Oct. 31, 2007 – Cosmopolitan Hotel – 10pm

Egypt Travel Blog

 › entry 16 of 27 › view all entries

No one celebrates Halloween here but I decided in honor of the occasion to wear a hegeb and abeyya yesterday and today.

It was an interesting experiment. I got strange looks from newly arrived tourists, along with a few giggles and rude comments. One woman said, “You’re setting women people back fifteen years! Move into the twentieth century!” To men, I felt virtually invisible. I don’t believe even one man looked at me. When I am in my regular clothes – jeans and top – I am approached constantly and bombarded with questions: “Where are you from?” “Can we have a cup of tea?” “Are you from France?” (I rarely get American for some reason.) “England?” “You look Egyptian. You have Egyptian eyes.” “How long are you staying here?”

I realized I had also begun judging others.

In the same way that, when I was in my own clothes, I felt negative towards women wearing the full hegeb and abeyya, when I was covered up I felt self-righteous and more pure. If only for a moment, I looked at women in tank tops and without head scarves as disrespectful. It was as if I had become a character in my own movie.

I asked many men why they became so sexually aggressive when they saw a woman’s bare shoulders, arms or hair. Almost all of them said it was because they had been segregated from women from at a young age, so women to them were like a different species – they got really horny really fast! They also don’t have sexy ads with half naked women advertising anything and everything, the way we do, so they’re not used to seeing bare female skin. Many men mentioned that. The ones who have traveled outside the Middle East said they were astonished to see all the sexy ads in Europe.

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