I posted a lot, pre-expat, on how I did not romanticize Egypt and moving to Egypt. Yes I posted about missing parts of it, but thats different from thinking I was entering the “holy lands of Islam” and streets of gold, pious Muslims all around me, and a chorus of angels waiting for my every footstep.
I knew that it was not like that but I did NOT know how far from it this place actually is.
I know many convert sisters who are married to Egyptians back home, and I now know of many who blog, and I hear from them how they think that moving here is going to be the greatest thing for their Islam since they converted.
Now, to each their own, but I’m going to be honest: people here fight everyday simply for an acknowledgment of their DIGNITY and human rights. Forget Islam. Forget religion.
Dignity and recognition as a human being.
And you know what, they usually don’t get it. Not from the Egyptian government. Not from their fellow Egyptians.
I was in a coversation over dinner the other day with Mr. MM and his best friend M. Adel about Egypt. M. Adel asked me if I liked Egypt and I answered truthfully: no. He nodded and said, “I hate Egypt, I hate living here. Egypt is doing its hardest to push out its own sons. People in India leave India in order to eat, Egyptians leave Egypt in order to find dignity.”
I do not know of anyone who loves living here, and if they do still feel love for their home country they do not have love for Cairo, the government, or the people.
The only ones I know of who actually have a rose-colored idea of what Egypt is are the bright-eyed converts and their husbands. And what really makes me wonder are the husbands: they’ve lived here, they know how it is, is it just that they have been away for so long that the only thing they remember are the golden memories of their childhood?
So, if you’re a convert coming here because you have an idea that Egypt is some golden land of Islamic opportunity, don’t. If you have a somewhat more realistic view of the country but want to learn Arabic or study fiqh/deen/etc., ok but I highly advise you to make it short-term stay.
For those of you who want to give a better life for your children, please please please I beg you to reconsider. Because that part about the children is what really freaks me out.
The schooling here is sub-standard. Highly, highly sub-standard. And if you actually want a DECENT education for your children, where do you find it? In CHRISTIAN-RUN SCHOOLS that cost more than a University education in the United States.
Yes, listen to me. The only decent schools in Cairo are CHRISTIAN. You will find yourself leaving the Christian country of your birth only to enroll your children in Christian schools here.
Saint Fatima is the top school in EGYPT and is run on an IGSCE British system. And even then they still go by the Egyptian method of study: memorizing entire text and then testing on the minutest details. Nothing is done by rhetoric and application of the ideas. I think this is part of the fundamental flaw of Egyptian society: the inability to apply concepts. Think about it.
All of the other schools that are half-way decent are British-run or American-run and are certainly not “Muslim.” And there are no religious schools that give children decent educations other than in religious things. You want your child to be a haafiz and know fiqh and lots of du’as? Thats great. Do you want them to have an actual education that they can get a job with? You won’t find it there.
Jobs. You want your child to have a shot at finding a good-paying job? It probably will not be in Egypt. But if you send them to a religious school there is no way that they are going to get a decent job.
The only University in Cairo that is recognized by the US is the American University of Cairo, but the cost of that school is twice a normal US University education. There are also the British Uni of Cairo and the German Uni of Cairo, both of which I believe are accredited from their home countries, but facing the facts: your child will be severely limited in his or her life choices.
And then looking at the society in Egypt. I love my in-laws and I love my friends here. One thing that you cannot argue is that Egyptians have big hearts and big smiles, but I have found that religion is taken for granted. Its normal to be Muslim. Do you do things that are purely cultural and not in Islam? But you’re Muslim right? Then it must be Islam.
For me I found truer Muslims and truer Islam in the mosques of Saint Paul Minnesota than I have found here.
And all of this, its not even scratching the surface. The government is a dictatorship under which the people have no rights. The police are not there to help you, but to keep you under control. The health system is severely sub-par and the only decent hospitals are extremely expensive.
Are you a niqabi? You will be banned from entering many places. Do you have a big beard? You will be harrassed by the police and denied jobs unless you shave.
This is not a promised land or a holy land.
I love Egypt, I love the idea of it, I love it for being the homeland of Mr. MM. I also love it because of the heart that I see beneath the decay. Egypt was once a great nation and God willing will be a great nation again, but right now even those who were born to Umm ad-Dunya are leaving her for the world outside.
Do you still want to/plan on moving to Egypt? Ok, just one last piece of advice:
Do not move to Cairo. Its crowded and filled with the worst of humanity- not because the people in it are inhumane but because its so crowded and people are so desperate that they will willingly cut you down if it will further them by one step.
Alexandria is much more peaceful, or even living in the areas outside of Cairo is preferrable to living in Cairo.
But please, consider it deeply before choosing. Come and stay here for five months to get a feel of how it really is. Do some research into schools. Just, think very very hard because if you come here with a romanticized notion you will very quickly be stripped of your illusions and left naked and bleeding.
It is an unforgiving world.