Egyptian Hospitality, Also Known As Force-Feeding Your Guests!

I recently had a very uncomfortable moment with Egyptian hospitality, and it made me think, what is Egyptian hospitality and how does it differ to other cultures I have encountered… Now let me tell you it was probably just as uncomfortable for my Egyptian husband and probably for the other couple we met too.

I have grown up in a culture where most people can take care of themselves… I mean at a dinner party or at a restaurant I can serve myself, and I can make sure I eat just enough to make me full, and I can order what I would like to have to drink, you know I can handle myself… I’m a big girl… But for some reason in Egypt people don’t think that people can look after themselves.. Its like the whole country just has millions of nurses running around looking after other people, making sure they eat and drink enough, or even too much… Now I don’t mind someone offering me something to eat or drink nicely, but in Egypt they don’t really care about your answer.. Let me explain a typical scenario in each culture to better explain:

The culture ive grown up in:

– Would you like something to eat? No thank you…

– Please have some of my pasta? Honestly im full, but thank you anyways…

THE END!

The person has asked if you would like something of his/hers and you tell them the truth, which is that your full and life goes on…

 

Egyptian culture:

– Would you like something to eat? No thank you…

– Please have some of my pasta? Honestly im full, but thank you anyways…

– Come on, you need to eat, look at you your so skinny…. Have some pasta… Just a little… I’m really full, I just had dinner, im okey, thanks…

– You can’t come here and not eat, you have to, I insist, just have a small side plate of this pasta… You need to eat… I can’t eat anymore, please…

– If you don’t eat then I will not eat my dinner either… (Starts pouring some pasta on a plate and hands it to you) Please, im full, I don’t want any pasta, and I don’t actually like pasta…

– Okey here take all the vegetables and this piece of chicken and I will eat the pasta… I CANT EAT ANYMORE… I WILL JUMP OFF THE BALCONY IF YOU DONT LEAVE ME ALONE…

– Dont jump of the balcony… Here have some dessert, I made this especially for you (even though they didn’t know I was coming)… You have to eat it… or this fight will continue on for months and eventually the pasta will become rotten!

I promise you that you will never be able to leave without eating… Once someone has asked you to eat, you are just going to have to shut up and eat it… Now the worst part is that many Egyptians can’t comprehend that you would not like something that is edible…(You can’t not like food!?) Like if they make food and then offer you some, if you say you don’t like it, it would be like the biggest sin you have ever committed in your life… You never tell someone you don’t like their food… Even if you don’t like it… Like there are some Egyptian dishes I don’t like… But if I ever get served them at people’s houses I can’t tell them I don’t like it… BECAUSE I have only tried it once and that was when SHE made it, you havent tried it when I make it… The Egyptian women have an attitude of my food is better than everyone elses, when I make it, its delicious! Even if you say you don’t like tomatoes, for example… They will make a salad full of tomatoes, place it on your plate and tell you to eat it… You DO like tomatoes when I make it in this amazing salad, you just havent tried MY amazing tomato salad… I’m sorry I don’t like tomatoes… Yes you do when it is in this salad… Ummm okey, whatever you say kitchen dictator!

So about this awkward meeting me and my husband recently had… We had received a lot of grapes from the local family farm and it was way too much for us to eat alone, im talking like 10 kilos! So my husband decided to give one box of grapes to a captain from Egyptair than recently had retired… He called him and arranged to drop the box off at his house later in the evening…

We drove to his place and waited in the car… We handed over the box of grapes and he thanked my husband a billion times… I had never met this guy before and he was a religious man in his 70s… Dont think I would have much in common with him… But anyways he insisted that we come upstairs, as a thank you for the grapes… My husband told him that we had other stuff to do and unfortunately did not have time… The captain said we had to come upstairs, even if it’s just 5 minutes… Sounds kind of pointless to me, to go upstairs to someones house sit for 5 min and then get up and leave… awkward… My husband apologised and said we have to leave because we are meeting some people… The captain said he would not take no for an answer, we would have to come upstairs… Now I know he was just trying to be nice, but right from the start he starts annoying us… We do something nice for him, giving him the grapes, now just let us be… take your grapes, go upstairs and eat them… and let us continue our life… The captain tells us that the other people can wait and that we will be coming upstairs even if it’s just for 10 minutes to drink something… So off we go upstairs to the home of a guy ive never met, to drink something…

