When we first thought about this move to Alexandria, Egypt the obvious questions came up in conversations. One was a reflection on the many countries we have had the privilege to travel through or live. Obviously, the distinct smells and fragrances of each place came clear in our minds. What would be distinctive about Egypt and in particular, Alexandria. Would it be a borage of the unsavory smells of poor hygiene as we have experienced, or would there be minimal according to what part of the city we were in, or would there be beautiful fragrances of flowers and blossoms, or the natural gift of the Mediterranean Sea and the sea breeze?
What a pleasant surprise! The people of Alexandria and other areas of Egypt we have been fortunate enough to visit have no smell or fragrance that is distinctive. As Americans, we all pride ourselves, well a large number of us, on the fact that we brush our teeth at least once a day, bath at least once each day, and slather ourselves with soaps, antibacterial concoctions, and heavy fragrances. (The Dude and I always wonder what someone is trying to hide when he or she is wearing a lot of fragrance.)
If you have followed my blog or read some of the earlier posts, you know how I feel about chemicals, so we use only naturally derived soaps, shampoos and conditioners, no antibacterial anything. If we cannot eat or drink it then it does not belong on our skin. Sadly, I do need to report the big corporations have invaded Egypt with the hand sanitizers and other caustic soaps, shampoos/conditioners, and tooth products. Luckily I brought “Fat and The Moon” tooth soap, tooth polish, and cream deodorant. I buy the olive oil soap at The Body Shop in the local mall, and I also brought Aesop’s hair products. We are set, but would our noses be set for what we would find here in Egypt?
Unbelievable cleanliness is what was found. Toilets have the little handheld toilet sprayers, even our apartments are equipped with these little handheld bidets. Showers have the hand held attachments for more thorough cleaning. Public toilets, our staff toilets, everywhere has the ability to actually get clean. There are no smells that are offensive as we stand in queues (lines), waiting at restaurants among the public, or walking down the street and shopping in a public market. Teeth may be missing, but the remaining teeth are clean. There is pride in personal cleanliness. Right now as I gaze out the screened door I see a long line on a balcony of beautiful white T-shirts gently flowing in the Mediterranean breeze and bright sun, bleaching naturally.
We all have to stop assuming Americans are the best at being the cleanest as we just may not be what we think we are, better than other countries we deem as Third World. Often they are ahead of us in many ways, including hygiene. I cannot stress how important it is to look at our world with a clear lenses not clouded with false perspectives, and there is a need to quit judging and making assumptions based on hearsay and the one-sided media outlets.
Please continue to follow along as I share our adventures throughout the great country of Egypt and our travels to other countries. The next blog will be about the students in my class; 14 delightful girls and boys who brighten each day with English, Arabic, French, proper English (transfers from the British school in the city), Turkish, and Spanish. (And yes, I am throwing in some German.) Amazing First Graders!
Living the Crazy Life,