MaSr Messing with my Head

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To all you loyal readers, bless you lot, it has become quite clear that this country has surprised, angered and frustrated me on quite some occasions and the happy news is, it doesn’t stop. Now, I find it quite a shame that my fashion of figure-hugging clothes is not really Egypt proof. There are women who are fabulously and still modestly – meaning, no flesh or hair on display- dressed, but since I haven’t really mastered that – not that I really tried- I dress in fairly shapeless piece of cotton, showing some arms, mumkin, but definitely no cleavage, bum or even calves. A bit like a boho-nun. I also cover my head with a scarf since I have a bad hair year and I feel I get less hassle when I wear it. Since showing not too much flesh is always in the back of my mind, even when hanging out the laundry on my own balcony, I was absolutely shocked and rather appalled that someone dared to intervene with my fashion when I was ‘asked’ to remove my headscarf (while I was wearing a halter neck top which revealed my upper back and shoulders) when entering a fancy lounge bar in Cairo. I got rather upset, the manager was called, my Masree mates intervened but they were not having it. I had to remove my headscarf, which I clearly didn’t wear for religious reasons, or entry would be refused. This country is even more schizophrenic as I previously assumed. I had heard from some people that In some establishments you will be refused entry if you look ‘overly religious’ meaning wearing a hijab (80 percent if not more of the women seem to wear one) and a beard and/ or galabeeya (the Arab dress for both men and women). Now, clubs across the world have dress codes but I don’t understand that in a muslim country, you’re refused entry if you overtly display you’re a muslim?! Jameela argued that it has to do with that others might feel uncomfortable consuming alcohol or having a boogie when an ‘overtly religious’ person is present. My argument is that if there is a headscarf or a galabeeya in the house she or he is obviously fine with being in an environment where alcohol is consumed, they wouldn’t be there otherwise. If this were to happen in Europe the club would be taken to court on the basis of religious discrimination and muslims across the world would call for a boycott of the country in question. Maybe this issue is an example per excellence of the tension between secularism and religious groups and tendencies in this country. Some religious groups are very popular among the people as they seem to offer practical solutions to the problems ordinary Egyptians are facing. But the government is not having any of it and considers them a threat to national security and they are therefore forbidden. Perhaps secularism, as in not displaying symbols of religion, is seen as western and therefore modern, like Turkey being a highly secularised and westernised muslim country. Not that I have done an opinion poll, but it seems that with all this display of religion and the perceived popularity of religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt does not wish to be a secular nation. Perhaps those havens of hedonism, where headscarfs, beards and galabeeyas are not allowed, are supposed to be a reminder of the Egypt of the 1960’s and ’70’s when very few wore a hijab, many wore mini skirts and alcohol and sex in films produced in the then flourishing factory of dreams was not a taboo. MaSr, land of the Nile, pyramids, temples and tombs is searching for its real identity and it seems that the whole nation can’t agree on what that identity is. Past, present or future, religious or secular, Egyptian or Arab, Middle Eastern or African. Egypt is not only messing with my head it is mainly messing with itself. Which makes it the more tiring….

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About Lemba

Non-conformist Writing Soul and Language Geek from the Lowlands with a South London accent, currently living a nomadic, location- independent lifestyle. While executing the Big Fat Writing Plan I’m invading cyberspace with my views on 'expat living', travel and other lifestyle choices, current affairs and other randomness. Welcome to the Dark Fairy Zone.

One response »

  1. Even though I love Masr, you are so true… I wear a galabiyya and get treated coimpletely differently (with some places refusing me entry btw) and then get called a playboy/bad muslim when i walk with a girl in the street… very paranoid people…

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