Monday, April 15, 2013

Hijrah Questions from Readers


Asalamu Alaykom,



Have a question about making hijrah?  Go ahead and raise your hand.

Haleema has contacted me with some questions.  I'm going to list them here and get back to them later, either today or in the coming days.  If you, as a reader with knowledge of life in Egypt, would like to answer them from your perspective that's fine.  I'll publish your responses in the comments section (remembering that all my comments are monitored and won't appear until I've reviewed them).

Wa Alaikum as Salaam Yosra, 

Well, I'll list my questions inshaAllah. 


1.  We are looking to rent an apartment and/or possibly buy land. 


I hear your need to settle down right away but most people need to be immersed in Egypt before really understanding if they want to live here permanently.  It's a very heady place and full of life----almost constantly.  In addition, it's noisy, crowded, and dirty.  It's also, since the Revolution, very unpredictable and, at times, deadly violent.

Does that mean I don't want you to give it a try?  Wallahi, anyone who feels so moved in their spirit to make hijrah should do it.  I would like to ask you why, in particular, you feel like Egypt is the place?  You don't have to tell me, of course, but you should figure it out for yourself.  Have you visited here before?  You should know how committed you are to making this move work.  What if it doesn't feel good?  Are you going to bail?  What if you hit a wall of homesickness or run short on money?  You need to figure out your resolve to making hijrah here.

Okay, you didn't ask me what I thought about the idea in general.  You asked me about housing.  However, I do think that you need to see the reality of this place before you make too many decisions.

What I'm going to strongly recommend is that you decide what your daily life is going to be in Egypt and then  make housing plans after that.  Is someone going to school at Al-Azhar?  Is someone teaching English?  Is there a masjid you love?  Is there a neighborhood where you want to do all your shopping?  Maybe you know people here.  Whatever is the pull to a place, you need to set up your housing close to that.

No, there is not a perfect place---not in Egypt (and not anywhere in this world).  Yet, in Egypt, there are some REALLY horrible places because of transportation logistics.  I have a pregnant co-worker who spends four hours a day in a bus.  Can you imagine that?  She lives in one of these "nice" places in the middle of nowhere and she works across town. You should not live in a place in which you have nothing but an apartment.  You should live in a place which has masjids, shopping, schools, employment, mass transit, and so on.  

Buying land shouldn't even cross your mind at this time.  Unless someone is full Egyptian in your family, you can't buy land in Sinai.  I'm not sure about other restrictions.  Deal with such a huge idea later.



It's interesting you mentioned your co-worker is 

pregnant and what she has to go through, because I 

also am pregnant, and wanted to know the medical 

situation over there. 

I've been very pleased with my medical care here.  I didn't have enough money to see the doctor in America but I do here.  It is easy to get an appointment or walk in.  There can be a long wait (so bring a book) but that's life in Africa's most populated city.


Do you have to have insurance like in the West? 

There is something available through my work, though I haven't joined up.  It's my first workplace with this option.

I am interested in having a natural birth with midwife 

and doula as I did my first child… is this 

possible in Egypt? Hard to find?



I have not had a baby in Egypt.  I had a miscarriage in Egypt and that was enough for me.  I have had friends and co-workers go through the process.  To your advantage, having a baby at home is relatively normal deal in Egypt (unlike the West). 

The problem, as I see it, is the transportation nightmare were you to run into complications.  You simply would not be transported in time to save the life of your baby.  There is no ambulance which speeds through town.  No one really is able to let it through the traffic.  

Another problem is that pre-term babies are not given enough chance for survival.  I don't have the exact weeks that a baby must be for them to try to save the life but it's something like week 28.  If your baby is before that time, and you deliver, the staff will not do all they can.  That baby is actually ineligible for saving.  It happened to a friend of a friend.  

One more problematic issue and it's huge:  women's bodies with babies are not seen as belonging to them.  A pregnant woman is carrying her man's baby and therefore all decisions get made by him.  That is a little scary.  We need to have a say on our lives!  Obviously, a loving husband will look out for you but it's the thought that you're only the carrier of a man's offspring is dangerously discounting.  

Yet, a mother is very respected in Egypt.  Everyone still carries that she gets a seat on the bus, for example.  A breastfeeding mom is honored.  A tired mom is helped by her community of sisters.  Children, even crying and crabby ones, are beloved members of society.  There are benefits to being here.

Back to your home search...

What is the cheapest apartment (1BDRM) we can get and where? 


I want you to realize how Egypt is a big mix of rich and poor and often on the same block.  We have neighbors in mansions and hovels.  Our family is middle-class (or even lower middle-class).  We live comfortably.  

