Sunday, July 31, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Females Beware of Ramadan

Taken last year as some friends and I headed down to the Marriott during Ramadan
A word to the wise: females, be on your guard as Ramadan gets underway and harassment heightens. As the Muslim holy month kicks off (August 1), women need to be more cautious during this time, particularly around Iftar (first meal breaking the fast).

I’ve always noticed the increased harassment during this month (sounds unbelievable given how much harassment already exists). However, what I began noticing in 2009 was that the worst time for the potential grope is during Iftar. Why? Everyone is in their homes eating and talking loudly with the streets nearly empty. If someone grabs you, chances are that no one will be around to come to your rescue.

Naturally one of the greatest pieces of advice to try and combat this is to dress more conservatively. And yet again I’m going to say that while you should keep your shoulders and legs covered, it doesn’t stop it entirely. If you’re alone on the streets, men will see it as an opportunity and they’ll excuse it because after all, it’s your fault you were born with a vagina. So while I will give the standard advice of dressing more conservatively, I will also add that you should be very aware of your surroundings during this time. Do not trust men walking up to you asking some “innocent” question like, “Do you have the time?” They will grab. Ignore them all. Nine times out of 10, these men are up to no good.

Play frogger in the streets. If you see a male walking toward you (age is of no concern), cross instantly and do not make eye contact. If they cross as well, you cross back, etc. If you’re like me and walk around with your headphones on, make sure that you keep your headphones in your ears but without playing music. This will allow you to ignore anyone if approached, but will permit you to hear if someone is walking up behind you.

Each year, I’ve faced problems during Iftar. One year (and also written in detail in a previous blog post) my friend’s car broke down during Iftar and this man who appeared to try to help us completely took advantage of the situation and groped her. Last year around the same time while everyone was inside eating, two boys came from behind me and also took their chance. And for those of you new on the scene, the police do it as well.

I know for some of you reading this, you may not think a grab is that big of a deal. And it may sound strange for someone to be so upset over such a “small” thing. Yes life goes on, but the point is, no one has the right to touch you inappropriately without your consent and it makes you feel horrible despite knowing that it wasn’t your fault.

My first Ramadan was miserable, but the longer I stay here, the more enjoyable they become. I’ve previously written an Expat’s Guide to Ramadan which offers some ideas of things that you may do during this time. As always remember, life is what you make of it.

Previous Ramadan Posts:

A Foreigner’s Guide to Ramadan, August 11, 2010
Ramadan Kareem & Carrefour, September 7, 2009
Harassed? Ma3lesh (Whatever), August 31, 2009
Sounds of Ramadan, September 17, 2008

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