Stunted conversations

Down to business in France and it can be very impersonal. What many consider the language of romance leaves me rather underwhelmed when I start translating from Arabic.

Take a mundane situation: I call my nice physio to make an appointment. I haven’t seen him for about two months and spent about 3 months having appointments with him prior to that. Let’s call him Physio French.

“Hello, is that Mr Physio French?”


“Hello, it is Trailing Grouse.”

“Aah, hello Madame Grouse.”

[Pause while I think what I can say next, can I ask how he is, or should I just continue?] “I would like to make an appointment please.”

“Which day?”

With my, also nice, Egyptian physio (let’s call him Physio Egyptian), it would go something like this.

“Hello, is that Physio?”


“Hi, it’s Trailing here, how are you?”

“Aaah Trailing! I’m fine, how are you? Everything good?”

“Yes thanks, I’d just like to make a new appointment.”

“Ok, when?”

First name terms and personal questions such as “How are you?” are not deemed intrusive, or personal. It may not seem very professional, but it is much nicer I find. I miss Egypt and the people that were in my life when I have what feels like stunted interactions here.

But the sun’s still shining, so it’s all good!


It's all about food really..

Fauchon’s L’éclair Rainbow (there’s some sniffing about the English word ‘rainbow’ in the title…aah, France!)

A couple of years ago I went on a short trip to Paris (promise, not all posts are going to be about Paris from now on). I was tired from a night flight but needed to stay awake. Mr S and I went out walking to stay awake and get some ice cream. As we crossed the Marais, we heard loud music. Not being the latest Nancy Ajram or Amr Diab (played so often and so loud in Cairo that there is no need to see what is going on: it’s a wedding or party at a club), I was quite excited to see what was happening. We detoured from the ice cream route and made our way over to a large crowd at the end of the street.

I realised what was happening and was knocked for six. There are times when coming to or from Egypt it’s difficult to believe that we’re only five hours away. That life can be so different in a five hour journey. I am always struck by magazines in newagents in Europe. It’s not the ‘top shelf’ selection although in my first few days I am always too embarrassed to lift my head up, it’s the covers of lads’ mags and likes of Cosmo that have scantily clad ladies: magazines in Egypt have no such covers.  Standing there in Paris, I saw the gay pride march coming towards us. Fun, fun, fun! (Although Sydney does it better). How could it be though that just seven hours before I was somewhere where this march would have been absolutely impossible, even in the conception stages.

Hundreds of thoughts were swimming through my head and I couldn’t quite get a feeling for reality. It was then that I saw the banners of a group called (something like) the Parents of Gays and Lesbians in France. I started crying. I know full well the attitudes and opinions of the majority of the people I am normally surrounded by. I have had serious arguments with some of them about it. I may have at least convinced one that being homosexual does not equate to being bestial (seriously). Ultimately though, I live in Egypt and accept it for what it is. A few hours after leaving Egypt, to see parents marching down the road with large banners supporting their adult homosexual offspring was profoundly moving.

I have to cover my knees and shoulders, I have to accept that a lot of people view me as little more than a prostitute. I don’t like it, but that is just the way it goes. I don’t, however, have to hide a fundamental part of myself for fear of some pretty nasty, physically and socially, consequences. It re-brought home the suffering that some people here must go through just because they cannot be the people they are. I love Egypt, on this level however, I am much more comfortable with a society that allows self expression.

Pretty cool eclair, though, eh?

Take the men out of Egypt's La Senza, Women's Secret and Nike Woman!

Admittedly I’m in a grumpy mood today: I always am after a bad night’s sleep.

But, but BUT, I wasn’t last week when I went shopping and I was superbly pissed off then too.

I walked into La Senza at our local hypermarket/shopping centre. It was about 9.30am and there were seven guys in their twenties, two of whom were clearly behind the tills, the rest were just hanging out, chatting with the two female floor assistants. Of the guys there, four were clearly watching me as I perused the lingerie. One of the girls came to follow me around and smooth out anything I even breathed on.

I hate that. I don’t care if they do it when I’ve left the shop, but following me and straightening every, single hanger while I’m there, like I’m ruining their display of hanging garments, which is there so that people like me come and look and then, presumably, buy, drives me nuts. Team it with some sexually repressed spectators and, La Senza, there’s not a hope in hell of me getting out my credit card.

So, I left the shop last week without buying. Not before quick glance at the two guys who were still watching me, then the two cashiers, then the guys sitting around the changing rooms with the other floor assistant and saying, in Arabic, loud enough for them to hear, “So, this is where all the guys come to hang out?” and walking out.

Today I went in just to see if it was different. Instead of seven, there were five guys.

I just don’t get it. It’s lingerie. It’s a conservative society. Women are covered up to protect their modesty, and so as not to titillate men, but lingerie stores have men working the tills? I know that there are bra stalls in markets and women pick their bras in full view of everybody, not just the male stall holder, but this is (for Egypt) an upmarket, expensive store.

It’s not just La Senza. A few shops away is Women’s Secret. They have a female floor assistant with a man on the till. The same with Nike Woman. Is it that Egyptian women cannot count and so cannot be trusted with tills? Nope. Perhaps it’s the patriarchial society. I don’t know. I don’t CARE! I don’t want some guy folding my bras, checking out if I might need another size (what the hell does he know about how bras fit?!) by asking and taking a quick ‘glance’.

Egyptian women are smart. They are also really nice and friendly. I would have probably bought something in all three stores today had there not been men checking out what I was going to be wearing for Mr S (and him alone). Egyptian men are also smart, but there are plenty of other retail ‘experiences’ that talented men can work at, there is no reason for them to be pawing my panties!

Cairo's boutique hotel – yes, I love it!


Cairo finally has a boutique hotel. In a city with such wonderful architecture that is, for the most part, under performing it’s potential through lack of investment, I’m surprised that it’s taken quite so long for someone with a bit of dosh to establish a well-run, well decorated boutique hotel.

It’s called Villa Belle Epoque. It’s stunning. There is a great article in the Times comparing it to Cairo’s ‘monumental bed farms’ – which, of course, are left in its shadows.


I am excited by this hotel because Cairo has so much to offer tourists, but nowhere ‘tasteful’ to stay on a small scale. It’s what I look for when I go on holiday and want to stay somewhere nice. It’s the sort of place I look for before deciding if I want to visit a particular town. And in the earlier days, when finances were a bit tighter, it’s the sort of place I would leave as a treat for the last couple of nights of an otherwise more modest holiday.

I can’t think of anything better, after arriving in Cairo’s busy airport, to being whisked to this calm hotel. Or, being enveloped by its garden after a hectic day sightseeing. Dinner tête-a-tête, with no queues for a buffet or any other such unappetising activities, divine.


Yes I’m raving. No I’m not getting paid for it – I don’t even know the owners. Yes I’d like to stay there. No, I can’t think of a reason..ooh..perhaps an upcoming birthday!

Wouldn’t this also be the perfect place for a honeymoon in Cairo before going on a cruise or going to Adrere Amellal in Siwa or the Al Moudira in Luxor?