His home was a show room deluxe! EVERYTHING was gold… We sat down on some super uncomfortable hard gold sofas and waited… Then his wife turned up with some mango juice… I’m not really a fan of carton juices especially mango, but I wasnt going to drink it anyways.. Afterall we were just here to sit for 5 minutes and leave, right? Then the wife disappears and comes back with some fruit/cream cake… Now please tell me what the chances are that you have some cake in your fridge when 2 random people come to give you grapes?!! I never have cake in my fridge unless its leftovers from a recent dinner party, and the cake usually doesn’t stay in the fridge longer than 2 days… In Egypt you never know how long the cake has been left in the shop before you buy it… Anyways this woman had cake… I didn’t want cake, but she didn’t ask, did she?! Nope here we go with the ‘you have to eat this shit, whether you like it or not’ style hospitality…

The fruit pieces on the cake were CLEARLY rotten, the pineapple was all dried out, the mango was dark brown and the grapes looked like raisins… So I thought I would leave the cake, pretend I didn’t see it and just look straight ahead… The old captain and his wife start talking about religion and stuff… They asked me what religion I am, if I pray, if I have read the Quran, bla bla bla…. You know the usual private stuff you ask people in the first 5 minutes of meeting them… Last time I checked my religion was something personal between me and God, and not me, God, a retired Egyptair captain and his wife who has old cake in her fridge…

After a few minutes the captain commanded me to eat cake: Please eat the cake, it is very nice… You need it, your pregnant… I was thinking more like I shouldnt touch it because im pregnant and this cake is clearly OLD! Then his wife insisted I eat the cake… So I picked up the plate and took a small spoon of cake… My piece was clearly the one that had been left on the end of the cake, with one side open, if you know what I mean… The end piece of the cake… It was really really, I mean REALLY dry… The cake just crumbled apart and when I put the piece in my mouth, all my saliva just dried out! The cake soaked up all the moisture in my mouth… The cream was pretty hard, just like cream normally is (NOT)…. And the whole piece tasted a little bit like old kebab meat… Clearly she had had some kebab meat in her fridge next to the cake, or the cake was so old it had sucked up all the smells of her food in the fridge from the last week or so… It was probably with hands on my heart the most disgusting cake experience I have ever had in my life, EVER… I put the plate back down and drank some gross mango juice to remove the taste of the old kebab dried cream cake…

Please eat more cake.. You need to eat for the baby… The cake is delicious, and eat some of the fruits on the top, they are very nice too, screams the wife… The captain insists I eat more cake… And tells my husband to eat the cake too… My husband says he can’t, he’s full…. HAHAHA he doesn’t realise that that excuse doesn’t work in Egypt… The captain insists again… It’s a small piece of cake… Just eat it… Then the whole conversation turns to us having to eat this gross piece of cake… My husband then apologizes and says we have to leave because some friends are waiting for us… The captains tells us to sit for a few more minutes, and just finish our cake… Then he says you can’t leave without eating the cake… I swear I was very tempted to start pretending I was giving birth, just to get out of that gold apartment and not have to eat the gross cake…

The captain then explains that if we don’t finish eating the cake their daughter will not get married… Apparently its an old Egyptian saying… The Egyptians even have sayings about force feeding people, crazy right!? So I wanted to make a statement that their daughter was probably already married and we wouldn’t have to eat this gross piece of cake… But as awkward situations are, they didn’t have children, so therefore didn’t have a daughter who was married… SUPER AWKWARD, especially in Egypt where people live to produce children!

I was so tired of this piece of cake that I just held my breath and started downing the cake… One big piece at a time and swallow, definitely NO chewing… Then I would be able to taste the kebab and rotten fruit and disgusting dry cream… I finished it and drank the rest of the mango juice.. I was tired of sitting on an uncomfortable sofa, being analysed religiously and having to eat rotten cake… I just wanted to leave… And I was sorry we brought you the freaking grapes in the first place.. Way to go for being punished/force-fed for doing something nice…

We left the apartment… It was the most awkward 30 minutes of my life probably… Both with the personal questions and disgusting cake being forced on me, trust me I was glad to leave… When we got home I went directly to the bathroom and threw up everything, and my husband got severe stomach cramps from food poisoning… All this because we wanted to be nice and give someone some grapes… I know they meant to be nice and probably thought they were being nice, but forcing anyone to do anything should not be considered being nice!

Ah the amount of times ive been force-fed old juices, cheap chocolates, disgusting cake and salty casseroles… But you just go home throw it all up and life goes on!

Here are a few recent pics taken in Egypt…SAMSUNG CSC DSC_0367 DSC_0377 DSC_0398 DSC_0422 DSC_0423

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1 Comment

  1. oh yeah… couldn’t agree more… I also come from the culture where people choose what and if they want to eat or drink… ha! experienced this forceful feeding many times starting from my husband’s family to occasional friendly visits… unfortunately refusing doesn’t work, leaving food on the plate -very rude… too bad for me being rude! you don’t want to invite me again too bad for you 😉 thanks God there are still people (1 in million maybe) who respect other’s eating habits… whishing you all the best girl! -Agnes from Alex

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