February 16, 2008

Middle East Meets West

I don't know, lately I have found myself feeling more and more distanced from the women here. We can get along and spend time together, most of the time but it's the differences that stand out to me.

I don't want to generalize, I can only speak from my own experience. Even after knowing and befriending several Egyptian women for at least a couple of years, I don't feel like I can call any one of them my "best friend". For the most part, I don't feel like I can be myself in Arabic. I speak Egyptian fairly well, but I can't truly express myself the way I can in English. My sarcastic humor is lost in translation. Somehow or another I come off as an air head... a simpleton amongst them. Is it wrong if I ask when I don't know what a word means? I'm made to feel naive or child like when I do.

I feel a disconnect between these women and myself and I have been trying to figure out why. They gossip. A lot. Whenever I am with one or two ladies, they are more likely than not, talking about some one else. What this one said about that one, what the other one's husband did. When I don't join in, I'm the party pooper on their scandle mongering. They divulge intimate details about their marriages expecting me to reciprocate. They don't take their hijab seriously. I mean, they'll answer the door for the bawab without it and take pictures of each other dancing at parties. Then think I'm a freak when I run for cover.

I find myself frustrated with "cultural" differences. Idiotic superstitions and never ending judgements based on skin color. When one woman saw a photo of an inter-racial couple, she was just horrified and seriously thought that this African American guy was some kind of cannibal. No joke. Comment's are casually made about which of our children is the most beautiful, unabashedly in their presence. I'm left flabbergasted at the notion. I have a hard time chalking these things up to culture. They're just fundamentally wrong to me.

People always ask if I like Egypt or America better. *Always*. Of course, they want to hear that I like it here better. They actually expect it. I'm honest with them and say that of course there are good and bad things about any country, but it's only natural to feel American when it is where I was born and lived 25 out of my 31 years. Not to mention the US has many pluses, just by virtue of the fact that it's what I know.

Don't get me wrong. I am proud of the Egyptian part of me and love many things about this country and it's people. I just wanted to express the contrast in thinking.


  1. I don't get along with Egyptian women. Most Arabs are racist, especially towards men and women with darker skin. People stopped reading the Quran lately, Allah calls for tolerance and love.

    May Allah guide them :(

    I feel you on this one!

  2. Thanks Organic, the thing is, they don't view it as racist. I don't even know, what's the arabic word for that...anyway they see it as a beauty standard, but it's rediculous.

  3. It is hard to go outside of your background... And genetics raise the expectation of the Egyptians you are dealing with, but sheesh 25 years you are making a transition just like I will be if we move there. I hope you don't let it get you down to much. But here in cowboy country I am having the same experience, I don't know that I have a best friend... Or even a really good one to tell the truth. Insha'Allah you will run across someone with a viewpoint more like yours soon.

  4. I wouldnt say I can exactly relate to what you say...but I do know that one shouldnt just count on the fact that since they wear hijabs and know arabic...they are somehow better muslims...

    No way...

  5. Hey UmmLayla, yea, I don't let it get me down..TOO much, Just a little once every while :)

    Utp..Not sure what you mean..was I saying that?

  6. Im sure it can get lonely,but...why do you still socialize with them?
    the way you were describing them was making me cringe!

    I really do hope you meet some sisters that dont make you feel so uncomfortable and that are a little more toned down-sounds like they'd be too much for me too!

  7. LittleMiss, I well, one lives in very close proximity and I don't know how to just sever ties, and they're just aquaintences I guess. Alhamdullilah I have a good friend here from Poland and a British friend who "get" me.

  8. I think you get it more because you ARE egyptian so they expect you to be just like them.

    Me I'm that wierd American chick who's not civilized enough to know what they're talking about.

    We'll chill when I move to Egypt, except you live in the middle of nowhere. I'll come crash at your house for awhile lol.

  9. I really admire you, after being born and living most of ur life in US, you moved to egypt. Though your roots it must have been big change for you. I am facing similar situation- after living whole life in europe should I settle in KSA?

  10. Molly, I think you're right about them assuming I am just like them, but wrong that you'd be weird or uncivilized. People love foreigners here plus you will be automatically liked for your porcelain skin! I'm only half kidding...We will indeed chill InshaAllah!

    Amina, thanks I..I don't think I've been admired before! Have you ever been to KSA? Egypt is a lot easier from what I know, at least in some aspects. Of course no driving for women in Egypt and stuff like that, but there are more conviences readily available, from what I've heard. My sister lives there. I wish you luck and Welcome to my Blog! :)

  11. ah yes, loving me for my porcel.. white skin. (can't spell today) but my point about being the weird american chick is that if I look at them blankly when they are trying to gossip with me, they will chalk it up to language barrier and not hold it against me.

    I've also got the vapid smile and eye flutter down pat. It gets me out of all sorts of trouble. Except now my husband can spot it from a mile away, so it doesn't work on him.

    But, as a foreigner, and not egyptian, I can get away with a LOT of stuff I wouldn't be able to if I happened to just be a very very white-skinned egyptian american.

    Its a tough spot to be in, my best friend who is egy-amer as well has the exact same prob and when when I saw how her family interacted with her in cairo I felt really bad. To be pulled in so many different ways.....

  12. Molly, Gotcha on the language barrier thing, that makes sense.

  13. LOL at the eye flutter thing Molly! You know I have the same thing going. And DH was frustrated to no end by people's impression of me... And still is!LOL They see me as demure and sweet and tease him about how did such a loud/outspoken guy marry such a sweet girl. *insert evil laugh here*... If only they knew me as well as he does!!!!

  14. Anonymous10:50 AM

    You're not alone Mones! I'm a guy living in the UAE and feel the same way. Ahamdulilah though, I have met one Egyptian that I would consider a best friend. We speak in Arabic together but he is very understanding when I need to express certain ideas in English.

    I think thats what I love about him the most. He accepts me, an American Muslim Egyptian man.

    I do think though that if you do feel like your are ever not treated with respect from whom ever, you shouldn't have it. We teach people how to treat us.

    Love ya sis.

  15. YAY, it's Omar! Your friend sounds great. You're right about respect, I can be a doormat.

  16. Anonymous9:07 PM

    hey asalamu alaikum, sorry i haven't read for a while. but i feel the same exact way. i have a really hard time with the whole friends thing. i can truly say that i havn't had a friend since i've been here, but i guess that's just the sacrifice i have to make. salaam hala

  17. It makes me so happy that you read it at all Hala, I miss you so much.

  18. aahh dont i know it..
    i agree with everything in this post...
    esp the gossip part.. it makes them sooo boring


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