Posts Tagged With: Culture Shock


Idioms are a weird thing in any language. They make total sense to native speakers, but are nonsense to language learners. For example, telling someone “I’m all ears!” means you’re listening intently, not that you’re made entirely of ears. Or the phrase “let the cat out of the bag” has absolutely nothing to do with felines or purses, but is all about telling secrets.

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Categories: Egypt, Teaching | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

A Night Owl’s Guide to the Calls to Prayer in Egypt

I live across the street from a mosque here in Egypt. Since I’m not muslim, I’ve learned to ignore the calls to prayer, but my daily schedule more or less coincides with them. Early morning – time to get up, midday – lunchtime, after sunset – bed time. But what if you’re not a teacher? What if you’re a belly dancer or a singer who works nights? Then what do the calls to prayer signal for you?


Midday Prayer = Time to wake up

Wake up you lazy bones! You can’t sleep the whole day away.

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Categories: Egypt, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome Back!

Ah, it’s nice to be back in Cairo. The longer I was away, the harder it was to come back. I had a great summer (England, Glastonbury Festival, Buffalo, Seattle) and I didn’t want it to end. Now that I’m back in Egypt I remember all the things I love about it here. The people, the culture, the sense of adventure…

That’s not to say that Egypt isn’t without its trials. In fact, I encountered a trial just yesterday:

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Categories: Egypt, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Letter From An Egyptian Woman via Egyptian Streets






This article was originally published on Egyptian Streets by Farida Ezzat on July 13, 2014. There are many things that surprised me in this article and some things that I have personally experienced. The line that struck me the most, however, was this one:

I live in pain. I live in oppression. I live as a second-class citizen.


Dear Mr. President,

I hope this letter finds you well. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am an Egyptian woman.

Let me begin by telling you why I am writing this letter. I have absolute faith in my country. I not only believe in the power of my people, but I also believe in the pillars that hold together our society. As an Egyptian, I believe in Egypt.

This letter holds no political value. The purpose of this letter is not to stir controversy or threaten national security. I write to you today as a citizen to its President. I am keen on strengthening ties between us for the benefit of Egypt. In other words, I just want you to get to know me better.

Mr. President, as I mentioned above, I believe in the pillars that hold together our society such as honesty, respect, and patriotism, yet, I am baffled and beyond dismayed at the way society chooses to treat me.

I live in pain. I live in oppression. I live as a second-class citizen.

I live in pain every day as I wake up to prepare myself for school, university, work, or merely to tend to my daily duties. When I walk in my country’s streets, I feel degraded. I feel out of place. I feel unsafe. In our country, eight out of ten Egyptian women feel unsafe on their streets, and even more feel unsafe when on public transport.

My pain is derived from the way I am treated on our streets. I have to suffer through penetrating stares, vulgar comments and unfortunately at times, several kinds of violence.

I live in pain because the only place I feel safe is at home. That’s if I am lucky enough to find solace at home, because unfortunately in Egypt nine out of ten girls are disciplined violently. What is even more shocking is that female teenagers in our country are beginning to think that domestic violence is justified, so much so, that three out of four female teenagers think that a man is justified to beat his wife if she argues with him.

Metaphorically so, my people, or what has become of my people, have denied me the right to freedom, the right to safety, the right to live.

This is only a part of the hell that has become my life. Violence against women in Egypt continues to be a never-ending battle, 91 percent of females in our country have experienced female genital mutilation. The dangers of such outdated ideologies pose a threat to our advancement as a nation due to the fact that the majority of our society accepts such a murderous practice.

It seems as though as the days progressed Egypt has regressed in women’s empowerment. Recently, our beloved country Egypt was titled the seventh worst regarding political empowerment of women; out of 135 countries Egypt came number 128. Economic inequalities limit women’s abilities to empowerment themselves. A woman in Egypt is four times as likely to get unemployed than a man.

