Egyptian T-shirts

April 17, 2009

My roommates and I just love the colorful t-shirts we sometimes see people wearing here in Egypt. We just spotted someone in the Sadat metro station wearing a shirt that said “2 Times Sex a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!”

Other notable t-shirt quotes include “Orgasm donor” and my personal favorite, worn buy a muhajiba girl at AUC, “I’m the one you have to blow to get a drink in this place.”

More to come inshallah.

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مذكرة من مذكراتي عن حياتي في مصر

March 11, 2009

أنا باخذ فصل خاص مع معيد عشان اتمرن على العامية فطلب المعيد مني ان اكتب كذا مذكرة عن حياتي في مصر ففكرت ان ممكن يكون مثير لبعضكم اذا كتبت بعضها هنا بس مش عارف اكتب في وردبريس كويس والنقطة اللي بنحطها في اخر الجملة مش شغال فمعليش حنجرب بقى

بعدما خلصت البوكس النهارده رحت اقعد مع صاحبي حسن اللي بيشتغل في المحل جنب شقتي فكنا نتفرج على القناة الثانية المصرية ومسلسل مصري مش عارف اسمه بس على اى حال كان كذا مشهد في المسلسل مع ستاتا كانوا بيرقصوا مع رجال في دسكو وبيلبسوا هدوم مش محترمة قوي ولمحت الى المحل قللى دامنا وشفت علامة مكتوب عليها “اذكر الله

فكنت اتامل المشهد دا قياسا الى ما شفته على الشاشة فقلت لحسن ان ساعات انا متلخبط في مصر عشان مش فاهم الناس بيتصرفوا ازاي وساات اذا هو بتشوف حاجة من التناقض مع المشاهد دي مثلا في ناس كثيرة متدينيين في مصر بس في نفس الوقت في معرفة عن تصرفات زي اللي شفناها في المسلسل

فتكلمنا عن الزبيبة وحاجة زي كده وقلتله ان في امريكا عندنا ناس متدينيين كمان وناس مش متديتنيين وناس مؤدبين وقليل الادب كمان وانه بس الدين مش موجود يعني في الشوارع زيه موجود في مصر وانني بس شايف الاختلافات دي بشدة وواضحة قي المجتمع المصري

حسن قال انه فهم اللي قلته وان هي كده في مصر وطبعا فاهم دا وقال كمان ان بغض النظر عن كل دا اهم حاجة ان يكوم المتدين مؤدب واذا حد ميهتمش  بالدين قوي لازم يكون مؤدب كمان وانا مش شايف ان دا تبسيط الامر وانما حسن بيشوف الامر زي كده وهو مش غبي ولا مش متعلم بس وبافتكر انه زي مصرييين تانيين اللي ما لهومش دعوة في الموضوعات الغريبة اللي باسال عنها ساعات

وانا مش عايز اقول انه مش واخد باله على حاجات او قضايا مهمة بش انه غالبا مش بيفكر في نفس الحاجات وعلى نفس الطريق اللي بافكر فيها انا كامريكي ساكن في مصر

في الحقيقة مافيش قصد لعرض دا بس كنت عايز اكتب حاجة انا متاسف


“Vindicated Sex Assault Victim Now Accused of Being Israeli, Lying”

December 17, 2008

This is a little bit of a backtrack, but I had wanted to write about this before and did not have a chance to, and just found this article about it in English.

In a water-shed case an Egyptian man was convicted to three years in jail for sexually harassing a woman on the street, something which happens all of the time but is rarely talked about and for which people are rarely held accountable. This case got significant media attention, and has likely encouraged the government’s beginning to deal with the problem. For a bit more info on this check out this Foreign Policy Blog post here.

Some highlights from the article:

“Lawyer Nabih al-Wahash has issued a lawsuit against Rushdi, calling for her arrest for harming national security and lying about her attacker. He argues that Rushdi is Israeli and is attempting to undermine the sentiments of the country.”

“Nagla’a Imam, a lawyer who initially came out in vocal support of Rushdi, is now saying that the 27-year-old filmmaker is an Israeli who is attempting to tarnish Egypt and is using the case for her own personal gains.”

