It's been staring at me for a week now. The fuckin inevitable job offer from Dubai, offering me more money, a better career, and country that's a little more alcohol and party friendly than the one I am in. Everything a young Egyptian single man dreams of, especially one as money-driven as I am. They will pay for the housing, pay for the car, pay for everything. The perfect job offer. I should be happy. I should take this. If so, why haven't I so far?
"You should take it. This Country will eat you alive. There is no future here. Trust me on this one."
The thing is, I don't have any practical reason not to. Most of my friends are leaving the country in droves, whether heading towards greener pastures (mostly Dubai) or going home to their countries. The people that are left here, well, let's just say that the majority of the good ones I already know, and unless they are married with kids and entrenched within their jobs, they are also becoming a shrinking minority. And in terms of activism, well, activism is primarily dead for now. The Old Guard of the Egyptian blogsphere are either enamored with their jobs and don't have the time or the passion to do anything anymore or they are still trying to make something out of themselves, holding in the meantime random jobs between programming and being fixers for foreign journalists. The country itself? Pretty much still sliding downwards. The people who are getting squeezed the most are too scared to face those who should be held accountable, opting instead to take it out on one another. Religious rights aren't getting any better, women rights ditto, and everybody with half a brain is looking for a place to migrate to.
"Dude, at least with your girls it's easy. Not all of them want to leave. Every single Christian girl I know wants to immigrate out of this country. And you know what? I don't. I like it here. I see no reason for me leaving, me or any other Christian. What's the worst that could happen? The Muslim Brotherhood slaughters us all? Fuck them. Let them try. And until they succeed I ain't going anywhere."
S. , a christian male friend of mine.
Career-wise, I have reached a plateau, and I am already bored with it. I am sick and tired of dealing with self-important idiots, who instead of focusing on deals and bottom-lines, seem to be more interested in doing idiotic things that waste everybody's time and effort. I can't remember which was worse: My old job, where our beard-totting web developers required a fatwa from Al Azhar in order to work on a banner for Valentine's day, for which we paid off a Sheikh (Ahh..the first time you bribe a man of god. Nothing like it!), or the new job, where they won't hire female programmers because- and I quote- "as any programmer who knows his stuff will tell you, girls can't program for shit!", nor will they hire programmers from Private Universities because the head of programming didn't come from one and has an inferiority complex about it. And let's not forget finishing up the new headquarters that suddenly became my responsibility- alongside with Business Development, Sales, Financial Management, and running HR- in the area of dealing with the contractor and his constant whining and excuses, or the completely inept Interior Decorator, whom I had to fire last Thursday because he ditched a meeting with a Partner. And the thing is, I know these are not exceptions. I know that this is- unless your gods love you and bestowed upon you decent professional people- as good as it gets around here. And honestly, I don't think I can handle this kind of frustration for the rest of my life. And let's not even mention the traffic, or the heat, or whatever the islamist retards will come up with next, or the relatives that need favors, or the ones that try to run your life and all the other bullshit that just comes with the territory of simply being born in this country. In my hearts of hearts, I am craving change, any change at this point. I have even contemplated (gasp) marriage at this point. I have become that desperate.
" You should totally accept that Job offer. This way we could be both in the same country. Me in Abu Dhabi, you in Dubai. How cool would that be?"
And therein lies the dilemma, that there really shouldn't be one. If we take an objective point for point comparison between the two countries, especially when it comes to the career choice or quality of life, Dubai wins over Cairo in almost every category, except for the weather. The humidity there is lethal, and I wear glasses. Maybe it's time to get me contact lenses, something to go with the token Russian whore girlfriend that I will surely get the moment I arrive there. Oh, I forgot, there is one area in which Egypt wins hand down the comparison game with Dubai, and it's the primary reason why I don't want to go there:
Dubai has no Soul!
It doesn't. I am sorry, but Dubai- with all its glitz and glamour and cool outings and sweet financing deals and all of this crap- is soulless. There is nothing real about it. And that's the one thing that Egypt has on Dubai. Egypt, on the other hand, with its problems and corruption and dirt and pollution and its easily emotionally manipulated people, has nothing but soul. Hell, we even have some to spare.
"I hate people who tell me that Dubai is soulless. It's pretty, OK? There is money and hot women here. What more could you need?"
Wesam, a Dubai enthusiast friend of mine
To be honest though, the fact that Dubai has no soul, well It's not really their fault. It's simply a trait that befalls every single gulf country with the exceptions of Bahrain- who actually does have a history and culture of its own- and the Saudis – whose country does have a soul, but that of a misogynistic bigoted Sociopath- because they are really made-up countries. Lands of Sand occupied by tribes of nomadic people with no culture, who discovered the concept of houses the moment they discovered they had oil- somewhere around the middle of this last century. Don't get me wrong, what they did with it was impressive, Oh, I mean what we and the Europeans and the Americans did to their countries with the money that the oil generated from their land is impressive. They just didn't really fuck it up. And kudos to them for that. But Beyond that, I am not really impressed. Not the least bit.
