It seems everybody in Egypt wants to leave while everyone outside of Egypt is longing to return. We took to the streets to find out the real reasons some people want to leave, and why some would rather not.
When The Clash sang Should I Stay or Should I Go, we would venture to assume that lead singer Joe Strummer was reminiscing on the time he lived in Cairo. That seems to be a running theme for those who’ve called Cairo home – even Sabah questioned Aroo7 Maro7shi at some point. Everybody here wants to leave and everybody who leaves wants to come back. What gives? Why do people want to leave – is it the poorly paved streets and lack of fresh air? What’s making them want to come back – teta’s cooking and that strangely Egyptian sense of home? We could keep guessing, or we could go out and ask a few people what their actual reasons are. Of course, being CairoScene, we hit the streets to find out what makes people want to hop on the first plane to Burkina Faso, or why some people long to call Cairo home again. From what we’ve discovered, it seems that it's a matter of perspective: the grass is always greener on the other side.
Is the cost of living in Egypt unreasonable? Do people outside of Egypt get paid better and have to spend less on day-to-day needs?
Most of the products I scan and cash out on a daily basis are unaffordable to me, even though I work here. - Moustafa Salah Ali, age 25, cashier at Awlad Ragab
The sky doesn’t rain cash. Who said cutting off your roots and planting them somewhere else was easy? I guess it must be the same people who think they’re leaving hell and headed to heaven. But nobody actually knows that. Today, my college professor was talking about how she and her husband decided not to have kids because life in Dubai is expensive. The only thing you don’t pay fees for is probably breathing. – Ingie Elsaady, age 18, Egyptian student studying in Dubai
Is Egypt lacking in job opportunities?
Madam, we need more cafés to keep the hideous number of jobless people occupied. – Maged Ali, age 20, security guard at Madinaty
I was at a conference in Dubai and we were discussing an advertisement published in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, asking people to come and work in the new Suez Canal. You know what the problem is? It’s that every single person wants to run for president – they want jobs that their qualifications can’t afford. – Youssef El Khemery, age 45, International Arbitration Advisor
Does an 'us versus them' mentality divide us in everything we do?
It was never part of the plan to flee, especially since I had come back here at the age of 29 while planning to stay for good. But, in the past few years, everything we ever knew became categorised. – Ehab Elsaady, age 50, Doctor and Business Development Manager in Dubai
I know how hard it is to be a woman, or generally a citizen, in Egypt. One time I was walking down the street and my top accidently lifted up showing an inch of my back. Out of nowhere I found a taxi driver stopping to tell my friend to tell me that my back was showing, and then someone else stopped to tell me, and it’s like the whole city stopped because one inch of my back was showing. One other time someone thought I was a spy. Now I could think about those things, or I could think about the time I broke my leg in Egypt and was stopped by a zillion strangers saying “alf salama 3aleeki” and offering me chairs to sit down. The way I chose to think encouraged me to live with an Egyptian host family for a little while; I ate their food, fasted with them during Ramadan, put on their veils, engaged their culture, lived their lives, and worried about their problems even though I am not a Muslim or an Arab. I dream about a world where we can embrace our differences before our common grounds - Muslims, and non-Muslims, Westerners and Easterners. For that purpose, I decided to move to Egypt and apply for jobs here. – Sarah Cockey, age 22, American international intern at AISEC Egypt
Do we tend to label too much? Does everyone really think that if she’s not married by 30, she’s flawed; if he supports homosexuality, he has to be gay; if she’s veiled, she must have issues with the opposite sex or her hair was too curly?
Around here, people hang labels over your head that you didn’t even ask for or pick for yourself. – Mariam Gamil, age 18, student at the British University in Cairo
I was born in Sweden, then I moved to Egypt with my family for school and college, then moved back to Sweden again. Swinging back and forth made me fully aware of both cultures. I hate to ruin someone’s imagination, but Europe is not the paradise Egyptians are willing to escape to. I’ve lived enough years here (Sweden) to get varying reactions when I mention that my name is Mohamed. So, yes, here you will find those who will discriminate against you according to skin colour, religion, or background, but you will equally find organisations and people who will defend you. As long as you live on planet earth and are defined as a human being, you will never find a place that is enriched with good without the bad taking its fair share, even if you cross every ocean there is. – Mohamed Amir Rifaat, age 29, Commissioning Engineer at ABB Company in Sweden
Does Egypt provide opportunities for growth in every sector - you know, beyond being a pharmacist or an engineer?
My head is a circus of astrophysics and radio telescope, but I live in a country that doesn’t even fund research in those fields. I see two versions of me 10 years from now: the first is a guy somewhere across the boarders doing what he does best, and the second is an accountant in Egypt lost in some bank. – Aly Mohamed, Engineering student at Ain Shams University
Four computer science students put together a graduation project that later shifted into a medical product line under the name Medika. We invented augmented reality glasses that show the doctor the medical history of the patient during surgery and respond to the doctor’s commands through simple hand gestures. Now we’ve diminished the possibilities of infection that come from touching unsterilised machines. It all started when we joined Injaz Egypt, not knowing what to expect. Injaz Egypt is an organisation that helps brilliant ideas come alive and funds them. Injaz provided us with great training, mentors, and endless workshops, ensuring us a great start inside the market. Later on, we got in contact with Egypt’s health giants and, thanks to Injaz, we are the creators of a technology that will change the world in the next decade. – Waleed Halaby, age 23, Front End Developer at Benchmark
Is Egypt actually a good place to call home? Can we live here and raise our children here, or is there far more that we're missing out on by staying here? Do our pros outweigh our cons?
I could work day and night to send my kids to public schools, but what I can’t do is convince myself to fall asleep every night not knowing whether they are getting actual education or just learning how to survive in a jungle. – Mohamed Abdel Moeti, age 31, flower shop worker
I don’t care how many beautiful cities I am missing out on; I could study abroad or go on a vacation or something, but eventually I am going to come back home because I want to walk down the streets and hear “howa 2allak fein?” or “el sha3b el masry dah 3aleh 7agat.” I want to embrace my culture in every simple way – with the acknowledgement of what a wedn 2otta is or even what “match el 6/1” means. - Rovan Bahnassy, age 18, student at the American University of Cairo
We're not dictators; we can’t tell you what to do and, frankly, sometimes we can’t even tell ourselves either. We understand how hard of a task it is to stand in a dirty spot and sustain your purity. But, before mankind, this land was no arena for fraud, harassment, or dirty politics. We created this mess and we shouldn’t ask for someone else to clean it while we enjoy our lunch on some fancy airline. Go far, then go further and stretch for the furthest, but everywhere you will go there will be a mess. So don't look for perfection anywhere on planet earth. If this country is prison for you, please uncage yourself - roam the world, but keep the "di balad bent teet" talk to a minimum. And enough already with the "elsha3b el masry dah…" line like you aren’t one of those people yourself.