Saturday, January 13, 2007

Men and Women

OK, so Hassan's best friend, Shabaan, has helped us with absolutely everything we have in our home. This man is better than gold. I don't know what's better than gold, but he's it.

Last week he spoke with Hassan and said he would help me get my international driver's license so I can drive in the US. Yes, I have an Egyptian driver's license (can you believe I drive in this place?!) but I need a license to drive in the US too -- my Maryland license expired a year ago.

So yesterday, Shabaan called and said he was coming over to pick up my documents to take them to the place where he'll try to get me the license. I asked him if he needed me to come along, he said no, if he needs me, he'll call me. Everything in Egypt is done by connections, connections. Shabaan knows people in all places; and believe me that's a lot of people.

One day we were shopping for chandeliers in Attaba (a really crowded shopping area of Cairo). We just happened to pull into a parking space along the street - we were quite lucky, and all of a sudden Shabaan shakes the hand of someone he knew. It's a big city, but a small town. It's amazing.

Anyways, when Shabaan came to the apartment last night I gave him the documents and invited him in. He didn't want to come in and sit. It is customary in Egypt for men not to be in the homes of married women without their husbands. It goes against Islam, although it doesn't bother me and I don't think anything of it. I mean come on, I'm American, I'm used to mixing with men and women equally. Maybe this is why I have such a different outlook living here. It doesn't matter if I am in hijab or not. I have always felt more comfortable talking with men than a lot women -- no matter where I am in the world. Some of us are just "that way."

In Islam, the strict Muslims - well, what I consider strict, husbands do not allow their wives to go out of the home without a "mahram" meaning a male escort -- a male escort who is a family member. OK, if this were the case with me, I'd never go anywhere. I am not of that frame of mind, although I could see the need, being fair skinned and blue-eyed (ok, my brownish, red hair) and even in hijab I'm still gawked at by men, but I think it's more of a fascination and curiosity than anything else. (Layla can corroborate my story). I am finding out that this is why a lot of American women wear niquab (the full veil) over their entire bodies. However, once their voices are heard by Egyptian men, they start talking anyways. It is even more fascinating to them because they see the full veil but the American voice. Now, I'm not stereotyping here, please don't misunderstand me, but this has been my experience in most situations.

Insha'Allah Shabaan will be able to get my license without me needing to be with him. Otherwise it's an all day event running around; I don't mind, it's something I need to get done.




Layla said...

Marian - Connections! YES!!! It amazes me how you get things through people. I remember being always moved up the front of the line at the bank because Mo's dad was the first director at the bank and we were "important" people LOL ;) Then they met me and they were asking me to sit, have some nescafe, etc. It is unbelievable, but hey, at least we didn't have to wait! :D Connections are the keys of getting things in Egypt. It is all about who you know.

Yes it is hard for us to mingle with men in Egypt. We are used to mix company and we see that there is nothing wrong with it. I still see nothing wrong with it, personally. It isn't like I am going to "jump their bones" just because I am sitting in the same room as them, and vice versa. I made it a point to be in the same room unless Mo says otherwise which I totally understand. Hey, men need that "guy time" as us with our "girl time" Mo agrees with me about mingling, which is so nice. There have only been a couple of times where we were split up, and I HATED it!! Lucky for us, most of Mo's friends are really cool about being around mixed company (ie me talking to them) and ask me questions about America and always ask me if I have a sister lolll ;)

Yes, people stare at me all the time, even with hijab. Pale (lol you know how extremely white I am), blue eyes, talking a lot in English with some mix of Arabic for laughs. Yes, they are curious by us. They see that we are Americans but more that we embraced Islam. They become curious that they forget and start talking to us more freely then with Egyptian women. I do know a couple of American women who wear niquab, but they speak Arabic whenever they are outside. They said that they don't want to have men talk to them anymore then they have to, so they speak Arabic.

I also make it a point to shake hands and have them look me in the eye with any of Mo's friends. LOL yeah call me bad, but to me, its a sign of respect. I gotten a lot of different looks about it, but almost all of them has shaken my hand (except 1--he is very fanatical). They then see that its cool and there is nothing wrong with it.

LOL I am a little rebel in Egypt >;) Mo tells me this all the time.

So how many more days until you leave? Are you getting excited about it?

Love and hugs to you!

Marian said...

Layla, you are too funny! Isn't it amazing that you just can't go to the bank and get your business done. You need to sit, talk, laugh, have nescafe, etc. I remember when we bought the washer. It was a two shay sitting. It's an hour before you know it.

About mingling, I am a rebel too! What a coincidence. I always look men in the eyes, and women too, but especially men. Some feel put off others don't mind. The intelligent ones know that it's how I was raised to show that I'm paying attention to what the person is saying. Otherwise, to me it's a sign of not caring.

About traveling, I think we are down to 13 days til we leave. I am not packing much, but have to organize my list of things to buy to bring back to Cairo for friends.

I think if our husbands wanted Egyptian wives, they would have married them. They like the "rebel" type. So many men do. They find it fascinating. . . . we only appear that way. If we were really rebels we wouldn't be wearing hijab but don't tell anyone that.

I went to Carrefour recently w/o Hassan of course and the cashier (a man) immediately spoke English and was surprised about how much frozen tamayya and bags of fuul beans I bought. I told him I love it. He laughed and continued to talk to me very nicely; nothing out of line.

Let me know if there is anything you want me to bring or take coming or going. I'd be happy to help out. Love and prayers.

Noblese said...

Hi, came by chance to your blog and liked it. I experienced the times in Egypt when there were two waiting lines (e.g. post, bank, telephone company); one for men and the other for women. I thought this was great since the women's line was always shorter.
Take care

Adam said...

Hello Marian, I have stumbled across your fascinating blog about your life in Egypt during my desperate search for information on a shipping company called "Ubox Worldwide" ( ). I am about to move to Europe from Canada and I am in desperate need of a shipper. Ubox seems great but I can't find a single comment or review about the company anywhere. I was excited of course to note that you mention using this company in your blog in 2005, but I was unable to find any final conclusion to your experience with the company. May I ask: did you end up using them and did you receive your shipment of household goods without falling prey to some awful delay or ripoff :>?

Please just reply here or e-mail me at

BTW, I think I will probably have to keep reading your blog, it really is fascinating and educational about the country and culture you now live in.

Thanks so much,

Marian said...

Adam - Thanks for commenting. I will send you my thoughts on this company. Peace!

Steven said...

In searching for reviews of the company "Ubox Worldwide" I stumbled across you blog, and the comment left by Adam. I'd really appreicate it if you could give me a rough idea of your experience with this company. They seem ideal, but I can't find any feedback on them anywhere. Thank you in advance!


Anonymous said...

i also would appreciate your sharing your experience with uboxworldwide.

thanks a lot!

mwaitz said...

I also would love to hear your thoughts on ubox worlwide, thanks