I would not recommend a one-bedroom.  It's better to get a two-bedroom for the three of you.  You'll be retreating to your home more than you imagine.  You cannot be cramped or you'll freak.  

A two-bedroom is around 1,500-3,000 LE a month, depending on the details.  Again, you can't be wanting the cheapest in Egypt because the cheapest is disgusting.  It's not like the cheapest in the West.  Don't go there.  Live respectfully.  Appearances mean a LOT in Egypt and if you live in a crap pile of an apartment building you will not be respected by anyone.

Any area is going to have a mix.  You need to find your area and then talk to the people at the pharmacy, the  masjid, and the shops to find out who is renting.  If you are working, then ask your boss and your co-workers.

I heard you could possibly rent for $100/month, is this true? 

This would be 670 LE and that would be ridiculously low.  Is it possible?  Anything ANYTHING in Egypt is possible.  Would I set foot in a place that cheap?  Not on your life.

Furnished?

Furnished and unfurnished is a different deal in Egypt.  Be careful.  Furnished means some nasty old couches and chairs, questionable mattresses and a grease-splattered stove and fridge.  I never felt clean in my first furnished flat.  Unfurnished means not stick of furniture, no appliances, no hot water heater and no closets (since Egyptians don't have closets but rather wardrobes).  

2.  How are the communities in less wealthy areas with regards to safety?

I want you to really understand Egypt right now:  nowhere is safe.  We are all at the mercy of each other.  We do not have police patrolling.  I have no idea what tomorrow holds.  At any moment, all hell could break loose.  Truly, you have to trust Allah wherever you are but this is very apparent in Egypt since the Revolution. 

In some ways, an ordinary area, like mine, is safer than a wealthy area.  In times of looting, the wealthy areas are hard hit.  The community feeling connects us here in my neighborhood where families all know each other.  In the newly built areas, it's not the same.  I toured a new gated community when I first moved to Egypt and I was literally scared at the thought of being so isolated in an apartment building without full occupancy.  It was, by the way, a thieves' target during the unrest of 2011 to the point that no one stayed there.  My intuition was right and I am a firm believer in trusting your intuition once you are here. 

I would also caution against getting too close to downtown Cairo.  Don't do it.  You don't need to be that close to the action.  

Road travel is a big problem in Egypt.  It is not safe at all.  You feel that.  Keeps you praying!  Alhumdulillah.  You want to figure out what the roads are near you.  

Another hassle are the bridges.  The bridges across the Nile equal traffic jams.  You are trapped like no other claustrophobia you have ever felt.  It's better to pick which side of the Nile you are going to live and not imagine a quick drive over the bridge.  While that easy trip might happen, usually it does not. 

None of this is going to make total sense until you are living here.  You have to get the feel of the place.  It's not all logistics on paper.  For me, anyway, it had to be experienced.   

3.  How easy is it to get around for someone straight off the plane? 


I never think it's easy to step off a plane any where under any circumstances.  It's tough to travel and doubly so with little children.  Arriving in Egypt you are hit with some realities.  It's another culture.  At the airport, you'll have English-speaking workers but it is not always enough for you to be understood.  There are crowds immediately.  The last time I flew back, I told off a guy who cut in line.  At the baggage claim, you have to be very alert.  Then, as you exit with the man pushing your weighted down cart, you have to get a taxi.  It's hard.  Be ready to deal with a lot of people in a short amount of time.

Find an area before you arrive in Egypt where you are going to get a hotel.  There's no need to deal with renting before you get here.  Spend a few nights in a hotel getting situated.  Learn about the best areas for you and your family.  You simply can't realize the truths from a book, another person's experiences or the 'net.  

4.  What is the usual learning curve for new residents?


Let's be truthful:  some people NEVER learn!  Many new residents can't handle the culture shock.  

I spoke to a lady this week who is suffering from it now.  She thought it would be safer here than it is.  It really is not OK for a woman to be walking by herself down a lonely road---in most places in the world, let alone Egypt.  Being foreign makes her more a target whereas she thought it somehow magically protected her.  A taxi driver tried to pick her up, she refused and he exposed himself to her.  She is still shaken up over it.

Will she get over it?  I don't know.  It's all about attitude.  You can take two people and have vastly different experiences.  One of my favorite quotes is, "The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude."  Remember that in the tough times.  

There will be tough times.  What's your resolve?  Are you "trying it out" or "sticking it out"?  For me, I am committed to living in a Muslim country for the rest of my life.  Does it have to be Egypt?  I guess not but I've made a home here, alhumdulillah.  Are you ready to make a home here?  Or is this a temporary move?

