Can the retreat to Egypt be a journey to a new dawn?
Can the retreat to Egypt be a journey to a new dawn?
When he wakes up, the first thing that comes to mind is his beloved collection of antiques resting upstairs. He prepares his morning coffee and goes to the room where he keeps his collection.
“I treat them as if they were my children,” laughs Ahmed Abdelsattar, a 67-year-old Egyptian mechanical engineer.
An avid antique collector, Abdelsattar retired at the age of 62 and was finally free to indulge in hobbies he had no time for. From gramophones to antique radios, Abdelsattar collects antiques and keeps them on a separate floor of his house, dedicated to their safety. Every morning, Abdelsattar puts them away, cleans them, and sometimes even repairs them if they are broken.
He enjoyed mechanical engineering, as a hobby, as a field of study in college, and later as a full-time career. After working in a local engineering company, he then joined an international company specializing in the energy industry, for 35 years, until his retirement at the age of 62, after a two-year extension. years from his workplace.
Currently, most Egyptians retire at age 60. According to Egyptian law, the retirement age will increase by one year from July 2032 to reach 61, and will gradually increase by one year, every two years, until it reaches the age of 65 by 2040.
‘I hate the word’ma’ash‘ (retirement), and I am totally against having 60 as the retirement age. I believe that 60 is an age of extreme maturity, so we shouldn’t force people out of their jobs at that age,” Abdelsattar told Egyptian Streets.
Do Egyptians see retirement as their golden age?
In many countries, the years after the age of 65 are called “golden years”.
The reality of retirement in Egypt is different from that in Europe, while Europeans spend those years relaxing, traveling and making up for lost time during years of stress and hard work, many Egyptians dread more this step.
Despite being offered multiple jobs and partnership opportunities after retirement, Abdelsattar declined and decided to start his own small business, allowing himself the freedom to accept or reject business proposals and assignments according to his preferences. .
“I’m not looking for money, I’m only after enjoying the work I love without any pressure,” says Abdelsattar.
“The Egyptian old-age pension is 1,800 EGP (95 USD), and that’s illogical at a time when you really need the money. The cost of your medications will likely exceed that amount at that age,” he adds.
Besides his interest in mechanical engineering and antiques, Abdelsattar enjoys fishing.
Born and raised in the governorate of Dakahlia, Abdelsattar learned to love water, fishing and, above all, boats. So when he had the luxury of time, after retirement, he started making hand-built boats.
Like Abdelsattar, renowned Egyptian author and filmmaker Affaf Tobbala believes that age is just a number.
Tobbala, who is 81, was a documentary filmmaker, producer and director of the Nile Drama television channel. After a long and successful career in media and television, an industry in which she had an immense interest, she took on the role of educator. At 64, she embarked on a new path: she began teaching at Cairo University, then joined the October University of Modern Sciences and Arts as a member of the board of directors.
Around the same age, she began another career, this time in storytelling.
Although it was a setback for many because it was a dramatic life transition, retirement hasn’t stopped Abdelsattar or Tobbala from creating opportunities and finding different ways to enjoy life.
In his older years, Tobbala did not consider himself a writer; she did not enjoy the process, but instead found herself gravitating towards more methodical areas such as math and algebra. It was her late husband, an officer and judge by profession, a talented writer, who brought Tobbala into the world of literature. Seeking to share her interests at just 18, she’s grown to appreciate the beautiful parts of writing over the years.
“I always felt like I had something to say, but I didn’t know how to express myself in writing,” she recalls.
An act of love for her grandchildren opened up a new career path that was once unimaginable.
“My grandchildren, Amina and Shehab, traveled a lot. When they came home, I always wanted to do something special for them, so I started telling them stories that I made up myself,” she recalls.
Tobbala continued to tell his grandchildren stories they looked forward to, until a family member encouraged him to write those stories and publish them. After which, readers all over the world started enjoying Tobbala’s children’s stories.
“I could never imagine being just a number among a population. I was determined to leave a mark by creating something special,” enthused Tobbala.
In many cases, mandatory government retirement without providing employees with skills and training to cope with their retirement years can lead to negative experiences.
The indigestible side of retirement in Egypt has been shown in various hit Egyptian series in recent years. In a popular Egyptian series called Abu El Arousa (“Father of the Bride”, 2017-2022), Aida, played by Egyptian actress Sawsan Badr, faces the daunting prospect of retiring after years of government service. Her colleagues are seen wishing her a happy birthday and blowing out her birthday candles, as she prepares to step down from her lifelong career.
On the other hand, in Khali Balak Men Zizi (“Pay Attention to Zizi”), another successful Ramadan series that aired in 2021, Nariman, played by Egyptian actress Safaa El Toukhy, turns 60 and is forced to withdraw from a reputable position at the bank. However, her husband teases her about reaching old age.
Along the same lines, Amal Mikhail, a 60-year-old Egyptian based in Dubai, describes the timing of retirement in Egyptian government institutions as harrowing.
“They celebrate the employee’s birthday, then ask them to pack their bags and say goodbye to their workplace and colleagues on the same day. How heartbreaking is that? They make such a special day associated with a very hard memory, ”she exclaims.
Award-winning author Tobbala advises family members to support those suffering from the retirement blues by not making them feel like they have nothing left to give.
“True happiness is being able to give,” shares Tobbala.
Unfortunately, millions of Egyptians suffer from low levels of life satisfaction and loss of interest after retirement.
Without hobbies, activities, or daily routines, they begin to become lost and isolated from family and friends.
The transition from employment to retirement can be difficult to digest, especially for those whose life was preoccupied with their job. Having enough money and a good pension is not always enough for a happy retirement. Instead, creating a post-retirement plan that includes pursuing hobbies, traveling, or starting your own business can reduce the sense of dissatisfaction that accompanies many retirees in Egypt.
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