I actually cringe whenever I watch the Dubai Channel, and hear them talk about the new cultural events that are happening in Dubai, mainly because I think the term is misleading. Those are not cultural events, those are grotesque examples of emptiness. The events don't highlight the culture of the people of Dubai; they are simply showcase opportunities for people from other countries to come to Dubai and display their own culture on Dubai's soil. That is all. Hell, you can even argue that American culture is vastly superior to that of modern-day Dubai because, while its an amalgam of foreign cultures of people who moved there, it's one where the people making it felt ties and attachments to their new home, the USA. Not a single person who works in the culture scene in Dubai can make such a claim about his/her City of Gold and Oil. You want another example? How about Arabic rap? Now that's a purely foreign American cultural medium of self expression, and recently a new entry in the middle-east cultural discourse. Now, anyone who has been following up on the Arab rap scene, whether through that horrible Hip Hop show on MTV Arabia or through downloading the music through their websites and forums, it becomes abundantly clear which countries have anything to offer in terms of art in that medium. Without exception, there isn't a single decent Arabic rapper from the gulf. There are, however, from Algeria, Morocco, Palestine and Lebanon, with Egypt being a late-but hot- newcomer. These days you can literally take a seat and watch as the Egyptian rap scene slowly evolves into something respectable, addressing our issues and adding something of value to the social narrative. You can't say the same about any of the gulf countries. Hell, their best rappers are all expats from Palestine and Lebanon, because really, what do gulfies have to rap about? The Desert? The Camels? The Oil? What are their issues? What do they have to complain about? The Lexus dealership ran out of Cars?
What is there to talk about/fight for/love in their countries?
I always believed the degree someone's love for their country is whether or not they leave-if they have a choice- when the times get tough. We've had centuries of war and colonization in Egypt, so we know a little something about tough times, and yet you will find us very reluctant to leave. The same masochistic love for the country can also be found amongst Palestinians and the Lebanese, and god knows those people have had enough external and internal incentive to just jump ship and go somewhere else a long time ago. Yet they still stick it out. That's attachment to the country you live in. Can anyone who currently lives and works in Dubai make a similar claim about their city? And if they try to make such a claim, can you please remind them that they can't make such a claim, because they have never been tested? They have experienced nothing so far but economic growth for the past 20 years and the reason why everybody goes there is simply the money and the good life, which is why things in Dubai will become very interesting the moment an economic downturn hits. If your attachment to your country of residence is all about how much money you can get out of it, then this is not your home and never will be. The moment a recession hits, all the rats will abandon ship.
The epitome of the Dubai dream: To build careers, buy houses and start families with no emotional ties to the land or to the country. Maybe you can live like that. Maybe that's good enough for you. But it isn't for me.
As frustrating as Egypt is, there are still things to fight for here, even if the majority of those who usually fight are battle-weary. There is nothing but potential here. So much work to be done. So many wrongs to fix. So many battles to fight. Loving Dubai is about convenience, loving Egypt is about passion. And it's worth it, even if it takes that love you give it and punishes you for it. It's hard to make you understand it, so let me try to give you an analogy of what that's like that you might relate to: It's the loser boyfriend who you know will never amount to anything but you stick by him anyway, because you believe in him regardless of what people may tell you. It's that lost girl filled with potential that stirs the savior complex in you, and keeps you hanging on to her despite her endless mistakes and repeated self-destructive behavior. It's that Person you love so much but they seem so intent on putting walls and distance between the two of you that when you finally break through and connect with them- even for a brief second- they give you this smile that just warms up your soul and makes you feel as if all the torment and the pain was worth it, and more. It's that abusive relationship that you stay in because loving that person, despite everything, makes you feel more alive than you ever felt in your life and you are not ready to trade that in for the safety of a so-called-healthy relationship with no problems. Loving Egypt makes no sense and perfect sense at the same time, and yet you don't care that you are living a contradiction. At least it makes you feel something. Take it from a so-called human rights activist in an oppressive autocratic police-state: there isn't a better feeling in the world than the one you get when you win a battle you fought for, no matter how small or immediately inconsequential your victory is. There is simply nothing like it. Now, remind me again: What is there to fight for in Dubai? A bigger Bonus? Thanks but no Thanks. I like my victories to actually mean something.
When you come from a divorced family, you are always enamored with the concept of having a "Home". A single place you can go to and lay down your burdens. And unfortunately, to my dismay, Dubai can never be that home, as much as I would love it to be, because I do love me a culture where people party, where the women have no hang-ups when it comes to sex, and where you can make as much money as your ambition allows you. I love all that, but the place I choose as my home has to have a Soul, and Dubai is found lacking. If the fantastic rulers of Dubai manage somehow to find a way to purchase a soul and install it in their country, then you just might find me on the next flight there. But that hasn't happened yet, and I doubt it will happen anytime soon.
I am not saying it will never happen. It might be inevitable. The day may come when I am forced to hold my nose and move there, and prepare myself of a life where I work my ass off during the week, so I can spend it all partying during the weekend, and wondering where my money goes or why I feel so empty. Yeah, maybe that will happen one day.
Today, though, is simply not that day.
So I guess that offer will continue to stare me in the face, until the day the acceptance deadline expires, reminding me of the choice I made, of how I chose frustration and pain over the easy life and the easy way out, because of my need for soul. I might kick myself in the ass later for doing so, but right now, nothing could feel more right.
And that's all that matters!