Have you ever felt to belong to more than one country and have more than one identity???
Is that feeling something positive or negative to you? And how are you dealing with that feeling???
Today I’m having a tea with my friend Wala, she grew up in Florence and apparently we also lived in the same building while we were little but I never knew that until a few years ago a mutual friend introduced each other, via Facebook… We eventually found out that we had more in common than just that friend and even though our lives actually separated us, I still feel like I always knew her and it’s always good to have a little chat with her.
Like our mutual friend, Wala is a young girl with Egyptian origin, muslim, grew up in Florence where she graduated in Economics with a master degree in International Marketing in the Fashion Field.
Curious thing is that, contrary to what usually happened in the past years, she moved from Italy to Egypt. Since she decided to move I though it was an interesting change of course. And this is what we’re talking about today, with our tea, our slice of cheesecake and skype with the ocean in the middle.
L – Hey honey! how’s it going today?
W – Hey, good to see you! I’m fine thanks and the weather is so nice here in Cairo…as maybe you know we had a very cold week recently all over Egypt and I think that was the very first time to feel cold days since many years…and what about you dear? I know you love the snow but how you deal with it? cause it’s beautiful but at the same time it blocks everything…
L – Well yes you know me I go crazy for my beloved snow and luckily here they’re more ready than what we were in Florence so it’s not that bad after all. I can enjoy it with no negative side! At least for me… ahah
So for how long have you been in Egypt since you left Florence?
W – I’m officially relocated for 7 months now and let me tell you, it seems like I left Florence since ages…I dont really know how come time flies!!
L – yeah I know, I’ve been here a little longer but I feel exactly the same way. And how’s it going so far?
W – Well I would say “it’s going” ..by the way I have a job that I love, nice colleagues, nice home, nice weather, etc… But I do feel that something is missing, I’m not complete nor satisfied, I think that’s because as humans we never really feel satisfied in this complicated life.. 🙂 actually I’m giving myself a chance to live where what my culture and religion belong to and see if I recognize myself or not..that’s pretty much what I’m trying to show to myself.
L – I don’t exactly remember, probably because I was here already, but When and Why did you really decided to leave?
I decided to move last summer, I was strict and firmed on my decision even if all my egyptian friends were against me because, as you said, it’s usually known that people who live abroad (europe, usa, uae) are envied by who cant let go of his country and travel to another place searching for new opportunities ..And why??? It’s a little bit complicated but to who usually asks me why did I leave Italy, my answer is always like “unfortunately I started feelin bored, detached and demotivated” so I thought that Egypt could give me surely the atmosphere needed to cheer me up and it could have been a challenge to myself and all the people who didn’t trust me and thought that I won’t ever find my way (I can now say that they were all wrong).
L – Was that an easy choice? I mean did you always feel like you would’ve moved to Egypt one day or you really had to think about it?
W – Even if I wanted that for many years the decision wasn’t that easy at all…In fact I left Florence with the idea to spend a nice summer vacation as usual (like every year) and did not expect to take it seriously and find some good job opportunities in order to start a new life in Cairo….everything took place in a very fast way with no conditions and announcements.
L – Was there a specific fact or thing that made you take a decision?
W – Simply as 1 2 3 I was missing my relatives and friends here in Egypt and even if I may seem to be naive I was missing the land too, you know…If you didn’t hear this egyptian saying: “who drink the Nile water will come back again to Egypt” that means that there’s always something captivating between Egypt and its people or in general who comes and visits it..there’s some mysterious connection that makes you love it at first sight…So the main reason that makes me take the decision to move was of course the need to be nearer to my dear friends and to my beloved land…it’s something untouchable that maybe only people who went throught the same struggle could understand … growing up in a country so close to my heart for many reasons and at the same time so far from me because of cultural and religious points of view wasnt that easy…and the need of being 100% part of the society around me made me clear up my mind and make the most important decision of all my life…
L – Did you ever consider to move somewhere else?
W – Since my second hobby after shopping is traveling I was thinking to move to Dubai or Kuwait, especially after my trip to Kuwait where I discovered a beautiful country where hygiene & organization is mixed to its arabian taste, culture and origin which I loved so much and which I was always searching for since ever (however any arab place would have been suitable for me because there I will surely find myself more than a western place, known as cold and kind of racist in some ways). But at the end I wanted to start from my second home Egypt and experience the relocation in a place where I would not live alone but surrounded by all my relatives and friends so it could be much easier for me!
L – So even though you were born and grew up in Florence, would you say that you still feel that sort of racism from western society?
W – I started to feel it once I put on the veil…and especially from old people. That made me obviously take the decision more quickly but it wasnt a sort of escape from Italy… I would say a break from my native place to see if it’s worthy to come back to my origins and live in an atmosphere that suits me more than Europe and suits my culture and religion.
L – Stupid question do you feel more Egyptian or more Italian?
W – I guess three quarter Italian and half Egyptian (I don’t care about math in this case ahaha) …my mind is italian but my look and religion are arabian…that’s simply what I can say about what I really feel inside! But actually I’m the kind of person who lived all her life stuck between two countries, two realities, two cultures, everything I felt was divided in two parties and never lived at the fullest…I’m the kind of person who before starting to speak I think in italian and then translate in my head the speech in arabic 😀 I’m not kidding that always happens!!! I talk to my italian friends about egypt like it’s my homecountry, and viceversa when I speak to my egyptian friends about italy same thing happens…it’s so weird believe me !!! When I was little and people used to ask me if I love more Italy or Egypt my answer was always in Italy’s favour cause there I spent all my childhood and I was living with my dad, mum and little sister so the perfect scenario for a complete and united family.
