Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No camels, no green card

Walking through the streets of Cairo, especially in the more touristy areas, foreign girls are often propositioned--jokingly--for marriage in exchange for camels.  "How many camels?" the shopkeeper in Khan el-Khalili, the largest touristy souq in Cairo, will often call out with a laugh. It's funny, I laugh, shake my head and keep walking. They're not serious, they just want to get your attention and business.

I'm worth 8 of these animals. Apparently 15 if I was obedient.
This isn't a phenomena limited to Egypt. I've had the same thing happen in Morocco, in Jordan, in Lebanon, probably every Arab country to which I have traveled. They know foreigners have certain stereotypes of Arabs and are happy to play on it for a joke.

My landlord came by my flat the other day because a mohandis was to come over to fix my AC--which has been broken for over a week. Unfortunately, the mohandis' phone was closed so I had to sit in my hot living room with the landlord for an hour, entertaining him and making small talk.

The conversation took a bit of an interesting turn when he proposed, in all seriousness, that I marry is brother. Or son. I'm really unclear which. The man he would like for me to marry is apparently 35, living in Lebanon, and working as an accountant for the Saudi king. For me that's all kind of gross. Saudis. This man does not want to marry an Egyptian woman. They're apparently lazy and don't like to clean.

If I married this man, he wouldn't just give me a room, but an entire flat. I'd be set in Cairo, khalas. But wait, I thought. Didn't my husband-to-be live in Lebanon? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of marriage, living in different countries?

Could he have a photo of me to show is brother/son? He would give me a photo of the dude in return. He couldn't wait to call whoever this guy is and tell him he found a perfect woman for him in Cairo.

My landlord was incredibly sneaky about the whole thing. There was this entire lead-up to the arranged marriage and I didn't even realize what he was doing until it was too late. I was stuck. I had no idea how to nicely extricate myself from the situation, especially since he was a guest in my house and I couldn't think of a way to kick him out nicely.

One of my friends later asked why I didn't take my landlord up on the offer. There were no camels offered, I responded. My mom would never agree to such an arrangement without proper payment.

"No camels, no green card!"

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