When I went to Egypt everyone was concerned about how I would be treated, as a woman. I didn’t have any trouble, though the men have a “strange” way of paying a compliment. “You are beautiful,” or “I want to marry you” are first time greetings. At first it would make me feel uncomfortable until I started to realize that they don’t prescribe to western ways of complimenting people or courting. Then I just went with the standard response of “I have a husband.” It’s just easier, but apparently my mythical husband is a lucky man. It’s important to say that I never felt threatened nor did anyone on my tour. In the touristy areas I think the Egyptians are catching on to our cultural differences. When asked how many camels I was worth I was told 2 million, so they have a sense of humor too.
I did take note a bit of the roles of men and women too. Men and women were often segregated and men would hug and kiss as a greeting. We most often dealt with men – in the markets, restaurants and ancient sites. But occasionally you would see women working, often in higher end tourism – like hotels. But girls are girls no matter where you go. When we were in Aswan we ran into a group of girls in a field trip around the country. They were FASCINATED by the guys on the trip and wanted to get pictures with them. Eventually that wore off and they started to swarm me and it didn’t help when I mentioned that I’m a Police Officer. They thought that was so cool. We had been told that Egypt tried to have women as Police Officers a couple years before but had to disband it after 2 years because the men didn’t respect them enough. I felt like I gave them a glimpse of another world and maybe a bit of hope that somewhere or maybe in the future here that things can be different. It’s also a reminder of why I’m glad I don’t live in a Muslim country. I learned during the trip that woman are segregated for their own good (for lack of a better word), men apparently see women, get all hot for them and have to pray for those sins (and others) 5 times a day. Separating men and women can make it easier for the men to resist temptation. Egyptians see this as showing respect for women, and I think they honestly believe it, at least on some level. Whatever the reason it does also disenfranchise women in their culture whether intentional or not.