The RUG gets around
Name: Moniek Smit
Age: 23 jaar
Where are you studying?
Cairo, Egypt
Third-year student of Middle-East Studies

Cairo, Egypt

The beer courier of Cairo

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Every year, many RUG students decide to do an internship or temporary study abroad. Do they get any work done in sunny Granada? Can they find their way around the giant city of Moscow? And what is it like to dance the tango in Buenos Aires? Part 8: Cairo, Egypt
Text by Nanette Vellekoop / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

You’d think that for a country that borders the Mediterranean, Egypt would have good food. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. ‘The food here is very greasy, and they love sugar. One popular snack is a chip sandwich.

‘If you want real Egyptian food, order kosherie. That’s a dish consisting of pasta, rice, lentils, fried onions, and a bit of red sauce. It’s nothing but carbs. Walking around the market place is great. They’ve got cages full of rabbits, ducks, geese, you name it. You can pick out one you want and they kill, skin, and cut it up right in front of you.’

What is the education like?

‘I’m not studying at an Egyptian university here, but a Dutch-Flemish institute. That’s mainly because of the difference in the level of education. Most of the students here are Dutch. All my courses are the same I would have had back home. But it’s different because the classes are so small. And outside the school I speak more Arabic. The institute is in one of Cairo’s fancier neighbourhoods; it’s on an island in the middle of the Nile. Most students live on the island as well, but I don’t. I really like the lively street culture.’

Was it difficult to find a room?

‘When we arrived, the institute gave us a list of brokers we could check out. When we found an apartment we wanted to live in, they just gave us the keys. We didn’t have to pay any rent up front or sign a contract. ‘We’re easy here’, the broker said. We pay our rent in cash every month. It’s really weird to be walking around with 10,000 Egyptian pounds (ed.: 460 euros) in cash. The attitude towards money here is very different. If a store owner doesn’t have enough change, they’ll give you some ketchup packets or candy.’

What is the nightlife like?

‘The nightlife is mainly catered to rich Egyptians and foreigners. Most of the bars are in the fancy neighbourhood in the Nile, and they’re full of hipsters. Small bars where you can smoke shisha pipes and drink coffee or tea are really popular around here. Unfortunately, that’s just for men. I wouldn’t be welcome there. Many Egyptians are very religious, so supermarkets and bars don’t sell alcohol. They do have a service that delivers alcohol, though. It’s called ‘drinkies’. It’s kind of like the beer courier of Cairo. They deliver your order in small, black bags. They also sell Egyptian beer, but if you check the label, it’s been made by Heineken. It kind of tastes like Heineken, as well.’

Have you seen much of Egypt?

‘I’ve only been here since 20 January, so no. The Dutch government has designated many areas in Egypt as orange, which means they’re not quite safe. Last weekend, a few friends and I took a four-wheel drive to the desert and stayed the night there. That was a really great experience. Fortunately, we had a good driver; there was another group whose driver was drinking and smoking weed behind the wheel. The city is also really interesting. It depends on how many of the suburbs you count, but Cairo has between thirteen and twenty million inhabitants.’

What’s less fun about living in Cairo?

‘A lot of people try to cheat you. The other day I was in a taxi and the meter was ‘broken’. When we arrived at my destination, the driver asked for twice the normal amount. I pretty much know what things cost, so I just gave him enough money to cover the normal price and walked away. They know it’s correct. He didn’t start yelling or anything. Tourist attractions are also more expensive. They just have a separate price for foreigners. Usually it’s something like five times as much. I don’t like it, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I think you should only come here if you’re truly interested in the culture.’

Previous episodes

Gabby Rialland – Bogota, Colombia
Marleen Kas – Uppsala, Sweden 
Anton Jongeling – Barcelona, Spain 
Desiree Niezen – Kiel, Germany 
Anton Wuis – Busan, South-Korea 
Juliëtte Eijkelkamp – Yogyakarta, Indonesia 
Iris Groenendijk – Cheltenham, England



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