Welcome to Egypt: Where wasting time is a competitive sport.

So today I was supposed to have the aforementioned interview at eleven o’clock in the morning, which is practically daybreak by Egyptian standards. And of course my in-laws, since its the summer vacation for the children, had us all up until three in the morning the night before so I woke up a bit groggy. We finally got moving and by a miracle were actually able to get through Cairo traffic and arrive on time.

Silly me thinking Egyptians ever care about being on time.

I arrived at the school only to find that the woman I was supposed to be meeting with was still in the office with the Headmaster so I sat down to wait.

And wait…

Forty minutes passed of my valiantly attempting to stay awake before I gave into inevitability and fell asleep against the armrest of the offensively ostentatious Louis IVX loveseat, which happened to be as tall as my head so it made a convenient place to lean against as if I were merely resting and not actually fast asleep. I think I was only out for about fifteen minutes and once I woke myself up I still had yet another round of waiting left to do.

I called her, she cancelled my call. I asked the receptionist, her answer was “maalesh.” And I waited. People went back and forth, important looking people went in and out of the office I was waiting to be admitted into but my name was not called nor was I apprised of any ongoing situations. For all I knew she didn’t even remember that she had made a meeting with me and I was waiting in vain. Finally after an hour and a half I called her once more and she answered with a cool and collected “oh, where are you?” as if I had not been waiting there for all that time. She came upstairs, where I was still sitting on the Louis IVX knock-off, and lo and behold she was one of the important-looking people who had been coming in and out of the office the whole time I was sitting there. So, the receptionist with her ‘maalesh’ couldn’t even point me out and the woman I was meeting didn’t try to make sure I was there.

Then, just to add insult to injury, as I thought I was about to have the meeting I had originally trekked all the way to Zamalak for, she turns to me with a self-depreciating smile and says, “I’m so sorry, I’m very busy today, could we postpone until tomorrow?”

. . . .

I could say more but I’m just not going to waste anymore of my time.

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22 responses to “Welcome to Egypt: Where wasting time is a competitive sport.

  1. subhanallah… can you imagine the prophet (saws) asking someone to come back another day? Astagfrillah.. this is one thing that worries me about moving to an ‘islamic’ country, their total disregard of time. Yes we leave things to Allah (Swt) but I think I remember reading somewhere that time management was important to Muhammed (saws) and the sahaba… hmm, i feel a new blog coming on

  2. Well, they HAVE to rush because they get into work at like 9:30, order ful sandwiches and waste an hour “eating breakfast”… Then the break for Duhr, then they have to rush home for the family meal at 3pm…. See? Not much time for ACTUAL work;)LOL

  3. freaking rude!

  4. How frustrating!!!

    I am a very punctual person and something like this would have freaked me out.

  5. Wow…..I am a very patient patient person but I don’t know if I would be able to actually go back for the interview after all that. Good luck!

  6. Ah, you need to get used to AST. That is Arab Standard Time. Everything is late, no one shows up on time and if possible, everything is put back later or to another date.

    I am lucky in that my wife didnt get the AST thing even though she is Arab. Her father was a military man and did everything on time.

    It is just dealing with OTHER arabs that makes things hard. Get used to it or you’ll drive yourself crazy.

    AST is one issue, a culture of “kalam fadi” (empty words) is another one. People will promise you the world, give all sorts of “Insha’Allahs” and “Bismillahs” and none of it will mean anything.

    “Jamile Kadaba”-they will talk to you nice, promise you the world and say what they think you want to hear, but at the end of the day they will do nothing and then blame it on God. If God had willed it they would have done it right?

    Welcome to the Arab world. Leave your work ethic and honesty at the door.

  7. Thats real bad, and bloody rude of her…

    Some people have no manners.
    But you tend to find that with most ethnic backgrounds, our time and their time are completly different.

  8. Wow… one of the first things I learnt after moving to Canada is that Time is money… people really call if they are going to be 10 minutes late!!!

  9. welcome to the “muslim” world. the world where you have to lie, beg, cheat, steal, and be outright nasty to get anything.

    I’m thinking that you will learn very quickly that you have to put your foot down if you want to get anything done.

    One of the most horrible things I saw in Algeria was the levels of testoterone everywhere. Men were about to burst at the seams. Everywhere I looked I saw young men with their friends in headlocks. I saw little boys pushing eachother around. I saw grown men in the street yelling at eachother to move their car because each one refused to budge. The complet disregard for manners and kindness towards our fellow man disgusted me. Me and my nice american self got pushed aside. Even dude in customs had an attitude. How dare I not understand arabic or french? How dare he have to speak english and actually help me with the form? How dare I not have a pen? He was so pissed he threw the pen at me.

    If I didnt love my husband so much, I would never return to that place again. Good thing the beautiful scenery almost makes up for the crappy people.

