Mixed Marriage in Upper Egypt

cooke-familyI’m just watching an American series called Texas Ranch House. It’s one of those programs where they put modern people into an old world setting and then film them for a year. I have always had fantasies about living on a Texan ranch, I have no idea why, but it is possibly a past life desire! Obviously my subconscious is remembering the good memories of that possible lifetime, because watching this series feels very much like watching my life here in Luxor and that ain’t no fun!

Its not so much the way they live as the way the roles of men and women change, the more time they spend in the ranch. There is the ‘rich’ family, with their one female helper/servant, and then you have the cowboys and their cook living some way away from the main house.

Somehow, as they progress through the dynamics of life on an 1867 ranch the men seem to take control of everything and the women get pushed further and further into the house. I’ve only watched the first two episodes but already I am recognising the same dynamics as I experience here. The Ranch House mother summed it up for me. She was the driving force behind getting her family to do this project, but slowly she experiences that ‘position’ slowly ebbing away. “I was the driving force to get us here but I felt like I disappeared. I’m kind of doing the backbone job, I’m holding it up, getting it ready, making it move forward but, its so not about me, so you have to trust those around you…well you have to recognise that.”

Sucks to that! That is how I feel here. I wasn’t aware that women have no power, no input, and no value here, other than to take care of the men. What makes it worse is that the men are so inept! They are chaotic, they have no boundaries and absolutely no common sense whatsoever and yet, as a woman I am expected to trust them.

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For me, being the main financial backbone is completely disempowering. I feel like Rapunzel, kept in a tower by the wicked witch (no guesses as to who that is) and I am visited by my ‘prince’ who uses my hair/love to climb to me. But of course the wicked witch cannot know that the prince loves me, it has to be kept secret, or rather, in our case, his role is take care of her and the family of brothers and their wives. If he starts to pull away from her and his caretaking role of protector to be in relationship with me then she does everything in her power to bring him back to her. I am constantly reminded that I have no place or power here and my job is just to provide for them. Everything is fine so long as I am here in my tower/flat and do not interfere with how they do things here.

Just like the woman in the Ranch series I feel like I have disappeared. I have to be here to ‘take care’ of everyone’s needs and as soon as I try stepping back into my power and focus on my own needs and goals then I too am pulled back into focussing only on husband and family. It’s nearly like a survival tactic on their part. If I focus on my own life then somehow I won’t be focussing on theirs and to them their survival is more important than mine.

I see this happening to many Egyptian/foreign marriages. The Foreign women are there to provide security and financial wealth to the families they have married into. Instead of marrying a husband they have married an entire family and that family is very large with lots of ‘needs’. If you stay with the husband and his family then you are just the finance and you have no real relationship with our husband. You become a wife, but not a wife in the way we in the West see it, no…you are just the provider and support, nothing more. Your husband may well love you dearly but could he live with you somewhere else and just focus on your relationship as we do in the West? Would he be able to build a life as a couple, without having to take care of dozens of other people too? I don’t know. I’ve not seen it here!

The problem with being the financial backbone is that they do not recognise that European money does not grow on trees. They will manipulate and emotionally blackmail you in order to get their needs met, but your struggle is not recognised at all. The fact that you have given them every penny and are left with nothing for yourself is not their problem. They don’t really care. They care about the men’s health and welfare, but if my husband was not here with me would they care about my needs after they have bled me dry? Somehow I’m not so sure. I have seen other foreign women, married to Egyptian men, who have been fleeced and left destitute. The husbands and their families took what they wanted and dumped her, leaving her with nothing.

Thankfully my husband does care enough about me and I am careful enough to know how this works so I keep myself safe. I haven’t given up my whole life in order to be here, but I have left behind people I love. I know I have someplace to go to, so if everything went wrong I know I would be OK! The same cannot be said for other foreign wives however, who may have nothing to go back to; having spent their life savings to be with a husband who swore he loved them but really just wanted her money…or body…or both!gty_oprah_green_mi_130204_wb

Anyway, back to the ranch. I was speaking with one of my daughters on skype recently about a woman she saw on ‘Oprah’ who became a multi-millionaire by writing a book, and who subsequently lost it all to a man who swore he loved her! This woman had altruistic motives in being rich. She wanted to use her money to help people just as someone had once helped her. However, she found that people, instead of being just being grateful and using the money to help themselves began to expect her to give them money! She felt drained, recognised what was happening and stopped giving her money away. She was surprised at how this had happened, but I experience the same thing here. It reminds me of the scene in the Jesus movies when Jesus goes into the leper colony and all the lepers mob him trying to get him to heal them! They took what they wanted without thinking of him, not caring if he was damaged in the first place. 

