Baby, It’s Cold Outside

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I’m not going to talk about the song, haha. Literally, winter is on in Egypt. I haven’t been out on the balcony in a while, and right now I could use it. But it’s too dang cold.

There is no central heat in Egypt. What that means is, the same thick cement walls that absorb heat in summer, also absorb the cold of winter. There were days last year when I actually found it a few degrees warmer outside than it was in my apartment.

Some homes keep space heaters. But mostly we survive it by dressing in layers. Right now I am wearing a long nightgown with pants underneath, and a fleece pullover on top. I am wearing fluffy thick socks within my fluffy hi-top slippers. At night, the more blankets, the better.

The same oven heat from Taita’s cooking that I dreaded in summer, I am now always anticipating. And don’t think that going out to places will bring a change of temperature- too many cars seem to have broken heaters along with their broken A/C. And if businesses like cafes are equipped with a heating source, chances are the cost of living is preventing them from using it generously.

Egyptian cold discomfort isn’t really about the temperature. I grew up in mountains with snow where it was much colder in temperature than here. But when you stay in moderate cold weather 24/7, it starts to settle into your entire body, and stays with you all day and night. It’s an entirely different feeling than the exposure to cold one gets when just briefly passing through it from one warm environment to the next.

I sent my two long winter coats to be cleaned and pressed after being stuffed in bags under the bed for long months. Taita is giving me something called a “dafeya”- a thicker sheet to put on top of the mattress sheet to add extra warmth- as well as some heavier blankets. After my own coats come back, I’ll be taking my daughter to buy a new, thick one for herself, in shaa Allah. The coat she arrived with has since been outgrown, and isn’t quite sturdy enough for this weather. She also needs more socks and cotton undershirts.

In a strange way, managing the cold offers a diversion from the occasional pain and sentimentality following my recent divorce. It reminds me that each day has its tasks, its plan for survival and comfort. Day after day will pass, and seasons will change, eventually with new tests and discomforts of their own. Before I know it, winter will be ending, and scenes will be changing. I will remain patient, in shaa Allah.

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