x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

'In Egypt, you don't have the chance to dream'

Mahmoud Sabry lives on Dh200 (US$54) a month, and he reckons he could get by with less.

Mahmoud Sabry works as a hotel receptionist in Dubai and sends home Dh1,200 a month from his Dh1,400 salary.
Mahmoud Sabry works as a hotel receptionist in Dubai and sends home Dh1,200 a month from his Dh1,400 salary.

DUBAI // Mahmoud Sabry lives on Dh200 (US$54) a month, and he reckons he could get by with less. The 27-year-old Egyptian earns Dh1,400 a month as a receptionist at the City Centre Hotel in Dubai, and sends Dh1,200 of it to his family in Mansoura, a city about an hour northeast of Cairo that was founded by Saladin. He has worked in the UAE for two years, and already feels an important window of opportunity is closing for him. "I spent a lot before, and my age doesn't allow for a lot of spending any more," he said, referring to his need to put aside money for a marriage.

The result is an insatiable urge to save as much as he can. Much of the money he sends back goes towards his unrealised dreams, such as building a home for his future bride. His family also uses the money "for home needs". "If there's anything they need they take from the money of course. One has to have priorities," he adds. While Mr Sabry hopes to return to Egypt one day - "Dh1,200 is not the price of leaving my country," he says - for the moment he would rather be in the UAE. "In Egypt, you don't have the chance to dream. You just hope to start a home and live with your wife and children there."

He also has hopes for his siblings, who are all still in Egypt. His sister is already married, but he intends to take care of his two younger brothers, one of whom is 23 and works at an internet cafe. "I'm responsible for him. I'll get him married," he said, beaming. His sense of duty towards the family goes beyond a simple, monthly cut. It is about opportunity. My brother "didn't get the chance to travel and staying and working in Egypt won't help him to get married", he said.

"Since I'm the one who travelled and got the chance at home and I'm the eldest, I should help him. I shouldn't just work for myself." Mr Sabry's austerity has raised eyebrows among his friends, but he does not easily succumb to peer pressure. "My friends ask me: 'How do you live with Dh200?' But I tell them I've already wasted a lot of money. I shouldn't just waste money here in the UAE." But waste is relative for Mr Sabry, who insists he could survive on just Dh30 a month the price of a telephone card that allows him to speak with his family - since he has no other expenses. The hotel provides his accommodation and he eats leftovers from the hotel kitchen.

It is all part of a very pragmatic approach rather than a penchant for self-punishment. "I'm not doing this because I enjoy it," Mr Sabry said. "I want to do something because I don't know what the future will look like. I try to save anything I can."