An Egyptian living in Europe but her heart stayed back home. Having some random thoughts about the before and after pictures. Ghawayesh means bracelets. In my context it symbolizes the cuffs of my culture. I don't know if I like them or hate them. Thanks for passing by.

About Me

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I started this blog in 2006 as a joke. Now that I look back, I have decided to take it seriously!

06 December 2006

Egyptian Women

Women, any women, or even men for that matter, are a reflection of their culture in everything they do.

So let's see what our culture (generally speaking) dictates us and how we react to it accordingly. (Please bear in mind that the different classes see things in variable degrees):

- Since childhood we can only play with dolls and kitchen appliances. Results: We are programmed to realize that we should be good house-keepers and baby carers. I bought my son a mini-washing machine, mini-vacuum cleaner, mini-iron and ironing board, mini-kitchen, and a baby doll (and they are all among his favorite toys), and when my (Egypt-based and Egypt-minded) sister saw that, she was stunned, and said: "Your son will become a homo".

- As we grow up, we constantly hear: "You're a girl, you can't do that. Only boys can do that". "That" can be anything adventurous; demanding physical strength; technical thinking or action; or freedom of movement. Result: We are cripples! We don't sport, we stand helpless if the kitchen sink is clogged, or the car breaks down, or the computer crashes. Hey! We are women and we need a man to save us, right? Travelling alone abroad is still a taboo to most of us (Things are changing now though, thumbs up). My sister was once at work and her boss told her: "You are one of my best employees, you're good enough to be a man! I think you should have your post-graduate degree abroad. But you won't go that far to live and travel alone like some women of nowadays do, would you? *said while he's rolling his eyes*. Wait until you marry maybe your husband will take you abroad". He didn't know of course that this very young woman he was talking to takes a role model in her sisters and her mother who did exactly what he finds so offensive.

- A girl's main goal in life should be to hunt down a man. No matter how high we reach, we are *nothing* without a man. From the moment puberty hits us in the butt, the rat-race starts. And in order to get one hooked, we have to be the perfect candidates.

Now the question is, who's the perfect candidate?

The more female the better. Okay how do I do that?

Walk like a woman. Result: We walk "gluteously". I think you get my point. Wearing high pointed heels all day. Get bunions, calluses, or claw-toes.. Who cares?

Talk like a woman. Result: We have two voices, one for home (the natural go33eerah), and one for outside, which is soft, harmonious, and more weasel-like.

Act like a woman. Results:

* If your car broke down, wait helplessly next to it and have the fragile look on your face until your hero emerges out of the nearest-by balla3ah (sewage hole).

* Don't be too clever. You can't be more clever than the guy. Pretend not to know anything about politics or science. You don't know any swear words/slang or anything about sex.

* Sell/present yourself well. Looks are mostly what matters. We have an obsession with the exterior.

Now who do you want to end up with? A conservative man who "knows God"? Well sister, then you gotta wear a higab/khimar/niqab/3abaya/melaya, no make-up or perfume, say nothing but God said and the prophet said, walk like an introvert and have an aura of a little scared mouse, hang around the religious circles and be best friends with people who seem to have eligible brothers or sons who happen to have contracts in KSA.

Now if you want a progressive, open-minded, Western-like dude, okay then baby, be my guest to look as European (and nowadays replace European with Lebanese) as you can. That of course becomes a reflection of what we see in the media. Only few of us know how European women are really like and be really like them (In a good way I mean, as in practical, hard-working, no fashion-freaks etc..). Okay what do I need for this? From top to toe: Blond hairs (bleach), white skin (make-up), a good body (Do a *Dyt*, pronounced the Egyptian way), but sorry, the boobs and the ass stay, guys like that, baby! Go to the hairdresser at least once a week. You can't let anyone know you have curly frizzy hair; what! You want to become an old-maid? And don't forget to get your 20 nails "did" while you're there. Don't forget to use loads of English and French into your Arabic, and a bonus is to use words like "mahdooma"(=digested, a Lebanese word which actually means nice!). Breaking News: The Lebanese have fake noses, boobs, lips and hips. Papa can buy you some too, if you wish. Oh and one more thing, your grandma is Turkish.