  10. “Everywhere I looked I saw young men with their friends in headlocks. I saw little boys pushing eachother around. I saw grown men in the street yelling at eachother to move their car because each one refused to budge. The complet disregard for manners and kindness towards our fellow man disgusted me”

    Yeah I see that same stuff here in Phoenix, Detroit, and pretty much every places I have been to in the US.
    My favorite is when I got cussed out at work by a big Russian guy because I set a pen on the side of the basket & not inside the basket, he was ready to hit me over it until the manager happen to walk by.
    I think most guys from any cultural these days are real jerks.
    It’s a shame.

  11. Omg, I would have been PISSED!

    That happened to me once, while I was waiting for an interview at Barnes & Noble. I bought an outfit specifically FOR the interview, waited around, waited, and waited only to be informed that the woman who was supposed to conduct the interview wasn’t even THERE that day.

    I was mostly mad because now I just wore that outfit, everyone there has seen me in it, I can’t wear it AGAIN tomorrow, how unprofessional. I just gave up.

  12. Is this an American/Egyptian/European company? A lot of times these foreign branches have an image to withhold. If they expect a foreigner they don’t want her dressed in Jilbab and Abayah. Yes, in Egypt they will discriminate against looks and the way you dress. And you can’t do anything about it.

    Hang in there, not everyone will be as rude.

  13. Oooo, I would’ ve been so upset!

  14. Take it all in stride. Otherwise, you’ll lose your sanity.

  15. I can so relate. two years ago at the end of the school year, I attended my 7 year olds “graduation hefla” The whole school had put the presentation on hold for 3 hours to wait for the owner to show up. Imagine all those little kids dressed in costumes, hot, tiered , hungry and having to pee because madame FAT A__ and I do mean very very fat, to arrive to her own schools presentation. My blood still boils when I think of that. I now home school. Allah forgive me. She will never see another piaster from me, seems that all she cares about.

  16. I would’ve told her “no,” straight up. Why would I want to work with someone who doesn’t value me or my time and is (apparently) completely disorganized. I’m sorry, but I think the whole concept of “Arabi/Muslim Standard Time”(A/MST) is utter bullshit. I quasi understand the concept of arriving SLIGHTLY or FASHIONABLY (not 2 hours) late to a gathering because I myself, as a host, appreciate the cushion.
    I once attended an Arabi wedding thinking I would have time to go and then meet up with friends who were leaving town afterwards. Too bad THE BRIDE HERSELF was two and a half hours late to her own wedding. What. The. Hell.
    Anything regarding school or work should be ON TIME. As my Arab husband says, the AST (and the vast misuse of federal funds) is the reason why most Arab countries are considered still considered third-world. It’s all about being late and disrespectful.
    US even sucks about being on time compared to Japan. Japan rocks. Why? Because they hold other people to higher respects and THEY’RE ANAL ABOUT BEING ON TIME. Check it out, yo.
    Being late is just arrogant. It says, “My time and what I do is much more important than what you do. You, peasant, can wait for me to arrive.” Pisses me off, man.

  17. That does suck, but it happens everywhere, even in Western Countries.. although not as common. Not so long ago I set up a meeting with some university support person to help with my CV, it was set up a week in advance and I ended up waiting for 45 minutes and couldn’t even meet her as “she was very busy”. I sure as hell told them what I think of their organization skills.

    If you don’t really think this job is a priority, you should totally arrange another interview and not show up! Muhahhaha

  18. Salams,

    Ahlan Wa Sahlan sister.

    I’m actually Malay Australian (Perth), hubby Egyptian from Kafr El Sheikh. Got married last year in April, went back to Australia in August. Came back here again in Feb this year and about to fly back out to Perth again next month (whoopadiidoooo!!!) -all because of how more “productive” life would be in Australia. I just stumbled on your blog when I was searching for hijabs and just reading some of your posts just mirrored what I’ve experienced being married to an Egyptian, living in Egypt. At least you’re living in Cairo, not Kafr El Sheikh! (-where its not surprising to see a donkey parked in front of your apartment).The waiting -to get all our documents done especially for our marriage, to live, to breath was just so pain-staking slow so I can understand what you’re going through. You’re not alone. Also, you would think just because you’re living in a muslim country it would be so culturally islamic but once you’re here (at least from my experience) you’ll realise its not and be a little disappointed. From that I just learnt your Islam can be beautified and improved regardless of where you are and if need it to be so. The best thing about Egypt for me is how close-knit the family is. That they stick together. My mother-in-law rocks!!! I love her to death. Just hang in there.

  19. Argh. That’s just embarrassing… and the thing is, that schmuck won’t even feel bad because she obviously considers herself superior to the rest of the world!
    I guess apologising on behalf of my fellow countrymen just won’t do it… but i’ll try anyway 🙂

    Hmm. Right. Now I have to go waste some more time. 🙂

  20. Hmm Your patience with her might pay dividends as shes bound to remember you now. Also good chances especially if you are the only person to be interviewed by the looks of it. By the looks of it she probably just needs to tell you what she requires from you and when to start.

  21. oops this was an old post…so what happened the next day?

  22. the next day she postponed again, and the third day I met with her, she offered me a punt-position for peanut-pay which I blithely ignored.

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