zombies

To Drive Is to Learn a Culture: Enter the British Zombies

I will not lie. I thought I knew all there was to know about driving. That is until I started trying to get a British driver’s license.

The dreaded British learners' L-plates.

The dreaded British learners’ L-plates.

I have been driving since the age of 15. That’s 30 years of driving experience. I first learned to drive in the United States. I left the US before I could finally qualify for a driver’s license. But I quickly picked up my driving once I eventually settled in Egypt. At 18, the legal driving age in Egypt, I answered the simple test questions that I was given about signs and I took the 5-minute practical exam, driving around some cones. I passed. Many Egyptians never take that exam. They find someone who knows someone at the police department and get it done automatically; with some money passed under the table, of course.

Since then I have driven in many countries of the world. I have rented cars in the US, Turkey, and many European countries to make transportation easier and more comfortable while on extended holidays. I vividly recall one of the lessons I learned during my driving classes in high school in the US: Follow the speed of other cars on the road. While driving in a foreign country, I have applied this general rule when I am not fully aware of the driving culture in that country. I observe what other drivers do and I imitate them, driving at the general speed of the road and figuring out signs and symbols based on how drivers react to them.

The main part of my 30 years of driving has been in Egypt; Cairo to be more precise. I once explained driving in Cairo to someone by saying, “The main rule of driving in Egypt is knowing that we’re all in this together and we’ll just help each other along the way so that we all eventually arrive at our destination.”

To be honest, that’s not the real main rule. The real main rule is: EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! Get to your destination using any means possible. There is NO ONE more important than you on that road. Anything you see is simply an obstacle to overcome, go around, or ram into.

The reality is that we have no real rules of driving in Egypt. We have no Egyptian Highway Code that I am aware of. Our driving culture is one of getting onto the road, doing your best to stay on it, and doing your best to get to where you need to get without having too many accidents on the way.

My husband Colin spent a month in Egypt and during that month I tried to teach him the rules of Egyptian driving. (more…)

Advertisements

When It’s All Right to Be Judgmental of a Whole Country and the Zombies Who Occupy It

For a few years now I have prided myself on being a non-judgmental person.

Until yesterday, that is, when I wrote a blog post implying that a significant portion of the Egyptian population was brainwashed.

It wasn’t my blog post that made me stop and think. The blog post was actually quite a hit and I received lots of positive feedback about it from Egypt and around the world. What got to me were comments I received from two people on two separate occasions in the past three days. One told me I needed to calm down. The other told me to give myself space to have a “clearer head”.

Calm down?? I thought. CALM DOWN?? I’M THE F#$%ING CALMEST PERSON IN THE WHOLE BLOODY COUNTRY! Clear head?? IT LOOKS LIKE I’M THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY WHO HASN’T BEEN BRAINWASHED YET!!

“A bit patronizing of you,” I responded to the second person.

That is when I stopped to think. (more…)

What Does It Take to Brainwash the Egyptian People?

Apparently not that much.

“If [army chief] Al-Sisi wants us to go out [to the streets], then we will go out,” wrote one female Egyptian columnist in Al-Masryal-sisi Al-Yowm daily newspaper. She was writing in response to Al-Sisi’s July 24 call to the Egyptian people to take to the streets the following Friday to give the army a mandate to confront “violence and potential terrorism.”

“Frankly, he doesn’t need to invite or order us. All he needs to do is wink… And if he wants to have four wives, we’re at his service. If he wants us as melk el-yemeen [members of his harem], I swear we aren’t above that!” said the much enthused writer.

Al-Sisi’s 40-minute speech on July 24 was reminiscent of Egypt’s first (or second, depending on who you ask) president, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Speaking with dark sunglasses in his sharp military uniform, he appealed to the Egyptian people with storytelling and apparent sincerity. “I swear to God, I swear to God, I swear to God,” Al-Sisi repeated, “the Egyptian army is as united as the heart of one man,” he said in response to rumors that the army was split over the ousting of Morsi. (more…)