Education, in Egypt, is still a struggle for females; female adult literacy is 58 percent compared to 75 percent in adult males. Those numbers do not shock me as Egypt has recently acquired low-level statuses in studies including access to education, job opportunities and economic participation for women.

Furthermore, close to 50 percent of women in our country would tell you that they face problems at work that their male colleagues don’t.

The mere basics of a dignified life such as education and healthcare have become privileges in our nation. Proper healthcare and health education are almost non-existent. In Egypt, with every 100,000 births, 66 women die to causes related to maternal health and delivery, and 460 women’s lives continue to be at risk of maternal death after delivery.

Health education, especially sexual health education, is almost non-existent. In Egypt, 14 percent of overall births are unwanted; they were either untimely or unwanted from the start. This is an indication of the sexual inequalities and the profound unmet needs of women in Egypt. The lack of literacy and education concerning sexual health such as the use of contraceptives limits women’s ability to plan their pregnancies.

Meanwhile, several misconceptions about women’s health and health in general like ‘cancer is contagious’, causes men to divorce their wives if they fall sick with breast cancer.

Maybe those numbers can begin to explain to you why I live in oppression.

I live in oppression because when I was born, like so many others, society chose my destiny for me. I was destined to grow up, get married and have children. I was not destined to be lawyer, a teacher or even the President. I was silenced. I was told that what I had to say was not important because I am a woman. I am an emotional being that has no control over itself.

In a world that lives under inhumane circumstance, my ‘emotions’ have been interpreted as a sign of weakness. I am not weak. I was not born weak. And I will not be called weak. My ‘emotions’ are a sign of strength and integrity. My passion for society and for a brighter future fuels me to change. It fuels me to become the change I want to see in society. This is why I am writing this letter. I want to change my stolen future and I want you to help me.

Mr. President, if you may, try to understand the situation I am in. Despite my god given right to freedom, I was enslaved in a world that crippled every hope I had for my future. I was stigmatized. I was labeled. I was stereotyped into characters that do so little to express the beauty within my being. The names I was called, the labels I have acquired and the characters society drew for me do not, in their best form, capture the potential that is me.

So, I had no choice but obey society, for I continue to be a captive of society’s insidious torture on my gender.

I live as a second-class citizen. In our beautiful glorious nation, I am deemed unworthy of respect, unworthy of admiration and unworthy of freedom.

Despite everything mentioned above, I still rose to be the best I could be given the circumstances I grew up with. Despite being told otherwise, I knew my potential lied far beyond the dimensions of my house. I knew I was destined to change society, I knew I could save Egypt.

This is why when I chanted and shouted at the top of my lungs for freedom, when I marched in my country’s streets with pride, I wanted freedom for my country, because I knew that a free Egypt would entail freedom for me as well.

Mr. President, I have a request to ask of you. However, before I ask, let me be clear on something. I do not want your pity, for I may have been a victim, but I will not live as one. I do not regard myself as a victim. I am fully aware of what I am capable of as a woman. All I ask of you is to come to terms with my potential.

The issues I face lie beyond sexual harassment and violence. With that said, I appreciate the efforts our government has taken to ensure that such acts are not present in Egypt’s future. Yet, education, empowerment, health and social equality, just to name a few, are equally important.

Mr. President, I want to help build Egypt with you. I want to help build my country. I want my stolen future back and I will not rest until my future returns to me. All I ask of you is to grant me my right to live in my country as a free woman. I not only want to be a free woman, but I want your promise to support, uphold and respect my wishes until the last day you serve as my president. I want you to support my fight. My fight to equal pay, my fight to equal rights, my fight to equal opportunities and my war against terrorists that lurk my streets hungry for my body.

Last but not least, my last request of you, when you speak of me in your thoughtful and well written speeches do not call me “the mothers, wives and sisters,” because the truth is I am equally a family member to a male as I am to him a boss, a doctor, an engineer and even their source of protection like a policewoman.

