Being a woman in an Arab country is not easy. Ask anyone (woman) who has been to the Middle East.
Before departing for Egypt, I did my fair share of research about being a solo female in the country. I can’t say it was presented in a positive way. I remember reading an article about a Canadian woman who met and married an Egyptian man. A few years after they were married, he left her because he got his Canadian citizenship. There were many comments for this article. Some commenters had similar experiences. (I’d provide a link to this article, but I can no longer find it)
Apart from such articles, we cannot ignore the fact that muslims can have 4 wives (more about this on another post soon). It didn’t take a lot of digging to find out that Egypt is a conservative country and men are sexually repressed because many couldn’t afford to marry until their late 30s.
Oh this was going so well. It seemed I was going to have a “lovely” time in Egypt, probably faint in between the hot weather and the need to wear long sleeves and jackets. Upon arrival, it is what I expected. Men would stare at me while I walked on the street, or waiting for the bus, despite the fact I was dressing conservatively. Cars passing by would honk at me. To this day, I still don’t know if they just want to catch my attention, or is this another type of flirting?
I have heard stories of unwanted touch in taxis or in the mall. Personally it did not happen to me, but I cannot speak for everyone. If I ignore the staring, the amount of verbal harassment is less than what I received back home in Canada (Save those stories for another time).
Fun fact: Walking down a street solo in downtown San Francisco recently, the homeless guys on the street said to me “Hey, thank you for being so beautiful. We appreciate it.” as I passed by. It reminds me of the days in Egypt. Harassment? It is not just a problem in the East.
- Dress conservatively: wear something with short sleeves at least and something to cover up to your knees
- Don’t smile at strangers: having a mean look on your face does help keeping them away
- Avoid crowded places when possible (ex: take the next elevator up)
- When taking taxi by yourself or walking in the dark, talk to a friend on the phone (if something happens to you, your friend can call for help)
- Have male friends accompany you when possible