* You're a virgin. You will always be a friggin’ virgin. Forget all the Orfis and zombies you've been through (or better said, have been through you). YOU ARE A VIRGIN. Have been pregnant with 6 bastards and went to Dr. Amr of Heliopolis for some D&C and sewing up? Forget that, nothing happened. Y O U- A R E -A- V I R G I N! Mashi ya kotta?!

I was once in a wedding of people I didn't know too well, and as always I was observing. I could tell who's single and who's married. The married ones looked like trucks, and the single ones were still intact. The married ones moved in space like cookie monsters and talked like Stewies, and were beeloghghoo (engulfing) the food like there was no hope for a repeat, while the single ones were picking the food with the tip of their forks and spending a minute or two chewing on each tiny-winy bite. Hey! Maybe the man of their dreams, his mother, sister, SIL, or aunt is watching. Always be ready!

- The men are always right. If you get harassed or abused; shut up. It was your fault anyway. Why go out at night? Oh! You're a nurse and had a nightshift? Why did you become nurse?! To go out at night and be touched up by cute doctors, I bet! Why wear what you were wearing? Oh! You were wearing the veil? But the police "cross-examination" proves you had a hot black bra on. Why a hot black bra, of all bras, ya sharmoota? See? You're just asking for it!

- Now that there's someone finally proposing: Demand a butt-load of money for shabka and mahr. Make him feel you're worth millions. It will make him value you more. While actually deep down you can't believe that someone finally got trapped into marrying you, but hey, he is not supposed to know that you were a wo-man with a plan, and that your tricks finally worked. Et2aly! (literally translated: Be heavy!!)

- Now that you've finally gotten married:

* You know nothing about sex (I know you do, but do as if). Never ask for it, never say what you want, never show him the way to your clitoris (if it is still alive and budding), or else he will think you're experienced. Want to lose your King Kong, baby? Go a head then and enjoy sex and make him feel suspicious! You deserve all what you get then . I know sex feels like a frontal collision on Cairo-Alexandria Road; I know you have chronic pain and discomfort because of it; and I know you are often forced to do it, but hey, shut up and open those lovelies/fuglies for the master of disaster approaching in maximum speed.

* You're married! Hurraaaayyyy! You're a winner! Next step: DO NOT by any chance let go of him. Men are natural cheaters. Do not lose sight of him. Do not let him talk to other women. Tell the kids to spy on him for you. Even if you can't afford food. GET HIM A MOBILE! Then you know where he is all day. Stalk the testosterone out of him. Call him every other hour and ask him where he is and what he's doing. I know you're busy with the kids and the house, and you haven't noticed the miserable shape you're in, but as long as you got him the kids, time for the roles to turn hun.


He won't leave you! You have kids with him! Now baby, have the morning, midday and evening fight as you wish. Nakkedy (cause annoyance and trouble) as you like. Remember, you are the mother of his kids, and he will always be weak for that.

Insult his manhood, his brains, his miserable income, his family, throw stilettos at him at the lobby of Omar Effendi, JUST DO IT baby and your mother is totally behind you!

And at the end of the day, receive a good beating just to recap on who the real boss is, and to bring the balance back into the relationship, sealed with a fcuk.

Repeat the cycle if you're a good girl, or break free like my mommy and me.


The Sandmonkey said...

How did you break free exactly?

QueenAlyaa said...

Oh SM is in da house! Welcome! How I broke free is a long story. Please wait for it in my future posts (zuzbenz!!). Thank you for your interest.

Raouf said...

Nice and heavy post, love the description of the battle of the sexes Egyptian style.