Because people do not have any boundaries here it is very difficult to set them. Nobody wants to acknowledge them and will actively break them until they get back to their comfort zone, even if that means hurting you. You are not allowed to say no, or to refuse what they give you. If you do you are upsetting the apple cart and they do not like it at all. If you step out of your assigned role they will do everything in their power to put you back in it. They have a system here, if they borrow something from you (and they borrow things all the time!) they then will pay you back by giving you some of their food. ‘How lovely’, you think…initially! Over time however, you realise that you cannot say no without the entire house being up in arms. You are now obliged to both lend them stuff or give them what they want…because after all they give you food in repayment! The whole system here is based on obligations.

We tried it before, refusing, nicely, their food and bread etc. because I was tired of handing things out the door every time someone was toplant-growing-through-pavemento lazy to go to the shop, which is a minute’s walk from our house! It became a huge battle and this battle was waged everyday. I was no longer flavour of the month, mother killed my duck out of spite and jealousy and my life was made miserable. I gave in. I wasn’t strong enough…yet…to deal with the fallout of stepping outside the ‘box’.  And perhaps too I had not yet healed enough my own childhood guilt about being from the rich family while other people around me were not so ‘privileged’? I also did not have enough experience about what actually happens when I step outside the box! Now I know what will happen but now too I am more prepared. If I  am ‘sent to Coventry’ then so be it. I have no ducks or chickens or rabbits. They disappeared downstairs…like everything else. At least I can live a life I actually want…and can enjoy, and will be free to write, to weave, to live in the way that is me!

I often feel like a small plant trying to grow through the cracks of a concrete path. I send my little shoots up only to get squashed back by the footfall of a passerby. But I keep trying to grow. I think that maybe I’m tired of it now and I need to send my shoots out to find another crack to grow through, one where there are fewer people to step on me and squash my tentative growth.

Now I’m going to watch the rest of the Texan Ranch house to see how the ‘helper’ girl becomes a cowgirl despite all the men freezing her out! I might learn a thing or two!

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9 responses to “Mixed Marriage in Upper Egypt

  1. Ann – it seems you already live in the “Wild West” of your dreams…

    Boundries are only strong if they don’t move… Otherwise they are in sand and blow in the winds…
    It seems you are learning much more about yourself and what your own needs and boundries are than anything you are learning about your eccentric Egyptian clan… I think if you are true to your real self in your dealings and show them your strength and inner power for love and good that is the real you – that you are more like the feisty Scottish princess Merida in the Pixar cartoon “Brave” than the demure captive repunzel you describe…

    They are eternally passive aggressive toward you and each other out of lack and know only a “possessive” kind of love that comes from that lack and fear of loosing all…

    You know the love that knows the truth that the world really offers freedom and abundance to all and that can only come from inner strength and outward generosity… You only reap what what you sow….

    Let your inner love fearlessness and truth always shine forth Ann! It will blind them and maybe enlighten them to your paths real opportunity for all of you… You must always be authentic to your self….

    I Love reading your stories Ann – it’s like I’m in Egypt with you every time I read them… For all it’s angst and crazy complexity there is something so special about Egypt and it’s people that is always alive in my heart… Feels it has been in me for millenniums…

    Your stories make it come alive…

    Thanks for writing them

    Andrea Hyde

    • Hi Andrea, thatk you for your lovely comment. I am certainly learning about my own needs and boundaries…again!
      I have been working on my own healing for over 20 years now but coming here it feels like I am learning it all over again, but within a different context! It has taken me nearly two years to move out of the trauma of living here,in a constant energy of abuse and passive-aggressive behaviour. It felt completely overwhelming and only now am I beginning to surface…albeit slowly!
      It often feels to me that I had achieved a lot in my ‘previous life’ in the West and now I have incarnated again into Egypt, raw and full of potential, like a baby; excited by what I could achieve, only to find myself in a sea of abuse, poverty and oppression.
      My generosity is not recognised as such. It is taken advantage of. This family has land, a large house and garden and yet they still struggle because they misuse their resources. They could make enough money to live well if they managed their farm better but they don’t. I have tried to steer it in a better direction but I am, after all, only a woman…and a foreign one at that, so I am ignored! My function here is as provider, nothing more. I have tried to use the old ‘give them a fishing rod and not a fish’ idea but that was a complete waste of money. They just frittered it away and were left in the same old situation. They cannot handle success, because they are so used to poverty and struggle. They don’t have to struggle but their choices mean that they do.
      I had chosen to try to help but when I recognise this I have to make another choice. We give them so much that they thrive and we barely survive. We pay for so much, all the bills, the souk money, medical care for the kids etc. to the point where we have no money for the souk or clothes. We can be alright for a week but for three weeks we barely get by! Not good choices!
      I recognise my husband’s fear for his family but that fear is founded on childhood experiences and has no place in the present. He is managing better because I pass on my farming childhood knowledge. My father, once he sold the family businesses, became an agricultural consultant.and I picked up a lot from him, by osmosis!
      If the family were genuinely poor I would not find it so hard but they are not. They just think they are.
      So I have to change my choices because it is far too frustrating and painful. I am putting money into a bucket with a hole! I have to plug that hole somehow. It is no longer tenable!
      Nobody here recognises any of my ‘goodness’. They cannot recognise their own so it is impossible for them recognise any of mine. But hopefully, over time, all the work I have done will benefit them. I have given them a different foundation…I just hope they can make it work for them.
      I have to change my choices and make stronger boundaries. By the end of the year we will be leaving here anyway because I have work to do further North, Siwa I think! I sure hope it is easier than this!
      Re:the Hathor priestesses. I found that a couple of weeks ago but thanks for reminding me! I would dearly love to be able to access their energy. I wonder if it will be possible. How amazing that would be!!!
      I checked out the other site too. The message I got from it is: keep clearing…keep healing.
      My ultimate aim is to have a Gaia Method centre/farm/art studio here, open a maternity clinic for poorer people and write lots of books. But I think that is a few years away yet! I think I still have some work to do before then!
      In the meantime I will keep writing and healing and learning. I’m glad you enjoy the stories. It makes it worth the worth the writing. 🙂
      Ann

