I recently took time off from Cairo and decided to head to Jordan and Italy for vacation. Traveling is something I’ve always enjoyed; when things get stressful, it’s always useful to get a change of scenery, get out of your comfort zone and of course, meet new people.
There is a common belief in the charm of what’s foreign.
We’ve all participated in one of those rant sessions about the uselessness of men in our countries… “ugh Egyptian guys are so…” Therefore, when we are on vacation and faced with the allure of a different language, habits and features, we find ourselves swayed by the charm of that difference… “Damn that Italian guy is so hot when he catcalls like that…” (something not so hot can suddenly become hot when we are in a new place).
One easy example among Arabic speakers is how they react to each other’s dialects. In Egypt, the slightest hint of Levantine Arabic sends us drooling. The same appears to be true of our dialect even though we may not see it. In my eyes, Egyptian Arabic is not the most flirtatious of dialects and yet somehow it often makes a swooning impression on non-Egyptians.
Yet the more I witness this, the more I understand that getting carried away with charm of those differences does have its setbacks because…
we are underestimating our own cultures.
I see this all the time in Cairo, not just with dating but also more generally, where sometimes, we tend to fall into the trap of making orientalist/racist judgments about our own communities. I have many Egyptian female friends generalizing our guys as harassers, egotistic and unmindful of good manners as compared to say, Lebanese guys.
But the truth is…
in every community there are all types of people: the gentlemen, the harassers, and the charmers.
It’s as simple as that. So at the end of the day, travel should be about appreciating difference, and never about underestimating a community at the expense of another.
JOONS – Have you ever had a vacation fling?