I want you to support me. I want you to support me, an Egyptian woman.

Yours ever so truly,

An Egyptian woman.

Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About Women Who Wear Hijabs Via Mic

7 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About Women Who Wear Hijabs – Mic.

By Laila Alawa via Identities.mic

7, lies, we, need, to, stop, telling, about, women, who, wear, hijabs,
7 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About Women Who Wear Hijabs
Image Credit: Getty

Imagine a Muslim woman and you’ll most likely picture a hijab, the head covering worn by some Muslim women across the globe.

The hijab is not the most important part of being a Muslim woman, but it is certainly the most visible. In a time when Islamophobia only seems to be on the rise in the West, a practice that is so personal and diverse has become a warped and misunderstood part of a flat and monolithic picture of Muslim women.

As Islam becomes more and more wrapped up in public debates about foreign policy, integration and immigration, the hijab has quickly become shorthand for a set of stereotypes that neither represent nor capture the experience of being a Muslim woman today.

And those lazy stereotypes — of Muslim women having a uniform experience in hijab — help box headscarf-wearing Muslim women in boxes that remain rampant and unchecked. Despite countless Muslim women sharing their diverse experiences in public spaces and platforms — it’s a religious tradition that remains largely misunderstood.

The following are seven lies about headscarf wearing Muslim women, sometimes known as hijabis, that we need to stop telling:

1. All hijab-wearing women are religiously conservative.

Via: Flickr

It’s a common misconception: You’re wearing a headscarf, so you must must be religiously conservative. The stereotype extends to the reactions some strangers are inclined to blurt out upon seeing hijab-wearing women in places they obviously “shouldn’t” be, like politically conservative gatherings. More than simply being erroneous, however, the belief that one can pinpoint the degree of religiosity a Muslim woman possesses by looking at what is upon her head is degrading, invasive and pretentious.

Besides, when it comes to statistics, there is no legitimate way of pinpointing the exact belief system a hijabi attaches to. Ultimately, the only facts to be gathered from a woman’s headscarf is how well it matches to her outfit of the day. A woman’s headscarf — the size of the fabric, the way it’ styled — is so culturally unique and attuned to personal beliefs that its presence (or lack thereof) is in no way predictive of religious attachment.

2. All hijab-wearing women are quiet and traditional.

Have you heard of the Malaysian singer, songwriter and businesswoman Yuna? What about community builder and peacekeeper Ameena Matthews, former adviser to the president on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Dalia Mogahed, British journalist and political activist Yvonne Ridley or award-winning poet, columnist and social activist Ainee Fatima?

These women all have one thing in common — they wear hijabs, and they aren’t afraid to challenge what popular media stereotypes say about how they should act. Acting contrary to such stereotypes should not be the exception, and it begs the question: Why do we keep on enforcing such rules with false portrayals of how we think hijab-wearing Muslim women are?

Of course some Muslim women wear the headscarf are also quiet and shy — but they are not shy because of the covering, there is no causal link here.

3. The choice to wear a hijab is the man’s decision.

Via: Flickr

While the hijab has been popularly construed in media as a tool of religious oppression, the choice to wear (or not to wear) such a covering is religiously rooted in the hands of the woman in question. Although there is a prevalent mantra among many Muslim communities that “Hijab is beautiful, hijab is what God wants,hijab is a Muslim woman’s duty,” as Fatemeh Fakhraie puts it, ultimately, it is a fundamental decision rooted in the beliefs and aspirations of the person.

In short, the decision to wear a hijab has never been and will never be a man’s decision, and the shaming and guilting both within and outside of the Muslim community serves only to lose sight of the true power of a woman’s choice. Regardless of your belief system, Muslim women have control of the decision to veil.