This is another example of disgusting Egyptian anti-Israel sentiment. Not only that, but these accusers are completely ignoring the essential problem, which is rampant sexual harassment in Egyptian society.


Gulf Arabs in Egypt

November 27, 2008

We were just sitting chatting with Mohammed the barber when I remembered that I saw him sitting with a Yemeni man the other day is new to the neighborhood. Mohammed told me that the man was here on vacation and was renting an apartment for a few weeks because it is cheaper than a room in a hotel.

Gulf Arabs come to vacation in Egypt quite often, and I have yet to hear an explanation of this phenomenon other than the one I am about to share. Mohammed told me that Gulf Arabs, especially the more convervative Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, come to Egypt to “go out with women.” This means everything from just speaking to women to sleeping with them. In these countries, Mohammed explained, the women are all covered, most often wearing niqab. I wanted to question this stereoptype as I hear it often and I think it’s generally useful to do so, so I asked Mohammed if he was sure that this was really the reason people from the Gulf come to Egypt. He said, “well yesterday when I was speaking with him he asked me the best place to fine women in Cairo, so yes, I am sure.”

He added that to Gulf Arabs, Egypt is known as “أمريكا العرب.” “The America of the Arabs.”


More of the Same Old…Suzanne Tamim and Sexual Harassment

November 20, 2008

Today my program met with an Egyptian lawyer. She was very nice and told us a bit about the kinds of cases she deals with, which range from business to family law. Someone asked her to comment on the Suzanne Tamim case, something I have not been paying much attention to but I understand as follows: A wealthy Egyptian businessman and member of Egypt’s Shura Council, Hisham Taalat Moustafa, ordered a hit on his estranged lover, Ms. Tamim, a well known Lebanese singer who was apparently engaged in a number of “relationships” with various men.

During the discussion, the lawyer offered her personal opinion on the case. She said that Suzanne Tamim deserved what she got for behaving in such an immoral manner. Yes, that she deserved to be murdered and have her throat slit because she was sleeping around. She said that a Muslim, Arab, proper girl should not behave this way. It was really that simple. The lawyer emphasized that this was her personal opinion and not that of the law.

My Egyptian professors were just as astonished as my classmates and I were, and I would not say this is representative of Egyptians as a whole, but this type of thinking certainly does exist here. And to be fair, I am sure there are people in the US who would feel the same way. In addition, how does this impact the effectiveness of the law? How do lawyers and judges who are mandated to uphold the law no matter their personal opinions deal with cases like this? This is probably a question for my uncle…

As usual, we also discussed the issue of sexual harassment in Egypt, which I know I talk a lot about but is hard to avoid when I constantly hear stories from my classmates about being harassed. This woman is an Egyptian, educated lawyer, and she flat out told us that she has never seen someone being sexually harassed in Egypt and that she does not consider it to be a problem. Furthermore, she explained that when it does happen, it is because the individual who commits the act cannot make a proper moral decision about what is right and wrong. That is, she does not think that sexual harassment is a societal problem but rather that it happens on a case by case basis involving people who just do not know any better. By that logic then, she is claiming that two-thirds of the male population in Egypt cannot figure out that you should not grab women’s private parts on the street. I don’t buy that. In my opinion, she is trying to place the blame on the individual in an attempt to deny that there are real problems in Egypt’s sexual culture.

I have heard all of this before and frankly I am getting a little sick of it. We have these meetings with prominent, influential Egyptians who are educated and who are doing good for their country, and for some reason, whether it is because they don’t want to paint a bad picture of Egypt in front of foreigners, or they actually think that there are no real problems here, they just keep feeding us bullshit.

I spoke with my professor about this later and she a made a good point which is that I should not get too upset or be so surprised when someone does not deliver the response I expect from them. Just because this woman is a lawyer, etc. does not mean that I should expect certain ideas or opinions from her. And vice versa, I might be surprised to hear what a less educated person has to say, as well.

And for the record, we have plenty of societal and cultural problems in America, too, so don’t think that I am picking on anybody. I just happened to be living in and studying Egyptian society and culture.


