Friday, 9 May 2008

Oasis - Saying Goodbye to Egypt

Saying Goodbye to Egypt

Karishma Pais (Kim)

The time has come to leave this country where you have just spent a reasonable amount of your lifetime. How do you say goodbye?

You have just been informed by the company that its time for the next transfer. If you are among the lucky few, you are given at least one months notice about the move. If not, you may barely have a week.

Where do you start on closing things up? Do you have the time to finish it all before its time to leave? Will one parent need to stay back while the children finish their semester at school/college? All these questions are best settled ahead of time rather than trying to resolve them once the transfer orders are in.

Below is a little checklist to help you prepare for sudden and planned transfers out of Egypt.

Financial Matters:

Try and have a system with everyone’s financial details organized on a computer or in files to help speedily close things up.

Online banking is a remarkable tool and it is reasonably safe too. If you have activated online banking, you can transfer your funds from your Egyptian bank account to the new country, even after you are physically out of Egypt.

Try and pay all credit card and other debts before you leave the country, you never know when it will catch up with you and affect your credit rating.

Medical Matters:

Collect your medical files from all doctors and veterinarians concerned.

Take any preventive medicines and inoculations if necessary, for the country that you are moving to.

If you are transporting your pet, then check that it has received all necessary shots and its paperwork is in order for the country you are moving to. (If you have a pet and don’t plan to take it along with you- please try and find a loving home for it before you leave. It isn’t fair for a domesticated animal to be thrown out into the streets. It would be kinder to have them put down by the vet.)

Closing up the House:

If your rental apartment is on a personal lease, then you will need to contact your landlord/landlady and terminate the lease and get your deposit back.

If you share an apartment and the other flatmates are staying behind, do your bit to help them find another room-mate rather than leaving them in the lurch – its good karma.

When packing your belongings, you may want to separate them into different categories: carry along, sell at a discounted rate, donate to charity and throw away. Given the poverty levels in Egypt, unless something is absolutely useless and should have been thrown out long ago, don’t put it in the throw away pile. It is surprising how much more mileage your bowab or garbage collector can get out of it.

If the company isn’t footing your bill and baggage weight is a huge constraint you can consider selling some things and using the extra cash or look into alternative methods of transporting your things to your new location.

Souvenirs & Memories:

There are so many beautiful places to visit in Egypt and so many things to do in Cairo. Try and cover all the highlights as soon as you can. Places like Siwa Oasis, Nile Cruise and Petra, Jordan need advance planning and a couple of days off, which will be difficult to organize, once you have your marching orders.

Take plenty of pictures and frame some of them to remind you that there were good days too.

Troll the khan-el-khalili and elsewhere for souvenirs of the years in Egypt. There is such a large choice of papyrus paintings, mashrabiya furniture, brass, copper, silver work, carpets and rugs. If you plan this in advance, you can order items to your specification and not be too frustrated at “Inshallah, Bukhra”

Saying Goodbye to Friends:

This is the toughest part and no amount of preparation can dull the pain of separation. Most trailing spouses would have a solid network of friends whom they leaned on for support to get through those tough days in Cairo when nothing seemed to go right. These are the people it will be hardest to say Goodbye to.

Allocate enough time for a final meal/get-together with everyone and make plans for them to visit you at your next location.

Leave enough space in your baggage to accommodate the last minute gifts that will come your way. Egyptians especially are extremely sentimental and they will definitely press some gifts upon you and they will be offended if you refuse.


Younger kids will feel additional pain at leaving behind good friends. Help them prepare too.

Arrange for them to spend quality time with their friends.

Make sure they exchange email addresses and phone numbers, especially in case of little ones. You never know when your 7 year old is going to turn around and demand to talk to her best friend in Egypt when you are in Hong Kong or Mexico.

Get all their paper work from school or college so that admissions in the next country aren’t a problem.

Reverse Culture Shock:

Be prepared for changes in lifestyle in the new country.

McDonalds won’t deliver home.

You may not have a battalion of household help.

But you managed before and will be able to manage again.

These are the minor details. The best advice I can give is to “Be Prepared” As long as you are mentally prepared for the move, it won’t be hard. You moved to Egypt, you adjusted, you survived. You are a Graduate from the Egyptian School of Survival. You should now be able manage in any part of the World.

Kim has a background in HR and is an Intercultural Trainer, helping other expats adjust to the move. She blogs about Egypt at

Pictures are by her & her husband Brajesh.

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