Monday, September 6, 2010

4 Women With 1 Man = A Man With His 4 Wives

Or, Harassment

Before I left, I had read so much information about western women being harassed in Cairo, and it is a very common thing. The Lonely Planet and the blogs I read said some men will even be so bold as to grope you- since us westerners are all “loose”. I have been quite cautious about what I wear- long sleeves and cover my legs. One day I wore a t-shirt and a woman hissed at me when I walked by, but I am comfortable enough to wear a t-shirt and capris around my neighbourhood. And many Egyptian women who are not veiled wear tight t’s and short dresses. At this time (and its only been 3 weeks) I have not experienced near as much harassment as I had prepared myself for-only 1 day of it. The day we took the Metro to the embassies was the worst day as 4 of us women and 2 guys got on the mixed sex carriage of the train. Inside it was a wall of Egyptian men who blatantly stared…for 20 minutes! The women from work who wear “normal” clothes said its also our skin colour that attracts the unwanted attention, even if we were wearing the same clothes, and our hair- many men are not used to seeing unveiled hair, especially blond hair.

We stopped for a drink in a ahwa, a traditional coffee house and that was a mistake…those places are full of traditional Egyptian men. It was outright staring- some men even leaned off their chairs to look at us (we were wearing t-shirts). We then took the train home, and after watching groups of men push each other to cram into the last tiny spot on the train, us girls decided that it would be a prime groping opportunity so we took the women’s carriage (usually a carriage in the middle of the train that only women and children can ride in). It was much more comfortable! We met our male friend, who had been befriended by a greasy looking Egyptian man, at the end of the ride and decided to go find some booze (which is few and far between!) As we walked along, the man tried it on each of us- you wife? I said no (stupid me!) cause I thought he was asking me if I was my friend’s wife. He then told me “you beautiful” and said he would like to marry me…and grabbed my arm. I told him to go away and I walked up to the boy in our group, while the greasy Egyptian tried it on everyone else! Only after he left our male friend told us that the guy had asked him if all of us were his wives…only in the middle east!

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