This is not the cliche Egypt-is-a-big-circus-and-I-learned-to-cope post. These are life lessons that actually were embedded inside me ever since I stepped in here 2 years ago. I came here with different mindsets and goals, but somehow my stay here has shaped me, silvered my bronze thoughts.
To apply to university here, I had to do loads of paper work. Every single document was stamped and checked all around Egypt. And for every step I had to wait, and wait and wait.. And this basically applies to everything: driver’s license, renewing my passport and national ID and clubs. You’ll wait for traffic, for doctors, for buses, in parking lots basically everything will require you to wait. So with practice, I learned that some things take time, and therefore I must stay calm.
2- Passivity is a killer.
Be patient, but don’t be passive. When you see something wrong, raise objections, speak up. I was on my way home once after college when a traffic officer verbally harassed me. This wasn’t the first time, but on this very occasion I turned around and yelled at him till everyone turned around to see what was happening. And although the situation didn’t go beyond that, I felt relieved that I did what I was able to do at that moment given the circumstances. Read more here.
3- Do not let the world make you bitter
You will see so much negativity, from bad habits, to awful behavior, to crimes and a lot of unfortunate events will take place as you live. If you let these happenings control you and your lifestyle, you will live a bitter, depressing life, that’s full of fear and/or indifference and unhappiness. Live, learn and move on with a warm, open heart. I have learned to be wholeheartedly kind, to look at people and situations as opportunities, and to see the world in a light that allows me to be content with whatever it brings.
4- Stay away from people who exhibit negative energy
I went through a phase where everything in my life was going wrong, the last thing I wanted was for someone to rub it in my face. Honestly, I can no longer stand pessimists, complainers and party-poopers. I can sometimes categorize them as passive too. In all cases, you don’t want to be around those because they will drag you down in their pool of unhealthy energy.
5- Keep your relationships healthy and alive.
ALWAYS, always call your family and check up on them. Even if they’re busy, even if they never ask, even if they’re the most obnoxious people ever. Call them every once in a while and show them that you care. Do the same with your friends and distant relatives. Allocate time to message them asking about how they are. Parents are the topmost priority in your life.
I can’t stress more on this, especially after I left my family and came to live here without them, we became immensely close and I learned that they’re the base of everything and that you can never repay them back.
6- The simplest things are the most profound
Ever look at the porter’s children and notice how happy they actually are? Or the sincere smile of the woman who sells vegetables on the pavement, when you flash her a smile? Ask yourself what do they have (or not have) that makes them like that? Less complexity, less technology, less hard feelings, and more faith despite life’s hardships. I happened to get a long with my life for a few days, forgetting about social networks and my phone etc.. and believe it or not, I felt unbelievably free. So don’t hold grudges, don’t show off. Live and let live.
7- Speaking of freedom, it is a state of mind
I knew freedom only when I came here. There’s a misconception about freedom when it is mentioned, so I must say that when I say freedom I mean my personal ability to voice my thoughts and having the strength to agree or disagree with people and ideologies. I also mean freedom when I say that I can do what feels right for me without fear, and detaching myself from people and ideologies that cripple my agenda. The reason I say I feel free here, because – as sentimental as it sounds – Egypt gives me strength, and will power. The more sense of right and wrong that I obtain, the more I feel that I’m supported to pursue higher levels of self development.
8- Do not judge
As Egyptians we unfortunately have the habit of constantly judging people. Fill yourself with love and compassion and empathy, give yourself a chance to see people in a new light and always find excuses for them. Watch this. & this.
9- Do not rely on people. (As much as you can)
I hate to say a lot of people will let you down. Starting from group projects, to work, to people in the street. If there’s anything you can do alone, then make sure you do it.
10- Work for the sake of work – oh and do your work well
Do not expect recognition and appreciation from people because unfortunately again they’re not good at it. Before you do something, decide that you’ll do it for your own sake, and for welfare’s sake. You will be repaid back someday. Trust me. Next, complete the work to the fullest. Set long and short term goals, and do your best to achieve them.
11- Be the change. Please.
Honestly this is golden advice. If there’s something you want to see in the world around you, start with yourself. Give to the community and to the people, with all the abilities that you’ve got.
12- Religion and culture
Whatever it is that you believe in, know it well, and follow it with your heart. The Egyptian culture and traditions are really interesting and usually have stories behind them, but you don’t need to follow them to the letter if you think that they’re illogical.
13- Egypt is beautiful
Look up. Look around you. Egypt’s actually a beautiful country, tell your friends to come and have a tour, take care of your neighborhood, visit old spots in your city, explore around and enjoy the atmosphere there, be grateful for everything in your life, and indulge in anything that can make you appreciate your life and self better.