One word of caution on imposing gender preferences on children, it is always bad specially when done with good intentions.
I am glad that your son loves his washing machine and his ironing board, but I have personally known children being forced to play with these even if they don't like them "because it they need to learn the right habits"

A very progressive female friend was very upset when she had a gathering of children in her house and had them play doctors and nurses. To her horror ALL the boys chose to be doctors and ALL the girls chose to be nurses (definitely NOT what she "wanted")
It turns out that with each role the children also got a thing to identify them when they play, the nurses got a little hat and the doctors got a toy stethoscope. All the girls loved the hats and all the boys liked the tool.

Raouf said...

Let me add some male perspective on the issue of expected gender roles.

I went to mixed gender schools all my life and have always felt behind my female peers.
For one thing, they are already mature by age 11 and have hormones and have this other world of relationship, courting and intrigue that we males could only guess at.
Later when we finally reach puberty we find ourselves dealing with emotions and moods that we have no insight into. Females obviously had complete understand and knew how to handle emotions, they have an emotional storms and be done with it, males just stew over it and end up keeling over from heart attacks.

The expectation of marriage is just as strong for Egyptian males as it is for females.
"Enta malaksh fel settat wala eh?"
"Enta 3ayez tetsarma7 tool 7ayatak keda?"
There is a great push to get him under lock as soon as possible, and most of the time he has only the choice of who his family deems the "right choice" for him because he is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world.

Once married then it is a race to seal the deal with a child otherwise it is not a real marriage.
If staying unmarried is unacceptable, then staying childless is totally incomprehensible.

I also went against the grain of this society, my mother has been saying for twenty years that her biggest mistake is to let me go abroad for study without getting me married to someone "3ala mazagha heya" not the 7ashakeel that I ended up with.

As for choosing not to have children that, it now only comes up just twice a day so it is not as bad as it used to be, but still how can such a dutiful son fall so badly on his responsibility to his mother? Where did she go wrong, she keeps asking me.

egyptchick7 said...

Being half-egyptian and half-hmmm European decent ( my mom and her parents are white and born in america) and having a father (egyptian) who left us at age 10, I have somewhat broken free. Even tho the man is thousands of miles away ( in egypt with 5th wife :) i still feel the pressure of being that "good" egyptian girl to him.

Having a fully born and raised egyptian bf, although i love him to death, we both came to the conclusion that we will never get married. we are too different in gosh so many ways. To hear him say " You are acting like a man", everytime I yell back or do something that displeases his ego is one of the reasons why I can't be with him. Among many other reasons one may imagine when mixing a fiercely independent woman with a quazi womanizing/controlling typical egyptian man....ugh

my conclusion: marry a western born egyptian i guess....

Superluli said...

i like your post a lot. The fact that you live abroad, or that somone is half non-egyptian gives you a loophole. You have 2 cultures to choose from - you can blame your un-egyptian-neess on your other european/american half.

I am fully 100% egyptian so i got no loophole! and while i am unaffected by how i think in most aspects of life, when it comes to relationships it comes back to bite me in the ass - i have been single for all but 3 months of my 23 years, and my mom's synopsis of this is becuase i have two main flaws: 1) the way i think 2) my weight (i am a size 18 european). This synopsis is a great example of what your post says.
Sofor now, i am waiting for my loop hole!

douyak said...

nicely put ... Although this is not 100% true, but at the time when I was still living in Egypt it was true in at least 90% of the cases.

One more thing, my son's favorite toy is a pink teddy that he picked up from the store :)

JPierre said...

Great post...

Mr. Smarterthanyou said...

It is sick that you would try to force your son to act like a girl out of your own sense of penis envey. He will be damaged, but hey, if he doesn't become a homo, I bet he will be able to make a hell of a quiche!!

Modern Pharaoh said...

Good post...ofcourse NEGATIVE and not one positive in it about Egypt, but a good post.

Suzanne said...

