Fear, social pressure and Rock’n roll !
Or why did I walk in Cairo from one side to the other breathing the fumes from the hundred thousand cars, being on the side of the highway for more than 2 hours and along the so-called “worst area” on earth like slums or the cemetery, with 35 °C in the shad, alone and without a veil?
Before starting my explanation, I’d like to add that I wasn’t wearing a veil not because I wanted to be disrespectfull to the people of Egypt but because I’m not muslim. I wasn’t wearing shorts and a top either but leggings (long legs) and a tunic (long sleaves).
In the last countries I’ve visited in middle east, I felt a very heavy social pressure. I felt a lot of positive vibes too but this social pressure was focused on women and it was very new for me. After trying to understand where it was coming from, talk to people about it and try to analyze my own feelings as a woman alone in these countries, I discovered that this social pressure was coming from a fear. It actually seems to come from something kind of noble: the desire of protecting. To protect because of the fear of others, the fear of difference, the fear of the unknown and more generally the fear of change. Women being biologicaly weaker than men, men are trying to “protect” them from the other men, from the poor, from those who have nothing to loose, from thieves, from rapists, from pickpockets or from insane people… And everybody knows someone who knows someone’s wife, cousin, sister, sister in law or best friend who has been attacked in the street, touched, assaulted, harassed…
Well, I did walk, alone, without a veil or a niqab, several hours in the “worst areas” of Cairo reaping only ” hello “, “salam”, face expressions saying something more like”ho a lost tourist” than “Ho a lonely woman I’m going to torture”, and many more « do you need help ? » than insults.
It wasn’t a pleasant walk regarding the conditions (city, heat, pollution…) but the only one moment where I felt unsafe was in the cemetery* when a dog decided to scare me by barking at me like the devil was possessing him and showing me its fangs. A man in his 50 who I didn’t know, went out of a house and scared the dog by throwing rocks at him… I’m not going to lie, everywhere in Egypte, like in Iran, people were staring at me , asking where I’m from, where I’m going and why I’m here, a few men (young or old) asked for my phone number and I even received roses, biscuits and candies. But there, I was the foreigner, the stranger, I was a curiosity in other words and someone curious is not a threat even if he can be annoying after a while. But on the other hand, unlike other tourists told me or a few people from these countries, I’ve never been touched by anyone, or hit, or raped, pushed, nothing have been stolen from me and no one has shown any sign of agressivity against me.
So YES, I did cross Cairo on foot, alone and smiling to prove that it’s possible and that there is nothing to fear. Because I innocently think that if the egyptians, iranians or anyone suffering from an intense social pressure stop being scared, the social pressure might loose its control on him and he might finaly be free from that horrible human concept.
* The cemetery of Cairo became a residential arealefor the poorest people who can’t affort to rent a place in town or in the slum. They directly leave in the family vault which looks like a house in Egypt with a door and windows.