As an Egyptian with a Canadian passport there is one question I get asked more than any other – why are you still here?
Let me start by sharing. I was lucky to have been born to hard-working parents who decided to take a risk and try a life abroad. This meant that we were constantly on the move for my entire life, going from country to country – mainly Canada and Saudi Arabia – for my entire childhood, which meant that by the time I started living in Cairo in 2004, I was completely uprooted from all the lives I had established earlier. I had to start all over again.
Flash forward seven years later; I’m studying film in Toronto, alone, no family, no apartment that we bought a long time ago, no streets I know by heart and no cars honking 24/7. Once again I was uprooted from the life I established in Cairo that shaped who I was as a human. That’s where I came up with a few realisations – the reasons I want to live in Egypt.
Reason Number 1: Chaos
You know what’s awesome about a developing country? The unpredictability. Nothing is promised and the most mundane activity can become an adventure. In short, it’s exciting – and you will never find that in Toronto. People there complain about a train being two minutes late – that’s early to me. Things are simple and efficient in civilised countries and that has its own appeal, but here the environment is different. We all complain about the traffic and the bureaucratic nonsense, but I see it as a certain type of freedom. To those who don’t want their lives timed to the second, Cairo can be an exhilarating place to live and work. You can have your business meeting at 2AM and you can start binge drinking at 3PM if that floats your boat, and it all blends into the chaos of the city.
Reason Number 2: Roots
There is something to be said about the Egyptian sense of community. It has negative side effects like our nosiness, how everyone needs to know everything about everyone (irony of being called Cairo Gossip?). But on the other hand, as groups of friends grow, we create really intimate, long-lasting relationships here. We can rely on one another; we can trust one another and that gives each person a support system. Yes, friendships and bonds exist everywhere in the world and I have certainly made my fair share of incredibly close friends from many different cultures and places. But as an Egyptian, my roots, my family, my friends and my home all exist in Egypt. The type of person I am and the life that I have lived have made my Egyptian roots a huge part of why I still live here.
Reason Number 3: MAYBE??
The third and most important reason I have for staying in this country I can only call, MAYBE?? The idea is that yes, Egypt as it currently stands, taking into consideration the poverty, appalling education standards, over-population and a general sense of unpleasantness, is a less than satisfying place to live for a lot of people. I am lucky enough to not be one of those people. I am lucky enough to be one of the people who can find jobs to work, has a satisfying social life and has found a sense of purpose in what I do and the relationships I have made. Being in this position also means that I am in a place where I can possibly have a positive effect on the country.
There is a lingering hope in me that MAYBE this country can be different. That MAYBE this new generation entering the work force can be the one that changes how this country runs. It is admittedly a dream that statistically won’t happen, and the reasons I have for staying are probably other people’s reasons for leaving. But the truth is none of us really know where this country is going or what this country could be one day. Therefore we all have a choice, whether we stick it out and see what’s going to happen, or find a way to get the hell out.
By Yusef Adris