Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maadi Suburbs of Cairo

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Roommate listening to the Call to prayer from the mosque outside our balcony

I made the move from Downtown Cairo to the suburbs of Maadi at the beginning of the summer. The degree of harrasment downtown finally reached a level that I couldn't excuse any longer. During my time living there, downtown Cairo felt like an amalgamation of all the worst aspects of human kind were being unsuccessfully suppressed there.

Maadi can sometimes seem like a different world. The area is populated by many expats and foreign families. I stumbled upon Cairo's version of Chinatown here where many Chinese food restaurants, Japanese sushi bars, and Korean BBQ restaurants were sprinkled around the neighborhood of Asian families! Like Zamalek island on the Nile, Maadi is an area meant to cater to foreigners taste as best as Egypt can provide. Metro Market, a completely Western supermarket, sits right off the El Maadi metro stop filled with splurge imports from Fruit Loops to Earl Grey tea. English is widely spoken and understood by those providing service in the stores and shops. Traditional Egyptian stores and markets are also available and well stocked all over Maadi.
McD's drive thru in Maadi



on Rd. 9, One of the many Chinese food restaurants in Maadi

When one first steps foot into Maadi, you assume that the Egyptians who live here are accustomed to foreigners and more open-minded. In reality, you soon realize it's the other way around; it's the foreigners in Maadi who are accustomed to the Egyptians and no longer feel obligated to abide by their social norms. Many foreign families here have private drivers, nannies and maids,and send their children to private school which limit their contact with the locals. They send the maid to do the shopping and have the driver take them to the latest restaurant and pick them up so that hey don't have to bother with taxis or public transportation. Their children are in private school in their national language and don't need to speak Arabic. Their homes here are elaborate fortresses and the dusty old apartment buildings carefully hide the modern lofts inside. Many of the nice villas also come with their own security detail.My current apartment beautifully blends ostentatious crystal chandeliers, hard wood floors,and old world charm. Foreign restaurants shops,and posh cafe's line the streets. It's one of the few parts of town where you will find foreign women, or their Filipino maids, pushing children in strollers and wearing short sleeve shirts with their knees bare. Maadi  is comparatively lush compared to other parts of Cairo. Tree lined streets and grassy lots, both a rarity in Cairo, are haphazardly displayed around Maadi with some semblance of urban planning.  Maadi is also relatively quiet compared to the rest of the city in which the honking of cars all day and night blocks out the any other sound.
One of the many walled off villas in Maadi
Boys playing soccer outside of my apartment
Maadi has been a welcomed relief from the rest of Cairo but it is not without it's share of nuisances. Many Sudanese woman live in Maadi and the local boys have cultivated ways and means to harass them and anyone they mistake for Sudanese. Thus, I've been known to fire off a barrage of insults on perverts that have gotten to close as they try to proposition me and even had to dump a bottle of water on one teenage boy who wouldn't leave me alone as I waited for the AUC bus. In another incident, My roommate's behind was groped by a passing car as she walked down Road 9 on her way to a restaurant. However, the harrasment here is less frequent than it was downtown, which isn't saying much. At times, the service at local restaurants leaves much to be desired and one can suddenly find that the price of products change drastically when the "foreigner price" is applied. For example, a tailor tried to charge me 140 LE to tailor 2 dresses and a coat when the "Egyptian price" was only 50 LE. I ended up taking it to another tailor who only charged 70LE. Another trade-off to living in Maadi is that it quickly becomes a "bubble". Living downtown, I was forced to speak Arabic almost all the time because so few people could communicate well in English. I've noticed that I practice speaking Arabic a lot less in Maadi which is definitely a downside. Overall, however, Maadi is one of the more pleasant areas in Cairo. The setting is more tranquil and pretty, there are fewer people and less traffic, and one can enjoy some semblance of home as well as the best Egypt has to offer!

In the News:
Redevelopment of Cairo aims to trade chaos for elegance 
Why Egyptians don't revolt
PETA in Cairo : Spice up your life, go vegetarian
Wealthy Egyptian business families venture abroad
The Nubian dream: Caught between old and new

3 comments:

Luckie said...

I am officially living vicariously through you!:-)

Luckie

Anonymous said...

Hi, I live in cairo too, & im actually looking for a tailor so i'd appreciate if you could give me his address. Thank you

Frenchie said...

Hi guys,

I'm sorry, I dont recalls the name of the tailor but he was in the Maadi Mall. Bottom floor towards the back. There will be a series of tailors in the back corner. He is the last to second to last in that series.

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