Illustrations by Ganna Hashem
When I told my family and friends that I was moving from the small upstate New York town I grew up in to Cairo, I knew to expect a wide range of reactions. With the way Egypt is portrayed in Western media and the admittedly provincial mindset prevalent in my corner of the States, I assumed some people would have questions or preconceptions about Egypt that I would have been happy to address.
Man, was I wrong. No real questions, besides, you know, “why?” No discussions on the situation in the MENA region or the rich cultural history that I would be experiencing firsthand - just ignorant, kind of racist, islamophobic crap. But, some of it was kind of funny. So, here are a few examples of things friends and family said to me when I told them I was moving to Egypt and what I said, or wished I’d said, back.
“Don’t steal anything, they’ll cut your hands off!" - A friend I’ve had since high school
That’s why I shouldn’t steal, solely based on the threat of dismemberment? Is that why you don’t steal? Is there some kind of penal code in the state of NY that I’m not aware of, or is this your way of telling me that you’re a klepto?
“Just don’t come back a Muslim!" - My poor sweet Catholic grandmother
It’s no secret to my family that I have never been religious - not at all. Even my grandma knows about my collection of blasphemous hooded sweatshirts. The odds of me coming back to visit my family as a Muslim are just as remote as the Millennium Falcon coming to pick me up for the Episode VII premiere.
“Watch out for the Taliban. You’ll fit right in with that beard.” - My possibly drunk uncle
What? You think the only prerequisite for membership to the fictional Egyptian Taliban is a beard? Or somehow my sweet face carpet will make them think I share their views? Also, thank you for demonstrating your blissfully willful ignorance of the world so I can awkwardly avoid you at all further family functions.
“You should totally ride a camel to work." - My definitely stoned friend
I appreciate your confidence in me that A) I’ll be able to find a job, and B) I’m capable of figuring out how to ride a camel though I can barely ride a bike. I’ll just stick with Uber though, thanks.
“It’s going to be so boring there." - Wasted white girl
That sucks. I thought that, as a huge urban centre, home to like 20 bajillion people, Cairo would at least have a cinema or something. It’ll be so sad to leave this town in the middle of nowhere with such a phenomenal nightlife, where the three bars that are worth going to close at midnight and everything else closes before 10 PM.
“You know they’re not going to let you drink or eat bacon." - An acquaintance of mine at the bar
Is this the Muslim thing again? Right, just like in most countries where the majority of the population identifies with a religion imposes its tenets on the rest of the population. Like where the Christians make sure no one works on Sundays and everybody has to love “thy” neighbour and turns the other cheek.
“Your girlfriend is going to have to wear a blanket with eye holes cut into it." - A dude that I used to work with
Wow. Why? You know people go on vacation in Egypt, right? A shitload of people. You think all the white lady tourists wear a full-on niqab? God, it’s like you’ve gone out of your way to be stupid. Shut up.
No! I told you I’m making a huge move. Cairo, NY is like two hours from here. I know this region is full of towns named after other places in the world - Russia, Berlin, Poland, and Mexico are all towns within a few hours drives of each other. But, if someone said I’m moving to Lebanon, would you instantly think Lebanon, NY? No. Because that is stupid as hell.
“Oh…*awkward silence*" - Even more people
I guess that’s better than embarrassing yourself with ignorant verbal diarrhea.
“Dude! That’s fucking amazing, congrats!!" - Like one guy
One guy was totally stoked and has already made plans to come out and visit. He’s cool. Everybody else on this list can stay where they are while I’m here in Cairo having an awesome time without all of you.