I do. I live a royal life here. At times I have to remind myself just how royal I am. The weird thing is I calculated on the bus on the way to work yesterday that since I moved to Cairo I have earned 18% of what I earned the previous 2 years in London. That’s 5 times less! That is shocking! Yet I am living in ways I could not have dreamed of in London.
So when my life long friend skyped me yesterday and looked at me in shock when I told him what I’m bringing home these days I had to “switch it on him” (the rap talk is coming back – God help us) I had to “give it to him African street style” – “flipmode” – I live “the high life ma brother.” I am King Cairo.
Firstly, can you imagine needing a headache tablet at 11pm and getting one delivered to your door? or hayfever pills, nappies, crisps….CRISPS FOR GOD SAKES! And just phoning a shop and having it (yes 1 item, ONE) arrive in 5 minutes flat?
Can you imagine being able to order ANY food you want to your house at midnight? Including KFC and McDonalds? I know! In London you order pizza and after about 11pm you can forget that too. You can order an Indian or Chinese but when you only eat Halal your options are severely limited. (Unless you live in the Muslim ghettos of Hounslow, or Tooting, or Southall etc and let’s face it……why would you want to do that? – Sorry all the people in those areas – but you know I’m right)
Forget that. I call a guy when my car is broken down and he goes and gets it fixed for me. It’s cheaper because the mechanics know that I’m foreign and triple the price when I go to them. He returns a few hours later with my car fixed. I’m a bit lucky with this one, most people don;t have this luxury, but then again there can only be one King Cairo. Before I found Hussein, my trusty driver and altogether brilliant “get things done” man, I used to take the car to the garage myself and we all know what that was like!
Forget even that. On Friday mornings I call my Bawab from my balcony, high above the dusty ground levels made for mere mortal men, and he pops off to get us, the whole family of 6, an Egyptian breakfast feast of fuul, tamaaya (felafel), bread, cheese (gebna bieyda), ghargheer (rocket), olives, fruit, juice – the whole “shabang”. Fresh and hot. I don’t phone him – read it again…FROM THE BAL-CO-NY!!! (A word British people only get to say on holiday) Because he is outside WASHING MY CAR. I didn’t even ask him to do it – (you’re still thinking like a Londoner) – he does it ANYWAY….EVERYDAY…..AAADY (normal). The whole thing….the WHOLE THING…12LE (1 pound 20p sterling).
“My coat Jeeves…come on…hop to it…”
Talking of the car…… in London I used to wash my car once a fortnight or more recently when I left I would take it to one of the Polish hand-washed places which have sprung up EVERYWHERE in the capital as yet again, foreigners show the English what enterprise and entrepreneurship is. Granted I had a 7 series BMW with broadcast television and live rear view camera….old Bertha I used to call her….what I would do to have been able to bring you here where petrol is like 50% less. I don’t have a car now but in the summer when I get use of my mother -in-law’s car it get’s washed EVERY MORNING by my bawab. I don’t even have to think about it. I park it the night before dusty and dirty I get in it the next day – clean.
“The name is Kong…’King’Kong.”
I can park where I like. Free. I used to pay 150 sterling A YEAR!!!! (1500 LE) For the privilege of parking in the street outside MY OWN HOUSE in London. Hello?
I can drive downtown for free. In London I paid 10 sterling (100 LE) EVERT TIME I drove my car into the centre of London. And for you Egyptians thinking…”No problem ….just don’t pay” ….think again. The process is automated. Camera’s catch you and apply the charge. Computers issue the warning and the fine, which if not paid becomes 50 sterling (500 LE). I think it has now gone up to 25 pounds sterling…… Scandalous!
I could never afford a cleaner in London. I tried to sort it out countless number of times, but it just seemed like such an exhausting expense. Check out Homeclean (just the first site I found as an example). Are you kidding me? Seven pounds an hour? My cleaner, a 15 year old girl called…..not fair to really name her I guess we’ll call her…. Habiba, cleans my house for around 5 hours, from 7am to around 12 noon / 1pm. She takes 60 LE. That’s around 6 pounds sterling. Thats about 10 LE over the going rate where I live. That would be 350 LE in the UK. For 1 days cleaning? OMG. No thanks – I’ll clean it myself.
Oh don’t start on the fact she is 15 years old. She is engaged to be married. She is in comparison to the other bawab daughters on our street….”loaded” (has lots of money). She cleans for my whole building and half the blocks in the street. You have to book in advance to get her to do any extra days. She earns more money than her father. For someone who never went to school, she is very bright, cheerful, very honest, reliable and yes…..happy. She can’t wait to be married (so she tells us) and so feeling sorry for her is misplaced arrogance. Plus you know, Kings…. don’t pity we employ. Done that. Move on. Hand wave.
Remember ironing on Sunday night? Remember that? I have a guy that comes to the house and takes all my washing and brings it back washed and ironed. “That must be expensive,” I hear you say with your London thinking accent. Yes it is. It costs me a whopping 1 pound (10LE). I couldn’t buy my way on a bus in London for 1 pound sterling.
My electricity and gas bills come to (on average) about 100 LE a month. That’s a tenner. Yes 10 sterling. Haha! You couldn’t fart for 10 pound sterling a month in the UK (yes I said that – I don’t know what has gotten into me lately – I apologise….you shouldn’t read my diary out loud to your kids anyway – your fault not mine….you know what’s coming now don’t you? Yes…. I digress
Seriously though, Some things are really expensive here. Cars being a good example. There is NO second hand market here. A second hand car will cost you about as much as a new one as they keep their value so well. I don’t know why as every second hand car has what might as well be “bullet” holes and dents throughout the bodywork, but hey….. it’s a small price (well actually it’s a large price, but you get the idiom) to pay.
Then there is school. We pay nothing for decent schools in London. A poor child can study well and get all they need for a scholarship to Uni. I’m not saying that the Uni fees are not terrible in London, they are. But up until that point you can not complain about the standard of FREE schooling. I’d rather send my kids to Chechnya every morning than send them to the free schools here. You want top brass, you pay. International schools cost international prices and most of them are still rubbish anyway. A lot of the schools call them selves by international names when they are infact just Egyptian schools that run SATS or IG. Either way they fleece you for everything…uniforms, books, tuition, bus fares, stationary the whole lot. About three quarters of my money goes toward my kids schooling in some way or another. School isn’t where kids learn here in Cairo. It’s a business, an office owned by business men and women where kids go to read books, there is a difference. But if you can afford a good one, the level of education is better.
Oh and don’t get sick. Being sick costs money, having babies costs money. Seeing a doctor costs money. Going to hospital costs money. Health insurance is way to high. But, the dentist is much cheaper and the doctors visits are reasonable. I guess in the UK where healthcare, good healthcare too, is free, you can’t beat that.
All in all however, this is just too good. So when people ask me why I left a life of 5000 sterling a month in London to earn peanuts and borrow my mums car in Cairo I just giggle to myself. You know nothing.