Suzanne Mubarak Denies there is Sexual Harassment in Egypt

November 17, 2008

That’s pretty much it. Wow. (It’s in Arabic, sorry)


Egypt’s Top Judge

November 10, 2008

My program was fortunate enough a few weeks ago to secure a meeting with Egypt’s top judge, Zakaria Abdel Aziz, head of the Judges Club. The Club is an institution to which all Egyptian judges belong, a type of judicial union/syndicate in Egypt, though I am not sure its exact legal status. Regardless, Abdel Aziz came to speak to us about his experience leading this group, his unprecedented legal opposition to the government (Unlikely Reformers: Egyptian Judges Challenge the Regime), and about women’s legal issues in Egypt, an Egyptian man just being put in jail for sexual harassment in a landmark case(Egyptian Gets Jail for Sex Assault in Milestone Case).

Abdel Aziz began by giving us an interesting history of the Judges Club. He talked about when it was formed, how it works, and how it has historically dealt judicially with Egyptian politics, through times of both relative freedom and of intense political oppression. He was supposed to also speak to us about women’s issues in Egypt, but after giving the history of the Club, instead opened the floor up to questions. A student asked about the relationship between Egyptian law and Islamic law, called Sharia. A very good and fair question, as Egypt’s law is commonly known to be a mix of French civil law as a result of France’s colonization of Egypt, and elements of Sharia law, as Egypt is a Muslim country. Apparently the common knowledge in this case is wrong, as the judge explained that Sharia has nothing to do with Egyptian law. This is plainly false. Even my professor was surprised by this answer.

Abdel Aziz

The judge then went on, frankly to an astonished audience, explaining how although Egypt does not follow Sharia law, it is the best and most advanced type of judicial system and, yes I am serious, would even be a good system for the United States to adopt. He explained that the Jews failed morally under laws given to them in the Torah, and hence God sent another messenger to his people, Jesus, to give them new laws to follow. The Christians, of course, failed in this respect as well, leading God to send the Prophet Muhammad with the laws of the Quran. His proof of this was that it says in the Quran that Muhammad is the last messenger of God, bringing God’s final and complete message.

Slightly shocked, I thought I might change the subject and ask him about something we were supposed to be discussing. My question was “Do you have a comment on the recent ruling regarding the sexual harassment case, and what do you think is the future of this issue in Egypt politically, culturally, and socially?” I received a two part answer. The first part was that yes, there is a problem with sexual harassment in Egypt, but there are these same problems all across the world. In fact, there is an international phenomenon of moral decline, which is causing this problem. Even in America you have these problems. Next, he told me that if I go up to a woman on the street in Egypt and say something to her such as “oooh, you are so pretty,” or hiss at her, then I will get thrown in jail for a week because that is Egyptian law. Sexual Harassment in Egypt really deserves its own post, in fact, one could write an encyclopedia about it, but let me just say that it is sometimes the police officers here who are doing the harassing, and when my classmate got spit on the other day, and my other classmate got her crotch grabbed multiple times in broad daylight, no one went to jail.

So unfortunately, what could have been an incredibly rewarding discussion on the challenges to the judicial system in Egypt turned out to be, for lack of a better term, complete and utter bullshit. My classmates and I were not only disappointed, but angry as well.
What the judge talked about is indicative of a lot of social and cultural problems in Egypt. First, the view that Islam is the be all and end all, that is has the answers to everything, and that one is silly not to embrace it, is manifested in a myriad of contexts and as this educated, influential judge has proven, at all levels of society. Second is the lack of responsibility in Egyptian culture. Even in the Egyptian dialect, one does not say “I missed the bus.” The actual translation would be “the bus missed me.” The judge, who of all people should be willing to take responsibility and admit that Egypt has a problem with sexual harassment, blamed it on the rest of the world and of course, which brings me to my final point, brought the US into the discussion. I realize that because I am American, Egyptians may whole-heartedly want to discuss America with me, or relate what they are saying to the US because they think it might be useful for me or help elucidate a point. But even though the sex that Egyptians see in US movies certainly has an effect on their sexual behavior, it really is not an excuse for the terrible sexual harassment problems in Egypt.

It is a sad state of affairs in my opinion when the man who should be representing rule of law, accountability, and the democratic process refuses to deal with important issues facing his country and preaches his religion in place of a constructive discussion on the role of the judiciary. Not to mention he didn’t answer my question.