16.09.2010 - 16.11.2010 18 °C
As I grow better friends with the locals and learn more about the culture and religion of Egypt, I become quite frustrated with it all. Egypt is overpopulated, underfunded, dirty and disorganised, with outdated customs and a culture of oppression towards women and the poor. Wages are ridiculously low even for qualified individuals (although knowing a little about the education system here makes me question the quality of anyone's qualification!). Degree qualified Teaching Assistants at my school earn a meager 900LE (100 GBP) per month.
Women in Egypt are bred to be inferior, weak individuals who feel that they need a man to provide for and control them. They are expected to stay at home and look after the house and children, and when in public, cover themselves up to prevent other men being attracted to them. In theory I have no problem with the notion of home maker if that is what the woman is happy to do. I also don't mind the idea that a secure home unit is created for children to grow up in, and that women are not cheating on their husbands. However, what I object to is that the woman is pressured into covering up and that she cannot be trusted to merely shun expressions of interest from other men (like we do in non- Muslim countries)! Also we all know it takes two people to cheat but the blame in Middle Eastern countries always lies with the women.
At the heart of Muslim culture lies a firm set of morals and values but in practice there are examples of broken homes and suffering children all within the confines of what is acceptable to the religion. My friend comes from one of these homes. Originally she lived with her grandmother, mother, father, brother and younger sister in a stable family environment. Four years ago, my friend's father decided to divorce her mother on the grounds that she was not fulfilling her role of wife and mother satisfactorily. As a result she had to move out, leaving her children behind (the youngest of which was only 6 years old). She had the right to petition for custody of the children but my friend's father poisoned the mind of the youngest child, telling her that her mother was a bad person and that she was going to bring the police and take her away. For this reason, the mother decided to let her stay with her father. Two years later, my friend's father decided to marry again and moved into his new wife's house, leaving the three children in the family home with only their elderly grandmother to look after them. This situation has to raise questions about the validity of the accepted practices in Egypt, especially since the broken home life has damaged the reputation of my friend and her prospects to obtain a good husband in the future.
My friend is an open minded and strong willed female who wants choice in her life. She wants a good man, who will respect her freedom and not judge her for her family background or choices she makes in her own life. She wants a man who will love her for being who she. She doesn't want to worry that he's always looking for a second or even third wife. Is this too much to ask?
Is this what a perfect, happy family looks like?
How long before this little girl has to suffer the 40 degree heat in nylon body suits, multiple layers and a veil?