I would say that the first two weeks are the hardest.  You're dealing with a LOT and you only realize that once you get here.  No one can truly prepare enough for the move.  Though, I would say you can make it easier by learning Arabic basics (numbers, letters, colors, days of the week, common questions and responses).  You can also make a stand in your life for being in a new time and not try to find your old life here.  For sure there is Betty Crocker Cake Mix to be found but why not live differently since you gave up so much to experience a change?  Buy differently.  Eat differently.  Feel differently.  Enjoy a fresh start.

After about three months, you're going to have a much better grip on the situation.  You will still goof up a LOT (in language mistakes and in sticky situations) but you'll have some hope for correcting them.  

After the first year, I felt proud of myself for lasting it out.  

After two years, I needed a break and took my vacation back in The States.  I missed Egypt!  I really needed to get back to the place.  It wasn't about missing my husband so much as missing parts of this country which can't be duplicated.  Not hearing the azan absolutely saddened me.  I cried one day because of that loss.  Not hearing Quran throughout the day (on the radios and in the stores) was hard.  I missed the food vendors calling out in the street.  I missed the place.

After three years, I was really here and starting to get more organized in my life.  You can't really organize when you are feeling so inundated with newness.  I was understanding the big picture better.  I could look at maps and find places because I'd been there.  I could name political leaders, pop cultural references, and make (somewhat successful) jokes in Arabic.

After four years...well, it's not quite time for me to write this.  I hope that I will keep being open to the changes I need to make.  I still get surprised to see the Pyramids (and I see them every day).  I still feel like there's so much yet to see and do.  I want the chance and inshahallah I'll get it.

5.  With regards to the masajid in Egypt, I heard they can be 'themed' so to speak.. Salafi here, Shiaa there, Sufi here for instance. Is this a big deal? 

I have no idea.  I don't go to the masjid for my deen.  It's not what I need.  Women don't use the masjid here like they need to in the West.    

I don't think I've ever met a Shi'a here.  The Sufis I've met are foreigners.  Really?  Almost everybody is Sunni.  You'll see Salafis more openly now but they're not bothering me.  There's so much freedom here.  Go  check it out and make your assessment.  If you don't feel comfortable, then check out another one.  

We've got eight masjids in our area.  I'm hearing the azan for fajr  now.  The loudest is from the masjid speakers a block away.  My husband doesn't like that masjid.  He walks a few blocks away to attend a different one.  It's OK.  No one else cares.  There is really so much freedom to do as you please with your religion.  

6.  What areas would you recommend for a more moderate Islam (Neither deviant, nor Puritanical). 

It isn't about areas so much.  Every area in Egypt is such a full mix of rich and poor, devout and bereft, observant and decadent.  You can't escape any of it!  

Obviously, the small villages are going to have a tighter grip on their Islam.  I couldn't live in an actual village; as this is close enough.  There are pockets of problems in the city but you'll have to be staying in Egypt before you realize where they are.  I would stay away from any place where there's been fighting with Christians.  We live down the street from a church and there's never been any fighting here alhumdulillah.  

So, these are the few questions I have as of now, inshaAllah. Thank you so much sister!

It's interesting you mentioned your co-worker is 

pregnant and what she has to go through, because I 

also am pregnant, and wanted to know the medical 

situation over there. Do you have to have insurance like 

in the West? I am interested in having a natural birth 

with midwife and doula as I did my first child… is this 

possible in Egypt? Hard to find?


You're so welcome.

I'll answer your additional questions from the comments section another time inshahallah.


Back in April, 2011, Kaighla had three questions:


1. Have you applied for Egyptian citizenship?
No, I have not. I don't think it's a good idea to become an Egyptian citizen. As an American, you have more rights all over the world. I don't think you get an extras as an Egyptian. I understand that after five years of being married (God willing) I can apply. A tourist visa is good for six months and you can get extensions. Once you are married, you can get visas for years at at time--which I have done. I'm set for the next couple of years.


2. How much value is the American Embassy?
I've been in the Embassy a number of times and heard Americans in there complaining of poor treatment---whether by a husband or an employer or whatever. The embassy can't do much to help that. It isn't really helping us live here. We made the choice to live here and have to stand on our own two feet without thinking our government will bail us out. When the Revolution happened, everyone acted like they shipped Americans out. They didn't! They flew home the Embassy workers. They then agreed to fly fearful Americans as far as Europe and at a cost.