4. The hijab prevents Muslim women from participating in sports.

Via: Getty

Muslim women who cover — as well as those who don’t — have been participating in sports for many years. However, their participation was hindered for some time by sports organization bans on the use of headscarves. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2012 that international soccer governing body FIFA decided to lift its ban on headscarves. The decision followed five years of ban enforcement, a period of time in which covered Muslim women boycotted their sports events or were forced to drop out. Another major sports organization, the International Olympic Committe officials, acquiesced to demands by headscarf-wearing competitors to be allowed to participate during the 2012 Olympics.

“This agreement shows that being a modest Muslim woman is no barrier to taking part in sport. It shows the inclusiveness of the Olympic spirit,” Razan Baker, spokeswoman for the Saudi Olympic Committee, said at the time.

Other hijabis were once prevented from opportunities to work out and stay fit at recreational clubs and fitness centers by a lack of women-only environments. In recent years, this has begun to shift, with many gyms beginning to listen to both headscarf-wearing patrons and those without, setting aside days and spaces in which a single-gender environment is possible.

5. Women who wear hijabs can’t be stylish.

It’s time this misconception vanishes like the last-season outfit it really is. The opposite of unstylish, the Muslim fashion industry is currently valued at $96 billion internationally, and mainstream fashion designers have even begun catering their style lines to the newly coined “hijab couture.” Milan Fashion Week was one of the first major events in the industry to wise up to the massive market potential within the hijabi fashion industry.

Hijab couture has also reached America, as evidenced by the flowing long skirts, palazzo pants and turbans in style this year. The trend has been magnified by a new crop of Instagram and YouTube hijabi fashion bloggers who erupted onto the blogger scene in 2007. Recognizable and fashion-forward thinking, they push the limits on the hijab couture and modest fashion industries.

Nowadays, these women are seen as global influencers, summoned by fashion companies to act as representatives, ambassadors and promoters for different brands.

6. Women who wear hijabs can’t be feminists.

Via: Flickr

It’s a popular misconception that women wearing hijab cannot possibly espouse beliefs of feminism. This misconception springs in part from the way media portrayals of hijab are interwoven so firmly with characteristics like oppression and domination.

But these stereotypes have been repeatedly repudiated by the statements of Muslim feminists themselves, who have repeatedly attempted to explain how choosing to cover does not silence their voices.

While misguided activists like FEMEN continue to try to “save” Muslim women who cover, their action serve mostly to anger millions of Muslim women around the world while squandering what could have been an opportunity to discuss the realities of the phenomenon. Along those same lines, some mainstream feminists have allegedly attempted to dissuade Muslim women who cover from associating with the movement. But while these types of sentiments make it harder for Muslim feminists to make their voices heard, hijabi feminists are here to stay.

7. Women who wear hijabs are voiceless.

Via: Flickr

This is likely my favorite stereotype. Hijabis hear it again and again: “Where are your voices? Why are you not speaking up? Stand up and say something, you seem oppressed.” Women who cover are one of the most visible of Muslim communities, and therefore some of the most commonly attacked during Islamophobic hate crimes.

Despite being only a slice of a religion with 1.7 billion followers, hijabis have nonetheless been fetishized and exoticized repeatedly by pop stars and musicians, while simultaenously being held up as a symbolic representation of the Islamic religion’s alleged oppression.

But despite these stereotpyes, hijabis have been and will continue to be a  vibrant community of women, who defy stereotypes by example, who succeed as Olympic competitorsscientific innovators and medical prodigies, who are just as likely to have a college degree as anyone else in America, and who are asdiverse a community as the multi-colored fabrics they so proudly dsiplay on their heads. 

Hijabis remain, time and again, the topic of popular discussion, dissertation and thought, yet consistently are told to sit down and shut up when they attempt to enter conversations about them. While that might have worked before, it won’’t work much anymore: Muslim women who cover are not willing to remain silent any longer, entering mainstream media, culture, and production industries as individual forces to be reckoned with. Want an example? You just finished reading an article written by a hijabi. It’’s no longer possible to ignore voices that are speaking up in great numbers, and it’s time we start realizing this as a community and culture.  
Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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