About the raising kids part, that is not necessarily meant only for Egyptian women and men. Also in the west e.g. they raise them in an apartheid way. The toys for girls are in pink and reflect mostly nurturing and cleaning and the toys for boys are blue or black and reflect war, fighting, earning money, adventure and building stuff.

Now, as a girl I was not really attracted to war or stuff alike (though with my sister and male neighbour we played the A-team (tadadadaaaaaaadadaaaa!), but i was realllllly fond of lego and other toys which made my brain working. I liked "girlish" and "boyish" toys.

suzy said...

i agree with raouf, don't vent out your frustrations via your kid. My uncles were brought up in one of the most conservative parts of egypt where a man is a man is a man. Yet they are just as comfortable in the kitchen cooking for the family as they are in the office and love their wives dearly. I can assure you they didn't have toy stoves or barbies to play with but rather were taught to respect and love their wives.

QueenAlyaa said...

Thanks all for your posts. Mr. Smarterthanyou, I didn't force my boy to play with "girls'" toys. I just had them on display and he chose to play with them. And I would have liked to discuss Penis Envy with you if and only if you had spelt (spelled) it right, so for now I won't becasue I think *I* am the one who is smarter-than-you!!

The Usual Suspect said...

Hey Queen
Been a while I know, but here's my 2 cents.
Having been married first to an Egyptian and now to an Aussie- I can tell you there aint that much difference at all!
My first husband was Egyptian born and raised- we met and married in Egypt. My second husband is all Aussie raised in Sydney like me. The male ego is the male ego no matter if it is a male ego in Egypt, Australia, Europe or Timbuktoo.
I have always earned more than my husbands- just happens to be the nature of the work I do. And it is always the same-"just because you earn more don't think that you can be the man or wear the trousers"; "just because you earn more, doesn't mean that you don't have to cook my dinner, wash my shirts, vacuum the carpet, do my shopping, open your legs whenever I tell you (not that I mind that bit), put on your belly dancing costume and amuse me..."; "what do you need me to buy you jewellery for, you're the one who earns the money" etc etc
Yep- the male ego is the male ego. Men are men. Sure there are cultural practices that might dictate exactly how they exert their male superiority- but these are small things. When you get down to it the nature of human relationships is that the man must be at least made to feel that he is master of his domain and the woman to ensure that she knows this.

O.S said...

As much as I loved this blog, and as much a feminist as I am, I think this had pretty much a sole-angle to it. It is absolutely true that Egyptian society dictates a certain well-known routine on females, the same routine is well applied over males. I think you should've broadened your scope a bit, because obviously some readers here presumed you were lambasting men, not society and will turn the comments section here into a sexist chat.

I'm with everything you said regarding the cycle, how roles are distributed, sex, and post-marriage life. But for men, it's almost the same. Remember that society is the ultimate teacher. And the same way it teaches a woman all this, it also teaches the man the following:

1- Play soccer when your young
2- Watching action cartoons
3- After reaching puberty, it's normal for you, my son, to flirt around however you want, you're the man.
4- Bragging about how the boy "me2ata3 el samaka we delha".
5- After graduation, yalla ba2a, 3awzeen neshoofak 3arees ad el donya. And if you dont, Enta Khawal walla eh? (pardon my language). Hayfootak el atr yabny...mesh hate3raf te2ady keda...
6- Mom looks for the same qualifications you wrote above...bent nas...mohagaba...te3raf rabena...matle3etsh men el beit, and all that crap.
7- After marriage, yalla ba2a fein el baby.
8- Eh da, enta betkhally meratak tekhrog men gheir eznak...enta 3abeet walla eh.
and so on and so forth.

In my opinion, it's society's fault. And it's not only limited to shaping up one gender's ways.

So what's the solution? Major media campaigns, both clear and hidden (tv ads vs. shows/series) that start introducting some enlightened thought. The same way how here in the US they managed to introduce and discuss crucial matters like pre-teen/pre-maritcal sex, safe sex, drugs, women abuse, rape, etc. An aspect that was a major taboo in American media and society until the late 80's.
This is such a big discussion!

