I know I’m a little bit behind in chronology. Life in Egypt is, like I said, unpredictable and often doesn’t follow a set schedule. Plus I’ve been working through the jet lag (more so Shukurah’s than mine) and doing a lot of things to settle in. So I will try to play catch up as quickly as I can.
My apartment is on the 11th floor (which happens to be the top floor) of a building still under construction. It’s not at all uncommon here for buildings to be occupied before they are finished completely, and in some cases that NEVER even happens anyway. Apartments here are generally for sale for ownership, much like a condo in NYC. However, in my case, one was leased for the month I will be here. It was already completely furnished, which increased the rental price of course. However, leases here can be for any length of time- from a week or two up to several years.
My apartment normally rents for $4500 Egyptian pounds per month, but since it is “off season” the final cost was only $3000, which is $400 USD. The utilities are included in the rent. It is actually a very nice apartment when compared to the standard apartment available for the average person. Where I am staying is in the northernmost area of town called “the villas”, which is locally known to be the nicest and most affluent area. I think my apartment reflects this.
This is the elevator I take to my floor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full size elevator in Egypt. They all are just big enough for two people, though 3 will often squeeze in. What I like about my elevator though, is that every time you push the button to call it, Quran recitation starts playing over the speakers and remains playing the entire time it is in use. I tend to believe that one of the reasons I find being in Egypt to be less stressful than the US is because everywhere I go, it seems like Quran is playing. In clothing shops, in cafes, in the cabs, on the streets even at times.
One of the things I was most impressed with when I first saw my apartment was the doors. As you can see, they are much more elaborate than the doors we see on apartments or even houses in the west. This is my front door. I found the blingy gold doorknob a bit amusing. But, it doesn’t turn. It’s just for decoration, I guess. The only way to secure the door- whether from the inside or out- is to lock it with a key.
This is a door of another apartment down the hall. I thought it was beautiful, and I really wish we had the taste in the US to make our doors so elaborate and of solid quality.
This dining set is what is immediately on the right when you walk through the door. It’s a pretty decent set, as you can see.
This entire living area is called a “hall” in Egypt. I loved the colors of the sofas and draperies. One thing I noticed last time I was here, was that window treatments are big deal. The colors and fabrics are rich and the presentation is lavish, so I was really tickled that my apartment had the coordinating draperies to match the other furniture.
One of the other things I love about Egypt is what a typical westerner might call its “tackiness”. What I mean is, I’ve noticed that the style of Egypt is focused on looking decorative, but at the same time there is not necessarily the same criteria as to what constitutes tastefulness in pursuing that. So as you can see, I have tinsel garlands hanging on my hall walls, and the entertainment center is painted lavender (not quite the match of the red/black color scheme going on everywhere else). Even though my western upbringing registers it as incongruent, there’s something about it that seems innocent and childlike, and so it has become endearing to me.
This is the main hallway of my apartment.
Even the ceiling here has amazing details, as do most of the other rooms.
On the wall are several of these floral stencils, too.
But I think my favorite part was the doors. Like the front doors outside, each room had gorgeous solid wood doors that were a nice touch.
Bathrooms here are called water closets, or WC’s for short. This bathroom is the first door on the left. I don’t use it, but it’s still tastefully decorated. One of the things I want to point out here is the shower: see how it just sits in the middle of the room, with no curtain or containment? This is something I noticed last time I was here, and apparently is commonplace. You can take a shower in a small bathroom like this one with nothing to block the spray onto the toilet or sink, and the water will naturally drain to a corner of the room (usually behind the toilet somewhere). Any excess water you can squeegee toward the drain, too.
The kitchen is the next room on the left. You can see it’s not very big at all. Large kitchens don’t seem to be a priority here, and in fact this one is considered large by comparison. The clothes washing machine sits openly next to the sink, but clothes have to be hang dried- either out on a balcony or on an indoor drying rack. From what I’ve seen, the balconies are used most. Dishes must be hand washed.
This bathroom is the third and last room on the left side of the corridor. It’s the one I use most, and I’m only including it because I continue to be impressed with the details in the tile work. The red and black verticle tiles are on both sides of the wall, and complement the overall color scheme in the kitchen and hall. But I would have to say my favorite thing about the bathrooms here is that they have bidets! I need to look into getting one for my own house.
I call this room the “girl’s bedroom”. My apartment has a total of 3 bedrooms, and this is the second furnished one. It is the one straight at the end of the corridor. Behind the draperies is a small balcony, which has a limited view.
balcony view to the east, and believe it or not that is not even the main part of Banha
Indeed, most of the windows open only to other brick walls that are part of this building or the adjoining ones. All of the bedroom furniture in this and the room I use are matched.
One of the main differences between the US and Egypt is that there are no closets here. Instead, clothes are put in old fashioned wardrobes like this one. Although I don’t like what that means in terms of space (there is no way my entire closet could fit into a standard wardrobe!), I like the elegant feel of opening a wood cabinet to get dressed in the morning.
This bedroom is the second one on the right hand side of the corridor, and it is vacant. Some miscellaneous things were left in here, such as an iron and ironing board, a generator light for possible power outages, and some other odds and ends. I don’t go in this room, but I wanted to show a picture of it because it shows how clearly the ceiling work looks here. I think it’s a fantastic detail and another I wished we had more of in the US.
And this is my bedroom. These photos were taken before I took full possession of it. I’ve actually moved a few pieces of furniture around and left my clothes everywhere lol, I don’t need everyone seeing that. But it’s clear this room was as tastefully coordinated as the others.
So really, I am very pleased with what I’ve got here. Indeed, it will be that much harder to return home and leave this nice refuge behind (as if that wasn’t going to be hard enough!).
So to conclude, what happend for me on day 2 was basically waiting for the internet guy to come connect the wifi and a late night shopping trip (the one that didn’t happen the night before). I had to be taken some bit out of town for a decent grocery store, and really it was kind of like a walmart with appliances and household supplies on the top level, and the groceries on the bottom. All the produce had to be weighed before it could be put in the cart. There was a complete bakery, meat deli, and cheese deli. I was overwhelmed trying to familiarize myself with where everything was, find the right product among everything on display, and then choose something that was affordable and not to expensive. After it was all done, the grocery bill was $800 EP, which is about the same amount I would spend on an average shopping trip (roughly $100 USD).
In shaa Allah, my next entry will be coming soon!