      • Ann – like Brave Merida – hold tight to who you are and what you stand for in your heart – do only what works for you and your husbands future – leave out of the refuge of the “upper room” and go forward to do your earth work and do visit the priestesses if you can – or maybe go to Abydos where the powerful Hathor and Osiris energies of pre old kingdom Egypt heal people every day –
        Fayoum is an artistic place that has always been away from the norm in Egypt too… The entirety of Egypt is out there waiting – don’t waste any more time on with your husbands weak selfish fearful family…. Just love and accept them for who they are at this point and move on…

        I think it will be easier for you than for your husband to set these boundries and progress in your own way … The ties of tradition honor guilt and fear that these West Bank families burden their children with are tight and insidious… Tight Nooses around thier necks really…
        I have a business colleague and friend that is from the West Bank of Luxor – he is the youngest son of a large well respected family there – he is the most worldly and educated of all of his many “older” brothers and he like you – has spent much of his time his own money and his personal gifts energies trying to help his needy clan to survive and over come thier deep superstitions and ignorances and join thier resources toward greater success… But it is like pissing in the wind – he is not respected or valued for his love and efforts – he’s only “used” by his family to act speak educated way on thier behalf in a crisis – ie take people to doctors – get them across gaurds at checkpoints, take care of setting up funerals, etc….
        He’s not a woman or a foreigner like you but he’s treated the same way as a resource and not as the teacher and leader even his own now dead father had seen him to be… He’s at a tough turning point now and if he stays they will “eat him alive” and use his energies up – if he wants to really live he knows he’ll have to leave them all behind… But the invidious familial noose around his neck tightens every time he try’s to move on… He will need to cut this umbilical himself – it’s a battle within himself as he knows they will officially shun him if he ever leaves… It’s hard for independent minded westerners like myself to “get” the difficulty of this…
        Your most difficult and ultimate mission there may be to help your husband to set his own independent goals for himself and your marriage and cut his own noose and not look back!!!

        I think together you two can help each other grow and help many other more open people in Egypt – even if his family is left behind…
        Keep the faith
        Keep writing
        Keep in touch and
        Facebook message me if you ever want someone to talk and have tea with…

        Andrea

      • That is exactly what I feel…the whole of Egypt is out there! I can feel the energy of moving getting stronger and I know it will probably take an emotional earthquake to get my husband moving but I have a feeling that that is what is coming.
        You describe the situation perfectly. I hate it when I see his mother telling him about yet another ‘need’ and I see his shoulders drop and his energy fall when he knows that he is being put into a bad situation of burden yet again. Most times he is the family ‘donkey boy’, the one who is told to do all of the things that no-one else can be bothered to do! Lazy lot!
        How do I contact you? Where are you?

      • I’m in Baltimore MD now… East coast of USA

        (Btw – The city of Baltimore is an Irish name after an Irish catholic lord who was given the land we know as Maryland by a Protestant English king…)

        My husbands mother was Irish – her maiden name was “spellman” – she was a see-er… She’s contacted me from the “other side” (duat) a few times…

        You can Skype call or text me at andrea.v.hyde

        Or viber call or text me on my cell number if you have viber account
        At 011-456-4907
        These are free…

        My Facebook page is also a good place to message me directly
        I think we are “friends” on Facebook?

        I really think that You are there to help Omar set himself (and you) free of these sad folks and go on to do good works with each other

        Yes my friend from Luxor also has these moments of defeat and helplessness… Sadly He has lost much of his own money that he could have used for his own progress because of his family noose…. And has gotten no thanks for it – they just want more…

        Lol – maybe You should take him with you when you leave? &;-)
        Saving two condemned souls in one effort!

        Message me and we can set up a call that works for your time – 7 hours ahead of me…

        Andrea

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