Well, this is my first visit to ghawayesh, and i'm sure í'll be logging on frequently!

Modern Pharaoh said...

ummmm....have you been to Egypt lately? and even if you have, we know there are EXTREMES in find all kinds of different mindsets and customs all over the you honestly can never generalize.

QueenAlyaa said...

@ MP

Do you think I think every Egyptian is the same?!!

Swistle said...

How DO we unclog a sink? Because mine is getting slower and slower, and my husband is just as helpless as I am. More so, since he's not even asking around about how to fix it.

QueenAlyaa said...

@ Swistle: Place a bucket under the sink, unscrew the pipes, and a pulp of hair will fall out togthere with some extra scheisse, rescrew the pipes back in place, and your sink will be as good as new.

ibeebarbie said...

Great post! For a minute I felt I was actually recapping the memories of my own childhood days.

Perhaps a certain generational time period? Perhaps the ignorance of those that only repeat what they were taught? Regardless, the reality is these scars of fabric are forever woven within us, and knowingly or unknowingly we pass these little mementos on down through the generations. One can only hope that with the passing of these mementos throughout the ages that when old threads (childhood scars) are undone (healed) they can be replaced with new threads, inshallah.

QueenAlyaa said...

@Ibeebarbie, beautifully phrased! Thank you for passing by.

Rachell said...

Awesome post! I have really enjoyed reading your blog! :)

Ghawayesh said...

Thank you Rachel. Please keep coming back. =)

dalia said...

well said!!...i've always had my quips about being an egyptian girl & u voiced them...bravo! :)...
i can also say for the fact that being egyptian-american i (un)fortunately am able to get away with being un-egyptian by virtue of my being american...BUT bcuz i am also american, i am automatically considered a "bad" girl until i prove the other words, i'm guilty until proven it's not all peaches roses as superluli put it...still...excellent post...i can only hope that the extra-heavy dose of double-standardness (if there is such a word) is somewhat alleviated from egy-land...but for now we can only just sit & wait like the high-maintenance, high-pitch-voiced princesses we're expected to be...uffffffff!...7aga ti2rif!!

Forsoothsayer said...

i manage to move in a community in egypt where almost all of the above is inapplicable. if u try, u can find a solid core of lovely egyptians who don't have judgments and weirdness!

Mussi said...

This blog is hilarious and though it’s quite old I still feel compelled to comment. I understand that this thread is about Egyptian society in general, not about the battle of the genders, but I still want to say that although my experience with Egyptian men is limited to just the one, it is completely different from what I read here. I just wanted to check with some that know more about Egyptian upbringing if I still might be in for a shock or if his mamma did indeed raise him right.
I’m a Northern European woman and my man is Egyptian, we live in Europe, he came here to study. Maybe I lucked out by finding an exceptionally awesome Egyptian, but really only two of the things I read above applies to him: 1. He’s not entirely comfortable with the fact that as a Northern European woman whom he met when she was in her late-twenties, I have ‘shock-and-horror’ a sexual past. And 2. He does indeed insist on doing all heavy duty work, that I am used to doing myself, but I’m not really complaining about this ;) He treats me like a queen, does more than his fair share in the household (more than me) and he doesn’t mind one bit if I disagree with him or that I have no concept of what an ‘outside-voice’ is ;)
I think it may indeed be down to how he was raised: His mother raised him to understand that he was no more or no less than his sisters, and that he had no say over his sisters just because he was male, no matter what outside influences may have encouraged him to try to uphold a sense of superiority he seems to really believe as a consequence of his upbringing that women have no less of a voice, and are no more tied to doing the household duties than men. He actually seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in that, despite all other things being equal, he was still expected to take care of his unmarried sisters financially and pay for their weddings and education after his father passed away.
So I am just curious, was his mother indeed very progressive in how he was raised or is this more common, and are many Egyptian men just like him?

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