Monday, June 14, 2010

Marina, Egypt

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One of my house-guests invited my roommates and I to the private resort town of Marina on Egypt's Mediterranean coast last weekend. Her friend had a family beach house there. My roommates and I jumped at the opportunity to escape Cairo for a Mediterranean getaway only 3 hours away! 

When we arrived, Marina seemed  to me to be a South Florida suburban community that had been planted in the Egyptian desert. Beyond the high gates and the security checkpoint lay manicured lawns, flower beds, and even a man made private beach! We kicked off our street clothes and changed into our bathing suits, women in bikinis and men in swim trunks, immediately. We were looking forward to the feeling of sun on our skin. Once we trotted over to the man made beach, we were surprised to see that the beach was conservative. The owner of the beachhouse had not thought to tell us that the beach was conservative so we were unprepared to change into anything else. Our barely covered bodies were met with hard stares from the women in burkinis (pictured on the left), curious glances from the children, and jeers and propositions from the men still in their street clothes on the sand. The people watched every move we made as we played in the water or walked along the beach.

Late into the afternoon, my roommates and I left the others on the beach and returned to the beach house to shower. I'd taken a dip in the man-made beach to find that the water was murky and had a strange after taste. When I reached down to grab some of the muddy sand at the bottom, I found my hand covered in black soot! I couldn't wait to wash the unfamiliar water off my body! Once we were done showering, we changed into long sundresses befitting the laid-back vibe we'd imagined the beach town would have. Making sure to cover our bare arms with sweaters or shawls, we began to walk into town for dinner. To my surprise, the private resort town was filled with the same uncouth people that plagued Cairo. Having enough money to afford access to Marina clearly didn't mean one had class. Cars full of young men passing by slowed to make lewd comments at us. Having grown accustomed to the ignorance of Egyptian men, my Somali roommate and I barely glanced at them. After a few kilometers, however,  my white roommate snapped and began to meet the insults of the  men with a fleet of insults of her of her own, making the situation quite amusing to me and quite possibly worse lol! 

Unfortunately, matters only got worse when the men joined us for dinner. Our multicultural group seemed to scandalize the other diners and the wait-staff more than our bikinis had earlier. People openly pointed at us and made disapproving comments as we ate. At one point, I looked up from my conversation to notice a hijabi woman staring at me unabashedly for more than 15 minutes. Later on, I found that the blogger at Life with Maya described a similar experience when she took her adoptive Ethiopian daughter to another resort town in Egypt, Ain Sokna. Frustrated, I leaned over to my friend- a blonde hair, blue eyed all American type- sitting next to me and planted a kiss firmly on his cheek. The hijabi woman leaped out of her seat as if it was her cheek that my cold lips had unexpectedly touched! Scandalized, the gossipy woman walked over to her friend at another table and drew her attention to our table. We all doubled over laughing at her reaction!


That night, we went to the newly built Porto Marina, a huge structure filled with expensive shops, condos, restaurants, a boardwalk, and a venetian river that snaked through the center.  Gondola's glided through the river with families contently snuggled inside. I was grateful for the fact that fewer people were out that evening than earlier in the day. We were able to explore the boardwalk and go largely unnoticed. We watched the France vs. Uruguay World Cup game on a flat screen in a coffee shop. The futbol game immediately changed the mood in the coffee shop. Suddenly we were arm in arm with Egyptian fans cheering for our team or booing the other! Audible gasps were heard when the opposing team had the ball. When France or Uruguay scored, fans patted each other on the back and high fived. As the game ended with a tie, we left the coffee shop feeling exhilarated by the sportsmanship and comradery! 

10 comments:

iamatraveler said...

Frenchie, you are really brave to deal with the level of disrespect and intolerance that surround you in Egypt. I had no idea that the people of Egypt could be as hostile to dark skinned people as they appear to be in your blog. I've always wanted to make Egypt one of my destinations, but now I'm hesitant. Thank you for enlightening me with your stories.

Frenchie said...

Traveler, I'd advise you to go,see the sights, and go home lol. Seriously though, my experience in Egypt is wholly my own and you may or may not experience the same. There are ways to avoid the negativity in any country or reduce your exposure to it. At times ignorance can truly be bliss

Janco said...

Burkini... i had no idea

Nikita said...

Wow, that's crazy. I was offered a job in an international school in Cairo but took the job in Hong Kong instead because it pays way more money... I always wondered what it would have been like if I had gone to live there (being a Black female). Thanks for providing me with some perspective!

Vera B. said...

Was it that serious she had to leap out of her seat? Those sort of things must don't happen often there but i've heard about that place and it's not a place i'd would want to visit but it would be interesting to visit. I'll have lots of stories to tell and i'll be more than willing to tell them.

Matt said...

Scandalous my friend!

Maybe she wanted a kiss of her own and she was just really really jealous?

justtab said...

weird after taste? why were u tasting the water...

Frenchie said...

lol I was dripping on my face once I got out of the water and I tasted it

gotToBeMe said...

Hi imatraveler, not to butt in, but I am a black female that has returned from a 1+ year volunteer experience in Cairo Egypt. I think Frenchie made a valid point when she said that her experiences were her own and that you may not experience the same. You can't let one person's experience discourage you from anything, take the insight but don't make your decisions off of it (you'll never go anywhere in that case). I know black people that have been have liked it so much in Cairo that they have come back 5 or 6 times or became long term residents..and these are very educated,older, well travelled conscious people, so i think it has less to do with ignorance just differing perspectives on life in general. I would not discourage anyone from traveling anywhere in this world, let's be realistic, when you are black, you are going to face some racist incidents. I volunteered at a church with refugees and at a women's empowerment group and it was at many time frustrating, depressing and above all the most rewarding experience I had on this earth. Yes, there is racism here but I had more positive experiences from Egyptians than negative by a longshot and I was, in many times, areas many tourists/students never lay eyes on. So, I say, experience it for yourself, it's your experience to be had and yours alone. Do not skip on Aswan especially, it is the most beautiful place in Egypt in my opinion where you will find many people like us

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with gotToBeMe that Aswan is a MUST SEE for everyone. Such beautiful people and warm hospitality.
I am of Haitian descent and was in Egypt 10 yrs ago. In my experience, Egyptians either love you or hate you. In some instances, I was treated very badly and at times I was treated better than I was in Canada.

I really do love this blog! :-)

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