Thursday, 1 December 2011

Egypt - Our Love Affair

Three years ago to the day we were flying away to a new life in Egypt. At this time (5pm) we were actually in the air on the way to our big dream.....

We had fallen in love with the country in June 2008 when we had a holiday there. We were totally in awe of the temples and the history. We cruised the River Nile breathing in all the atmosphere of this wonderful place. When we left we were not sad as we knew, just knew we would return. Sooner than we thought.....

In November 2008 the UK was hit by a recession. We lost everything overnight. 2 businesses that our life savings had paid for. Gone. Just like that.

We remembered a conversation we had had on the ship with the restaurant and bar manager Ayman who became a very good friend. He said there would always be work for us in Egypt cleaning carpets. And we thought why not? We were both anxious to return, and we knew that if we didn't take this chance we would forever ask ourselves 'what if'?

So we sold our few possessions, left odds and sods with Steve's parents and we were off. The biggest sadness was parting with Arthur our Cocker Spaniel. But we knew it would be too hot for him there, so he was rehomed.

And on 1st December we flew to Luxor.

To say it was a disaster from the word go would not be entirely accurate. Interesting would be understating the case. It was an adventure.

We arrived with nowhere to live. The place we had previously paid a 6 month rent for had been sold from under us, so the agents had to find us an alternative. This alternative was owned by a West Bank villain who was arrested and imprisoned whilst we were living in his villa. We knew we couldn't stay there when men speaking Arabic knocked our door late at night demanding money for the electricity. We also knew the meter had been bypassed.

So we went to live with Judy and Ibi on the East Bank, They also became good friends.

Were our adventures over? No.

There were all the little back handers we had to pay to officials to get things done. There was the motorbike we bought but never owned. There was the 12 hour train journey to Cairo complete with mice running over our feet. Hoardes of dirty children begging for 'Baksheesh' every time I opened my purse......

And the people. The amazing, kind people who helped us when we needed it......

There was Angie who owns Arkwright's English Supermarket who gave us credit when we had nothing. (And I do mean nothing). Her husband John who kept our spirits up with his wonderful sense of humour. Ahmed the lawyer. Ayman (ship manager, remember?) who bought us a meal which probably cost him the equivalent of a week's wages. Betty, Judy's mum who gave us food. And Judy and Ib who were just wonderful.

And there was the ultimate - being ordered to leave the country at gunpoint. Our crime? We did not have work permits. 3 days later we were on a plane back to England.

Our adventure had lasted 4 months.

For a long time I hated the word 'Egypt'. I never wanted to hear it again let alone visit the place. But time is a great healer and we now know that we were too green to try to make a living in an Arab country. We were there like Babes in the Wood. And we want to return. Work? No. Holiday? Definitely. Maybe even retirement later on.

So now 3 years, and 6 homes later we are philosophical. It was a dream, but it went wrong. Do we regret it? No. We would have regretted not going.

We are now living a quiet life, doing a bit of carpet cleaning, growing ducks and whatever else we choose. We love where we live, we love who we live with. We still love Egypt. Just not most of the people.


Oh, and we married there. The first time.

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