3. What about the medical situation there as compared to here?
I like it better here. The pharmacies are run by the most friendly doctors who all speak excellent English. You can get antibodics, shots, and lots of meds there without seeing any other doctor. If you do need to see someone, you can go in at night until around 11. It's best to send someone ahead to get your name on the night's waiting list. Also, all schools have doctors on sight who check the children and school staff for free. The cost is very inexpensive. Seeing a doctor for an appointment is no more than 80 LE. Having a baby is around 2,500 LE. Having a surgery is around 8,000 LE. Inshahallah, you won't need a lot of medical care in Egypt.


I hope my answers were helpful.


Anyone else have questions?

11 comments:

Mohammed said...

Salam Alikom,
I have one question which I could not find the answer for through your story.
Was it impossible for a Muslim mother to live in the US alone?
Why was it impossible in the states but possible in Egypt?
The American Media and movies have always told us the US is the place for equal opportunity...Does your story now tell that this is all fake........
Thanks after all. May Allah be around you.
Salam Alikom,

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Br. M.,

I think you are the ONLY man reading this blog so welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere. Inshahallah you'll find something helpful here.

Is it possible for a single Muslim mom to live in the U.S.?

Anything is possible---however, it is, in my opinion, difficult to be a REVERT single Muslim mom in the U.S.

If I were ensconced in a Muslim family (with sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and parents) then I maybe could stay single and raise my son by myself. However, I am the only child of non-Muslim parents. Can you understand how alone that makes me? My mother and father divorced long ago (when I was four years old). I cannot count on them as any kind of united family for me. Since my father has Alzheimers, I can't really count on him at all.

Is the U.S. the place for equal opportunity? Sure. And if someone doesn't comply with this, you can press charges or take them to court. I've done that. I'm tired. I don't want to spend my life fighting injustice.

Is it all fake? Not fake---just one dimensional. Nothing is ever a simple story. Everything is a honeycomb of intricate details and my story says simply that I had a choice to live in a Muslim country and I took it. For me, it was the only choice I could make. All other doors were shut----by Allah SWT. I accept my naseeb and I submit and alhumdulillah I am reaping the rewards. Subhanallah that I found the strength to come here.

It takes increible resolve to make the journey---lots of energy! But, then it also takes lots of energy to remain in a place which no longer feeds your vitality, spirituality, or creativity. Alhumdulillah for the chance to change.

Ameen to your du'a. May Allah also be with you.

Husnain Altaf said...

As-Salaamu alaykum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuh.

Pray you’re in the best of emaan and health, family too.

We’re planning on making Hijrah to Egypt, In sha Allah.

From your experiences I just wanted to know further about Egypt. Hoping you can advise and help in this regard as I don’t have a clue where to start so I hope to learn from your first hand knowledge. A number of questions come to mind like costs involved – per month/annually, visa process and renewal, finding accommodation, studying Arabic, jobs, business/investment opportunities etc.

I know Hijra is not going to be easy as it comes with its own trials and tribulations – I’m not expecting utopia but after hardship comes ease, in sha Allah. So feel free to tell me the good, the bad and leave out the ugly please lol.

JazaakAllaahu Khair for your time and I hope to hear from you soon, In sha Allah.

Wa-Salaamu 'alaykum.

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Brother,

Thank you for your well wishes and of course I wish the best for you and your family as well.

I took at look at your profile to see that you are coming from the UK. I think that coming from the UK will be much easier for you than coming me coming from the US. You are going to spend less money on travel and be here sooner. You'll have less jet lag. You'll be better prepared for the ways of the crowds and queues. Inshahallah there will be some easiness for you.

However, the first step is truly in making your intention to come. I'm not sure if you've prayed istakkarah about this move. Asking God for the best way and the best time is the only way to start the journey. Make your intention known to Allah, ask for the direction from Him, and if it is favorable, then ask for blessings.

Everyone in your family should be on the same page as well. It is not something which a person can be half-hearted about. Everyone must agree that this life change is needed.

The exchange rate for you is very favorable here. You can make your Euros go far. Do the calculations on the 'net until you can do them in your head.

You'll need approximately:

2,500 LE a month for rent
250 LE a week for family's food
150 LE a month 'net connection
10 LE a short taxi ride
35 LE a long taxi ride

It's better to get a work off the 'net before you arrive. The best paid job for that is teacher. A foreign teacher makes enough to pay for everything and then some. Only one of you would have to work while the other could do school. Tutition discounts for kids is another bonus. You cannot place your children in a public Egyptian school. You must find an international one. Hours and vacations are great.

