped working.🤦🏾♀️And of course he reminds me that it is my responsibility to fix anything that breaks inside the apartment. WTF?
When I asked the repair man about replacing the lock on the door, he says that is not an option because it’s a specialty door and then tells me that the problem is the spare key was not cut properly and I should never use it again. And guess what? If I want a new key I will need to pay 500 le ($28 dollars) to get it. #Nope #absolutelynot I’m not going to do that. Not after I spent 2,000 le ($114 dollars my share) for them to get me into my apartment and waste my entire day, no hair washed, no massage, no fingerprinting done. #WTF #isitJuneyet #pleasenomorerepairs #Ilostthisbattle They need to return to paint the wall but I told them come on friday I need a break from maintenance men for a bit.
Yesterday I feel like I failed, I lost hope in Cairo. I keep trying to believe things will go well here and they often don’t. I keep hoping people will do as they say and often they don’t. It’s becoming so hard to be optimistic here and it’s wearing me down emotionally.
Because I’m trying to be optimistic, to practice gratitude and speaking of the things I’m grateful for in Cairo, I will end with that. #gratitudeiskey I am grateful that I have found a group of black expats here and there’s a group of 11 of us at work. We have book club, karaoke and game nights, dinners and other social outings so when I feel like being social, there are many options.🤗 I’m grateful for the woman who washes my hair, she massages my ears, neck, head and shoulders. Seriously if she was a single, straight, black man I would be swooning.💃🏾 I’m grateful for the women at the Haiyan Chinese practice who know my number and greet me by name when I call and for their flexibility so that I almost never make an appointment for a massage and I can just call and show up 10 minutes later. I’m grateful that Uber works here and is usually easy to navigate even when the driver speaks no English because GPS.
I am grateful for my cleaner Chi Chi who comes once a week and came by and went and got me food to eat at 3 pm. That she was flexible enough to come this morning before I left for work to clean up the mess they made because there is no longer a spare key. I am grateful that today at work was stress free because I was so tired this morning. #gratitude #Thankyou
I’m grateful that there are also many conveniences beginning with food, grocery, and pharmacy delivery. I am not food deprived like I was in Addis, my allergies are not horrible, my migraines are not as frequent and my health is decent despite the cold winter and horrible pollution. I’m grateful that the weather is changing and it will be in the 70’s for the next couple of days. I’m grateful for stores that have coconut water, hummus, sushi, healthy snacks, shea butter, and coconut oil. It is seldom that I go grocery shopping for large items, I just order online and they are delivered to my door for less than a dollar. Recently I even had a doctor, phlebotomist, and xray technicians come to my home to take my blood, examine me and then send the test results to my email. This was like pressing the easy button even if it was a bit more expensive and it took several calls to get the results and the bill from the xray lab. This level of convenience softens the blow of living here in Cairo with the regular frustrations. It can be good and bad for a person like me, because I can go the entire weekend without ever leaving the apartment.
I know that June is not far away and I will make it because things won’t go wrong every day. Yet I wonder what the next 4 months will cost me emotionally and how can I protect myself against the frustration and stress of living in this country sigh. #Cairolifeishard I will keep hoping not for the best anymore but for whatever is a close second or third…no more repairs, better service, people who know what they’re doing and show up relatively on time and clean up after themselves. Today was a good day, tomorrow will be better and hopefully by the end of the week my hope will return.
4 months and counting until June, pray for me y’all 🤞🏽 send me positive vibes, energies, crystals, sage, whatever you can to help me get through the next months in positive spirits. #BlackExpat #Cairolife #Itwillgetbetter #theendisnear #writinghelpsmetohealandprocess #blackandabroad #blackwomenwhoblog