Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Calling on the LORD in Cairo, Egypt

 Never one to take the LORD's name in vain, after a hard day in Egypt I involuntarily let out a "Woo, JESUS!" before I caught myself. I had to go all the way back to my roots when my Mudear used to call on the LORD when she was dead tired. That was me today.

Dodging and ignoring the men was a constant battle. I had to be wary of men who sidled up to me making innocent conversation or offering to help me find my way. It turns into an offer to visit their family's shop or asking me a million questions about myself. Now I don't mind male attention & I'm accustomed to getting it while I'm out and about, but these people are aggressive! They don't take no for an answer. Thing is, they wouldn't dare approach an Egyptian woman. It is completely against societal norms.

As tough and easy-going as I am (yes, a contradiction), I shed a few tears the first day I was there. I found few could be trusted, the men were pushy and overbearing, and the women were of little help. Almost everything was a scam!! (No exaggeration.) It also did something to my psyche to be stereotyped and treated differently based on my gender and nationality. Funny, but I'm accustomed to discrimination based on my race in the USA when it happens. It's hard to explain. Determined not to let these factors get in the way of my enjoyment I adopted the look you see above and took to wearing my iPod, which I rarely do while traveling, so I could block out the advances of the men. If I couldn't hear them, they couldn't bother me. I also learned not to make eye contact with them as they saw that as an open invitation. I learned to say الذهاب بعيدا (pronounced em-shee), which means, "Go away", although that was of little help and not a very nice thing to say. Covering myself as much as possible helped, too.

A quick study, by the end of Day 2 I was negotiating with merchants, rudely pushing my way through lines and crowds, and staying in my place as a woman with the best of them.

Smiling at the Pyramids

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Blogger Bianca said...

Your experience reminds me of mine in India. The men and merchants there are relentless also, women of little help, and the discrimination was a joke.

7:05 AM  
Blogger The Black Planeteer said...

It has to do with the stereotype that Western women are promiscuous. Television doesn't help. It just burned me up that I was harassed in such a manner. Just rude!

9:07 AM  
Blogger blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hello there!

I am soooo glad that I found your blog!

You are wise to cover up. Often, Americans think that they can show up in a foreign land being fully American and then they don't want to accept the consequences of what will result. In other cultures, showing bare skin is a sign of sexual availability. It isn't in the U.S. however.

I would not advise you to wear the I-Pod too loudly on your ear because if two men were to grab you from behind after watching you walking alone, you would NEVER here them in order to run. They could cover your mouth and drag you anywhere and then what??

It's important for you to be aware of what is happening around you at ALL TIMES. I have traveled to ten countries in Africa so take it from me...stay observant and pay attention.

Keep writing and I'll keep on reading!

Stop by my place any time and share your thoughts at my think tank!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

11:25 AM  
Blogger Suga C said...

oh my who knew... well it wasn't like I was ever going to go to Egypt...but I'm definitely putting that place to travel w/ a male companion.

9:37 AM  
Blogger The Black Planeteer said...

I hear you on the Ipod, Lisa. With my head covered, they didn't know I had it on which is why they continued trying to talk to me. In Egypt, I felt EXTREMELY safe. I figure there must be dire consequences for crimes and they have a low rate, although scams abound. Still, it's a good idea to be able to hear and be aware of what's going on around you.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Viajera said...

My coworker and his now-wife took a trip to Europe and Africa about 20 years ago. One of the things that he told me was that when they were at one of the pyramids in Egypt watching the sunset, somehow he lost his girlfriend. By the time he found her, she was a bit apart from the crowd, surrounded by a group of Egyptian soldiers who were sexually harassing her. He said he was so scared, though she seemed to be putting on a brave face despite the odds. It is sad to see that this has not changed over the years.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How proud I am of you! The Lord does do his work with the least of these!!! I am living proof of that!

I love Cairo. I have been there several times. I have use of an apartment when I am there! I love the food and the people!
(Having a driver doesn't hurt either!)
I would love to hear from you!
C. Frog Price
EHS class of 1977.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Kitchen Butterfly said...

I smile....and I'm glad Day 2 was different. It can be quite tough to see how different the US and other countries are. Good on you for trying

7:01 AM  
Blogger Frenchie said...

hey there! i was looking for other black bloggers on cairo. i am currently here now and experiencing much of the same, unfortunately. its sad b/c now i completely avoid Arab men. blackincairo.blogspot.com

10:37 PM  
Blogger The Black Planeteer said...

Yes, the men were quite challenging. How do you manage to avoid Arab men in Egypt? Are you living there permanently?

5:38 PM  
Blogger Frenchie said...

I am here for the year learning Arabic. I do a little bob and weave trick hen I see Egyptian men approaching or I cross the street when I see groups of men on the sidewalk. IIt's difficult to completely avoid men since I live downtown Cairo but i can say that my contact with them has been minimal thus far, limited to just lewd comments and gestures while I walk by that I can easily ignore. I've kept my hair wrapped in the city like you did as wel. www.blackincairo.blogspot.com

10:56 PM  
Blogger Frenchie said...

In my 1 month post, I describe using some of the very same coping mechanisms you useed. I dont wear an ipod though in order to hear oncoming cars since traffic rules dont exist here. the moment i see an Egyptian man approaching, i literally go tone-deaf. I just dont bother listening or looking at them. I am here studying Arabic but once this semester is over, im contemplating moving to Syria for a better learning enviroment.
My post on this:

1:20 AM  

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