Look at www.daveseslcafe.com and other sites for jobs. OR dig around and contact schools directly. The higher class schools only take certified teachers ...and then only those with MAs. Not sure of anyone's credentials.

The tourist visa used to be when you enter Egypt. It was $15. Not sure what it is now or what the process is.

The working visa is a long process. You need all your paperwork verified in the UK. You need letters of experience verified. You need official stamps from the Egyptian Embassy. And that's BEFORE you get here. Once you're here, your job's lawyer or HR will handle things (mostly).

Best thing to do about where to live is find a place to work and live close to that. Traffic here is AWFUL and costly. So, zero in on an area and a place. Live and work there. To find an exact apt. you need only to ask a few people and they'll all buzz around to find you a place. Just remember than NON-FURNISHED means no appliances (not just furniture).

Studying Arabic at one of the institions here is done---I haven't. It is my goal to become more fluent in conversational Arabic first. That happens by communicating with locals.

I'm going to stop there but you let me know if you need more info or particulars. I might not know but it doesn't hurt to ask.

My Best,

Yosra

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom,

For the reader who wished to be in contact thru email, I'm sorry but I'm not going to go that far in the way of helping others. I hope you can understand.

Thank you!

Husnain Altaf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Br. Husnain,

I did have to publish your comment to get the whole text but then I deleted as it had personal information. If you do want it published, just let me know and I will. I always err on the side of caution.

This quote from you I want to leav in, "I’ve been doing a lot of research online and I’ve spent the past week reading through your blog – life. Subhan Allah, I like the fact you’ve kept it real and it‘s made me chuckle as well as cry at times. You’re WAY better of in Egypt then the U.S."

You and your wife are trying to find a new place and I think that's going to be hard since you are coming from two different countries. Usually, places would hire a husband and have him bring his wife. They don't think of the hub and wife being in different places and meeting up in Egypt.

The idea of an educational program is probably better. The two of you get your tourist visas to study here. Not sure about student visas. You live and work here and see what opens up to you. The money will be the easy part for you. And inshahallah, Allah will make it easy on you.

I really have no idea about computer work. Most companies here would rather have an Arabic speaking worker than English. It's hard to communicate about tech stuff anyway, right?!

You asked if I'd heard of

Fajr Center: http://www.fajr.com.

I hadn't though I just look a look. It seems that a lot of Malaysian students come. Good for them! You can always do a program and suffer through if it's awful while you search for a better program. One door will open to another.

One thought I have, while looking at their website is that it needs updating. Maybe you could bargain with them. You become their webmaster and get free or discounted tuition. Bargaining is VERY Egyptian. So, you do what you can to make it happen.

Both you and your wife will have to think outside of the box to realize this dream of hijrah. While I'm not advocating blind stupidity, I do think a leap of faith will be needed.

Could she fly to the UK as a tourist and then the two of you fly from there? It's good to arrive together in Egypt---especially for her.

Best wishes! Keep me posted.

egyptchick7 said...

Hey! While this has nothing to do with moving to Egypt I am having a hijrah on my own that I think you can relate to....I am moving to Omaha (from brooklyn , remember)for nursing school! I know you are originally from somewhere close by and I just traveled there for three days and I was alone and feeling a bit down- I will not be having a car so that will be an inconvenience esp during those lovely Midwestern winters...Anyway- I am moving in 3 weeks or so- just thought I would mention that this is like a Hijrah of my own- and it's only for a year but maybe more if I find a job- and it's truly scary...but I know I will be ok inshallah...

Haleema Shakur said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Sr. Yosra,

Shukran wa jazakhAllah Khaira for your answering my questions! It's interesting you mentioned your co-worker is pregnant and what she has to go through, because I also am pregnant, and wanted to know the medical situation over there. Do you have to have insurance like in the West? I am interested in having a natural birth with midwife and doula as I did my first child… is this possible in Egypt? Hard to find?

Sorry for all the bombarding of questions, its just that we are hoping to leaving within a month (please make duaa for us) and would like to be as prepared as possible inshaAllah.

Shukran!

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom EgyptChick,

Bravo-alikee! I'm proud of you! It's hard to move out and to move up. It won't always feel comfortable but comfort and stagnant are REALLY close together. Best to be a little less comfortable and much more successful.

May Allah make it easy on you.

Love and Light!

Nathan Linley said...

As salaamu alaikum sister. I found your blog while trying to collect information on hijrah destinations. I appreciate the amount of detail you have provided for Egypt. I'm currently working on a project to gather country by country information for hijrah destinations throughout the muslim world. I would like to invite you to contribute anything you can to this effort (http://www.makinghijrah.com).

Jazak Allahu khair