Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Never a day goes by without some type of harassment on the street of Cairo. It might be a verbal “You are beautiful!” (or something much less tasteful than that which I cannot repeat), a physical slap of the butt or bump into the breast, or a visual masturbation as we pass by. Whatever it may be, it’s disgusting, obnoxious, and intolerable. Yet, living in Cairo, one must learn to make it tolerable or else you just go crazy or hate living here. Some days I can just let the harassment roll off my back, and other days I want to burst into tears.

Lately, however, Teri and I have found a way to vent our anger, and that’s by fighting back. At first I felt horrible about this, and at times I still think, “Would Jesus be happy about this?” but as Teri said, “If I only let them do what they want, I am neither loving myself nor the other women these men will victimize.” So what do we do now? We push, we shove, we hit men with our water bottles, and we nudge them in the stomach. Of course we only do this to the men who first approach us, and we are getting much better and knowing who that will be.

The problem is many men grow up thinking this kind of behavior is appropriate. Women are property, used for the enjoyment of men, so why not harass them a bit? And American woman—well, they just LOVE to get this attention I’m sure! (HA!) Teri and I like to think that by fighting back we are saying, “You are ridiculous and have no right to treat me this way.” Just last week as I was coming home a man started masturbating in front of Jennifer and me. We kept walking and talking as normal, acting like it was no big deal, and then seconds before approaching the man I took out my water bottle and slugged him HARD in the arm. He didn’t fight back. No one has ever fought back. In fact, they usually keep walking and trying to pretend they didn’t do anything.

Last week I was on the metro with Jay and as we were getting off a man touched my butt twice, even though my hand was there ready for it and I grabbed his arm and threw it off of me. As we stepped onto the platform I turned around and pushed the guy. Jay saw what was happening so he got involved and started yelling at the guy in Arabic. Soon other Egyptian men came around, and thankfully were on “our side”, but not in the way they should be. Basically, they kept saying, “Malish, malish,” which means “Ah, no problem, don’t worry, it’s over.” This angered Jay and me even more, because in essence they are saying the harassment is no big deal, move on, get over it. EXCUSE ME?! Man, this society needs a wake-up call.

Today’s harassment was almost hilarious. Teri and I took a tram to Heliopolis where we shopped at the Metro food market for some ingredients to make gingerbread houses. On our way home we had to wait a good 30 minutes at the tram station before the tram arrived. During that time we had 5 obnoxious young men/boys trying to talk with us. One of them was your classic punk—he called himself “Batman”, said “I am alcohol!” and continuously shined his oversized silver NY necklace (which, by the way, was put on backwards so Teri and I had a good laugh at that).

They poked fun at us, tried to get our number and email addresses, and took pictures of us with their cameras. The saddest part was that a younger guy (maybe 12) got involved in this harassment because the other men would laugh with him and egg him on when he called out nasty comments to us. Again, this society needs a wake up call, because it’s turning young men into jerks! They didn’t know English very well, though, so we had fun with it too. We’d ask, “Do you like to swim around in toilets?” and they would answer, “Yes!” “Do you think you are a jerk?” “Yes!” “Are you crazy?” “Yes!” Yeah, sometimes I wonder…


  • At 1/05/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I cam across you blog by chance while looking for Coptic blog. It is truly sad to hear your description of the harassment you expering in Egypt. This country and the Islamic culture in general need to learn ‘respect’ of women. However, this is unlikely given the history of the religion and life style of the its founder.


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