Contemplating in Cairo – Vol. 13

Cairo is a city filled with contradictions. Like this city, we; its residents, are also filled with contradictions, especially when it comes to deciding whether we love this city or hate it…

This city is intense. It’s full of vigor and is poisonous all at once. It is where we rejoice and where we feel bitter, where we love the crowded streets and hate them at the same time, where we know for a fact that we belong but still feel like aliens…

For the ones of us who get to travel abroad from time to time, we all feel this nudge and need to get back when we are away and, once we are back, we curse. It’s a bittersweet relationship between us, we hate it and love it and we are loved and hated by it, and it’s all happening at the same time…

Leaving this country for good is an extremely hard decision to make, especially if we were considering moving to the Gulf. Why? What’s so appealing about moving the Gulf? The money? Aren’t the expenses of living in the Gulf taking very good care of the difference in income between here and there? If we were to move to London, for example, or Australia or Canada, perhaps it would be worth considering, but the Gulf? I don’t think so…

So why, we are asked, would we rather stay here in this vigorously poisonous and suffocating city? Well, for starters, this is home. Home is where you can call a friend in the whee hours of the night when you’re in trouble and they’ll make the decision to come get you in a heartbeat, but it’ll take them forever to get there because of the traffic. Home is where you get to see and be around your family, even though you hate their nagging about why you’re still single. You interact with the younger members in the family and become part of their lives. You impact their behaviors and they impact yours in return. Home is where you know how much it hurts when your grandmother or your uncle pass away and you feel blessed that you had a chance to love them and to have them love you in return. You don’t get to do that if you’re not home…

Home is not necessarily a place that makes you happy; home is a place that makes you feel like you belong, where you feel like you relate. Home is a place where you have to be taken in, no matter what the circumstances are. In a song by U2 called Walk On, they say:

Home, hard to know what it is
If you never had one.
Home, I can’t say where it is,
But I know I’m going
Home; that’s where the hurt is…

This city, Cairo, is one where you can go out and do anything, even on your own, when you’re bored or edgy. We as Carienes have this ‘language’ between us, our very own slang, that is way to smart for our own good. We “get” things and express ourselves in the most sarcastic manner and laugh out hard and loud then breathe out ‘kheir Allahoma eg3alo kheir, hamm yeda7ak’.

Sure, we all hate the place, but we love it more. In the process of hating this wonderful city we forget the million reasons why we love it and we forget that we love it for the exact same reasons why we hate it…

Some say that if they had the chance to move away and take the people they loved with them, they’d do it in a heartbeat. I beg to differ… What about the streets we grew up on? What about the sports club we hung out in as kids? What about the schools we went to and the days we played truant and got caught? What about the lectures our older family members gave us when we were teenagers? Aren’t these lectures, the ones that made us roll our eyes and curse under our breaths, the very ones that have taught us to be responsible adults? This combo doesn’t happen when you’re not “home”.

In Cairo, when you’re down, all you have to do is go out into the street and you are immediately immersed in a world different that yours; one that takes you somewhere else than where your sorrows are. You can only do that in a place that truly feels like home.

With the global economic crisis hovering over us like a dark cloud and many of our expatriates coming back home as they get fired from their jobs or decide to leave before that happens, I want to ask each and every one of them; was it worth it?

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