L – Was moving to Cairo as you imagined? Was it better or worse?
W – I can barely say that my expectations weren’t fulfilled but at the end disappointments gave me more power and strength to keep going on the way I chose. The most positive thing of this relocation is obviously the job I found, I couldn’t be happier about it. The problem came at the start when I landed on Egypt and had to deal with the Egyptians 😀 As a “stranger” I found myself in many cases and situations where I couldn’t know what to say or do and how to deal with these people. Old friendships ended, people has changed and that made me feel more uncomfortable for several months untill I get used to it…I learned that what I left in Italy is totally different and maybe truer than what I found here in Egypt. The thing that I can’t explain to anyone is the warmth that this country is enable to give you since you touch its land. Regarding it’s people I think they need a sort or re-build or re-behaving …
L – When you say truer you mean your friendships?
Exactly, you got the point! I have many friends here in Egypt since my childhood, but time by time I started to doubt about them…Raising in a place like Italy where all people are true more or less and act spontaneously made me feel a little bit unhappy of the people here…I’m talking about Egyptians in general but what happened in my case made me be more close to the others and pay attention only to the quality of my friends rather than the quantity ;).
L – Would you say that your “veiled head” was an obstacle in Italy or the crisis was the major problem in terms of finding a job?
W – More probably my “veiled head”… It’s funny cause when I didn’t find a job the reason was the veil and when I found it, it was because of my veil too. That was crazy but so much satisfying! In many cases I was asked to take it off during the working hours and obviously this is not permitted in Islam. Unfortunately when I travelled within Europe I saw how other countries deal with veiled people or even with foreigners in general and Italy has the worst attitude towards them. Don’t blame me but this is actually the reality from my point of view!
L – Don’t worry I see what you’re saying, I do love my country and I miss it a lot but I know that we’re really behind when we talk about understanding other cultures or point of view. We’re working on it though, I’m confident! 🙂 By the way do you miss Florence?
W – Definitely Yes! Starting from the food, the landscapes, the weather, my friends, all the italian and florentine habits ….Everything about it means so much to me and when I’m far away all the little details remind me of my beloved hometown. Sometimes I just wanted to leave everything behind and catch the first flight just to have a nice scroll on Ponte Vecchio with a good ice cream from La Carraia in my hand. I know sometimes I’m so dreamy ….Now I’m just waiting for my upcoming vacation to head over to Florence for a needed “back to basics” time.
L – Oh yeah honey I know you’re dreamy, that’s why we get along! So since your family is from Ismailia how was it to move to Cairo? Did you feel at home immediately or you felt a little lost?
Because of my current job I moved from Ismailia to Cairo 5 months ago and that was absolutely my biggest and bravest change. I’ve never stayed in Cairo for more than one day so I couldn’t know very well the streets and how to drive since it’s a huge capital, so my first months here were almost a disaster …I got lost many times and even the Gps (in arabic) wasn’t really helpful …Now I live in New Cairo area, a nice and calm place where everything is right around the corner and I started to memorize the streets and directions and that relieved me!!
L – How’s life for a single indipendent woman in Cairo? Would you say that it’s pretty much the same in all the country or Cairo is more “modern” ?
W – Well in Cairo I feel like I’m in Italy but with extra traffic, chaos etc… It’s more “modern” for sure and since it’s the biggest city of Egypt people mind their own business and nobody knows me here so I can live in peace without annoying people who are trying to know every single details of your daily life. I really like living here!
L – Well that’s nice 🙂 First positive impression and first negative?
W – First positive impression: feeling at home in a certain way (finally many heads veiled like me :D)
First negative impression: clash between my european mentality and education and an arabian society
L – Are you feeling in the right place at the right time?
W – I would say Yes! I know that “now” is not the right time for Egypt (as a country) political/economical/social wise but I feel it right for me, as Wala …I needed to move from Italy 7 months ago and I did it, that’s it,no more no less..and till now with all the ups & downs I’m happy with this decision, I have no regrets.
L – Would you ever consider going back to Florence or you feel like you’re gonna put down roots there?
W – Well you know, at the moment I can’t really figure out how my life will be in the next 5 years.. I wish I could put down roots and obviously I think that it could happen here in Egypt …Going back to Italy wouldn’t be that difficult since I have the nationality and many friends but I guess my return will be mostly for vacation. At the end of the day we wish, we plan and then God will see what’s good for us to grant our life…I trust him and have no worries about my future. Let’s think positive 🙂
L – Well I’m sure you’re gonna have everything your dreamy head is dreaming about!
I’m here now and I’m not sure where life is gonna take me, we also didn’t really share much time together in Florence so I can’t say I’m gonna miss you but thanks to these modern times we have technology in our favor so we can keep having our little chat every once in a while with a cup of tea and a slice of cheesecake!
Have a good night honey!
W – Right! And thanks for the nice chat! Good night to you dear!