We migrated to Egypt in mid November 2011. It was almost the end of the Egyptian revolution. The situation was stable but security was still questionable. Some of my friends and relatives called it bad timing. They asked why we would we want to migrate to a politically unstable country. It was only for one reason. My husband was so homesick, he just had to return, after living away from Egypt for more than 15 years. Me – how do I feel? Frankly speaking, I don’t feel anything. I was neutral. One part of me empathized with my husband while another part was kind of excited to move to another country. I guess I’m the adventurous type. I’ve always wanted to leave my home country and live in another country. Just to experience life in a different place, different climate and culture. And finally opportunity knocked on my door and I just said yes.
The first few months were kind of difficult for all of us, particularly me and my two teenaged children. First, there was the language barrier. Although we know Arabic, we were not that fluent, hence, our social life was kind of affected. People here don’t really speak English. There was Arabic everywhere – street names, building names, shops, schools, TV shows – there was hardly any English at all (we didn’t have satellite TV then).
But the main issue was security. Having born and lived in very peaceful, safe and modern country, my teenaged children and I found life in Egypt totally suffocating. Why? We were deprived of so many things. We were DEPRIVED of freedom – we couldn’t go out without being escorted by my husband, not even to the grocery store. Why? Because there were still sporadic violence, attacks and riots in certain places and at random times. My husband didn’t want to take any chances. It’s either go out with him or stay at home.
We were DEPRIVED of sports. My children are sports enthusiasts. They played sports every single day in my home country – tennis, basketball, soccer, running, cycling, squash, badmintion – you name it. We practically did no sports at all due to security reasons. Not only that, sports facilities are very scanty in this town. There is hardly any green fields due to the dry and hot climate. Playing soccer in desert sand is not that appetizing. There is hardly any basketball, badminton or squash courts. There are swimming pools but it was winter when we came so forget about swimming in pools or at the sea. Playing sports was no longer in our daily or weekly agenda when we moved to Egypt.
We were DEPRIVED of social life. No entertainment, very infrequent visits to relatives, no shopping, no going to the movies, no going to the beaches or museums or entertainment centers etc etc etc. Life was mainly going to school and coming back home. Not only because of security reasons, but it was also because this town lacks all of these basic amenities. Beaches are not clean and too far away. Cinemas only show Arab movies and anyway there were scary stories of assault and kidnapping in cinemas. So, again, we didn’t take any chances. Shopping is also a nightmare. Prices skyrocketed after the revolution. There was hardly any big shopping malls, just many small shops around with gawking sales staff impatient for you to buy something.
Then came June 2012 when President Morsi was elected. We were hoping that at least security and stability can be restored. But things got worse in June 2013 when President Morsi was ousted from power by a military coup. The country was thrown into turmoil one more time – riots, attacks, assaults, bomb explosions, gunfire – there was chaos after chaos, attacks after attacks. We were living in fear. Fear for our safety. Fear for my husband’s safety who was always outside, working and doing errands.
It was then that I realized something. Having experienced the unstable political situation first hand, it suddenly dawned on me that all my life, we had been DEPRIVED of this aspect of life. We had been DEPRIVED of feelings of fear, anguish, anxiety, frustration and remorse – those feelings that people in Palestine, Bosnia, Syria, Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ireland, and many other parts of the world had faced or are still facing – due to the effects of war.
And it made me think that the DEPRIVATION of all these feelings has made me and my family take things for granted. We took our freedom for granted. We took our wealth, health, peace, happiness, safety, education, and family for granted. We didn’t realize that other people in other parts of the world have to fight for their lives. They have to fight for food, for homes, for land, for family, for their honor, respect, beliefs, health, safety, education and basically their rights for a good life. We had taken all these things for granted because we were protected from all the negativities of life. In my safe country, we don’t see war, we don’t see suffering or poverty, diseases, violence or corruption. We basically have been DEPRIVED of the knowledge about the afflictions and sufferings of people from other countries.
So I started to think that moving to Egypt is not a bad timing at all. It was a blessing in disguise. Back in my hometown, we had been living in a cocoon, protected from all dangers and violence. But now, having been exposed to all these violence and sufferings, my children and I really understood the meaning of fear, suffering, pain and desperation. It has made us become more aware about life, how fragile it is and how volatile it is. It makes us appreciate the good things that we had before. It made us sympathize and empathize with people in war-torn countries and disease-stricken areas.
My children learnt a very big lesson during the last couple of years, mainly from 2011 till 2014. They learnt that war is no longer a distant subject. It’s not just something in the textbook about people long ago. It was here. In front of their eyes. There is no better teacher than real-life experiences.
I hope that my children will grow up to be better persons. I hope they will become more appreciative and grateful and not take things for granted anymore. Because they are no longer DEPRIVED of the true meaning of war and suffering.