Cleaning day

Where strength and a lot of water are required…!

For some it can be a bit of a shock to discover that you have not realized that the way you clean a house is actually a cultural thing: and that when you live in a different culture, you will find that many more things in your life are more culturally based than you thought. We often then assume that the way WE do things is correct (the right way to do it!) and any other way by definition is incorrect (the wrong way!).

But half the misunderstandings could be avoided if we take the time to understand and learn how and why other people do things differently, and taste the particular cultural flavor that is evident in whatever we are looking at.

Take cleaning the house for example:

How is it “done” in Egypt? Well again, that is such a broad question, and there will be differences in each village, town, city and family, there are some similarities:

SPEED: once Egyptian women (and indeed men) get going with cleaning, they seem to move in a frenzied whirlwind. The aim is to get through the cleaning as quickly as possible, so that you can get down to the good stuff (food and friends!)

WATER: there is usually a lot of water that is used to clean and mop, particularly in the bathrooms. Everything that is movable will be moved out of the bathroom and then all the walls, floors, toilet, basin, bath will be sprayed with water, washed and then sprayed down again. The wonderful thing about most Egyptian bathrooms (and balconies) is that they have small drains in the floor, and then you can simply “squee-gee” the water down the drain. This leaves the entire bathroom wet, but with the heat here (for the bulk of the year) it dries out very quickly. So a good hint is not to have too many things on your shelves or tables in the bathroom (as sometimes they get wet!!)

MOPPING: a lot of mopping also happens: in the shops you can find a variety of products to mop with: soap for tiles, marble, liquid for parquet flooring, wood flooring and any number of types of brooms, mops and buckets. Again, all this done with high energy and speed!

RUGS AND CARPETS: Egyptians are quite proud of having a variety of rugs, mats and carpets: small ones to rather impressively large ones. Fashions come and go, and you can see a variety of the “classic” rugs, with their beauty and style, and then the more quirky modern ones with louder colors and less natural threads. Egypt tends to be a rather dusty place, and keeping these rugs and carpets clean is something every Egyptian woman takes pride in. The easy, but more costly, way of having them cleaned is the local carpet cleaning man! You phone him and  they send a younger “runner” (or 2) to roll up and carry the rugs back to the laundry. They will then beat, wash and dry them, wrap them in plastic, and the same “runners” will proudly unwrap and lay down the new clean carpet for you.

However, if this is not an option, many homes will have daily cleaning ladies, who will (usually once a week, or month, depending on the dust levels) take out the mats, one at a time, throw them across the balcony wall, and then beat them with a carpet-beater. This is a sight to behold, (and to avoid when walking underneath the enthusiastic cleaning lady). Once beaten, they are left in the sun for a period (to sanitize them) and then brought back inside. Once every few months, the carpets will be washed: which involves the usual beating first, and then a strong broom with a soapy mixture to wash the carpet. It will then be hung out to dry.