Thursday, August 27, 2009

Using the Loo ... Egyptian Style

I never thought I’d have so many points to make as it relates to the toilet and using one, but that time has arrived.

After being in Egypt for three weeks, I’m convinced that many Americans take going to the bathroom for granted. I can say that now, because some of the public restrooms in Egypt have been far from pleasant. It's truly a matter of knowing how to pick a decent public bathroom. It should be duly noted that in Egypt the bathroom is known as a Wash Closet or W.C.

There are several things that are peculiar about public wash closets in Egypt, at least from my American perspective. First, it is not a given that they will have toilet paper. I know that that could also be the case for many public restrooms in the states, but it is a mindset in Egypt. Women are known to check their purses before leaving home to make sure they have a purse-sized pack of Kleenex.

Second, if you do have toilet paper, you are not to toss it in the toilet bowl. The hotel in Sharm el Sheikh had some version of the ‘do not’ sign that indicated that you are not to toss paper in the toilet bowl. I took it to mean you are not to toss feminine products in the toilet bowl. But not even toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. I have not gotten a full explanation on this one, just that the system is unable to handle a flood of toilet paper.

So what are you to do w/the toilet paper once you are done w/it? In most cases, no matter how scroungy the wash closet, there is a small waste can next to the toilet, and that is where you drop your used toilet paper. I know, I know. That’s a fine idea, if it’s just a ‘number one’, but things get a bit messy (pun intended) with the ‘number two’. At my apartment, the ‘number two’ paper goes down the toilet (until further notice). This is something that I will inquire about to see if there are repercussions for flushing too much toilet paper down the toilet.

The next thing that is unlike restrooms in the U.S. is that there is a hose next to the toilet. I’ve found a hose next to the toilet in nearly all toilets in Egypt even in the newly opened Bibliotheca Alexandrina Library in Alexandria as well as in the bathrooms in many apartments. What’s the hose for? Of course, I asked, but I don’t actually believe the response that I’ve been given. I’ve been told that the water from the hose is for washing your rear! Huh? Maybe it’s my ignorance or simply my American ways, but how can washing your butt be accomplished w/o paper products and w/o making a mess – of yourself and of the wash closet? I am still perplexed and thus refuse to believe that that is the proper use of the hose next to the toilet. If this is true, the Egyptians are practicing a brand of ‘Going Green’ that is not likely to catch on globally. Again, I need to pose that question to a more trustworthy Egyptian. Meanwhile, no shaking anyone's left hand ...

Two more interesting points about toilets in Egypt - some of them are square as opposed to oval shaped in the U.S. What more can I say about that one? And the flushing mechanism is usually on the top. Some times you have to push it in, others you have to pull it up. There's no handle on the side.

Lastly, though not so much unlike in the U.S. the wash closet often has an attendant. You are expected to give her at least 1-2 Egyptian pounds (LE) (one Egyptian pound equals 17 cents in the U.S.) She will usually give you a few sheets of toilet paper. I have never been fond of the ‘pay to pee’ concept, so I am not so happy that I have to carry change - ready and available - w/me in a moment of urgency.

And so I’ll leave you scratching your head (or your ass) w/this final point of Egyptian toilet tidbits… even the toilet paper here is different. I’ve been doing a bit of a test. The Kleenex brand seems to be much less coarse than the brand that was at my apartment when I moved it. Nice that I even had some when I moved in, right? Cottinelle and Charmin are not on the shelves of my local grocer and I’m okay w/that since I do have some options and I don’t merely have a hose next to my toilet waiting to be put to use.

Check out the video below ... it is hilarious.

Check out this blog for more on the squat toilet.

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At 11:35 PM, Blogger Lori said...

Hey Radiogirl, I shared this post with the hubby and had him cracking up. Actually, these sorts of things appeal to the curious anthropologist in me. Great stuff! Don't think I'd ever be able to use those squat toilets. Forget about strong thighs, knee strength is really what you need. Folks like me, with bad knees, would be in an awful fix . . . LOL


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