A few days ago, I visited our new apartment. My first clue that we are going to be the local white trash neighbors was that the doorman called himself ‘security.’ In Egypt, most buildings have a ‘bawab,’ or doorman. They usually come from Upper Egypt, have fewer teeth than they did 20 years ago, wear gallibeyas (traditional dress), and live in miserable hovels somewhere on the premises. In exchange for the 40 or so pounds a month the building tenants pay them, bawabs will bring people the morning paper, wash cars, go do small errands and make sure that people who aren’t supposed to be in the building aren’t there. Our ‘security,’ Hamad, as he introduced himself was dressed in slacks and a dress shirt and had a desk to sit behind instead of a curb to stoop on.
My second clue that we weren’t going to belong was the elevators: 2 elevators for 6 floors of apartments, and only 2 apartments per floor. That means that we have the hardship of having to share an elevator with five other households. I don’t know if we’ll be able to fit in for the crowding.
The third clue came when I looked at the windows. They were all windows with wrought-iron railings across the sliding-door windows. And nothing else. Practically every single building in Egypt is heated and cooled by split-unit AC/heaters that have the compressor and fan hanging outside the building and blowing units mounted above the windows or on the floor. This building had nothing outside the windows. I knew that we weren’t going to have to exist without the aid of air conditioning; that is un-American and denying our constitutional rights as citizens. That only meant one thing: central air conditioning.
When the renovations coordinator opened the massive 4-foot wide door and I got the first view of our home for the next three years, my suspicions were confirmed. We had no business living in a place like this. The front room, floored in creamy stone was large enough to house our entire duplex that we lived in previously in Utah. The view through the 10-foot tall sliding doors was over Maadi, giving the illusion of a lush palm-filled valley. On clear days we will be able to see the sun set behind the pyramids.
My incredulity only heightened as I toured the rest of the house, separated from the front room by another massive door. The kitchen has the standard pink-granite countertops but with the same creamy stone that floors the entire house. Through the large kitchen is a full-bath, laundry room and storage room that I suspect served as maid’s quarters for the rich Egyptian that this apartment was clearly built for. In addition to the ‘maid’s bath,’ there are two other full bathrooms for the three bedrooms (one of them literally large enough to fit a kiddie pool), and a bathroom in the master suite. So with the half-bathroom in the front room, we will have enough toilets for everyone in the family including in-utero Edwin to have their very own.
We’re also getting some of the apartment painted and had the arduous task of deciding on colors for the front room and bedrooms. Brandon warned me to not get used to such luxury because clearly they have no idea who they’re doing this for: somebody who had been working at a lasagna factory six months ago.