Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Different World. Un Mundo Diferente.


a few obsevations since i've been in cairo...

one of the very first conversations i had with an egyptian colleague went like this: So, do you have a boyfriend...? Nope, never had one...What? But do you go out, like on dates...Nope, the only reason I would go out with someone is if there is a possibility we would get married, then we would go out in a group... the concept of "dating" is not part of the muslim world... "courtship" is... how do you get to know someone like that? i am not sure but i guess it works because the divorce rate in egyp is very low compared to the western world... or do they stay together because they "have to"? by the way, my colleague is 26 years old and she does not wear the traditional headscarf many egyptian women wear when they become teenagers... she is "americanized" because she went to an american school and studied at the american university in cairo... she does not even have an accent...

in 6 weeks i have seen 4, maybe 5, couples holding hands... there is no physical contact between women and men on the streets... women wear very consertive outfits... no swimsuits at all... younger women wear jeans or long skirts with long tops and headscarfs... they also cover their arms with"sleeves" that you can buy separately in differently colors... think of them as socks for the arms... not many wear veils... the ones who do more than likely would cover their feet and hands as well...now consider this: cairo is h o t... we are in the middle of the desert... i would say 90 percent do not show their hair... two main reasons: their husband is the only one who should see their beauty and they do not want to distract men on the streets...

just this week i was a the mall around 3 in the afternoon... i tried to go into a store and i saw a sign: closed for prayer... inside i saw three men praying... most of the stores closed within 5 minutes... a mall with perhaps 100 stores (5 stories) suddenly became a place of prayer... i am not saying everyone was praying, but many did... i have only seen men praying in public, outside mosques, inside stores, etc... as i walked by a building one night i notice the security guard praying behind his desk in the lobby... nobody was there but him on his knees on his prayer carpet... i have also seen many men reading the Koran as they ride the metro... a friend of mine made the comment: what would people think of you if you were reading the Bible in the subway in New York...?

there are two liquor stores in maadi... maadi is a really big area incairo... i'd say a million people... not even in supermarkets you find beer... i was just thinking of the liquor section in the supermarkets in the US or Latin America, one of them would probably have 10 times the amount of bottles i saw at these two stores in maadi... drinking is not part of the muslim culture... last week a friend of mine took his wife to the airport at 3 in the morning and traffic was unbelievable... he told me how "weird" it was to see thousands of men, very few women, out on the streets hanging out, laughing, chatting and nobody drinking... i've been to a salsa club a couple of times... it was very interesting to see about 100 people there "just" to dance... there is no alcohol served there... i was told it is like that even when is not ramadan...

this desire for "purity" in the muslim culture... is it too conservative...? i dont know... but people seem to be happy even if they don't enjoy the "freedoms" the western world offers... i cannot see their hearts and i would not make a judgement of how many follow these "rules" out of tradition or out of genuine desire to be "pure" for God...

what does it mean to be pure to you?

IMPORTANT 
i want to make something very clear: i am n o tadvocating women play a lesser role in society than men at all... i believe in equality... in egypt you see women in leadership positions in both the private and public sectors...


ESPANYOL

algunas observaciones desde que llegue a cairo...

una de las primeras conversaciones que tuve con una companiera egipcia fue algo asi: Contame, tenes novio...? No, nunca he tenido...Que? Pero sales, digo, en citas...Nop, la unica razon por la que saldria con alguien es si existeria la posibilidad de casarnos y entonces saldriamos en grupo... el concepto de "salir" no es parte de la cultura musulmana..."cortejar" si lo es... como llegas a conocer a alguien asi? la verdad no se, pero parece que funciona... no se los datos del porcentaje de divorcios en egipto pero me imagino que es mucho mas bajo que en el mundo occidental.... o siguen juntos porque "tienen" que hacerlo? a proposito, mi companiera tiene 26 anios y no usa la panioleta que la mayoria de las mujeres egipcias usan al iniciar la adolescencia... ella es "americanizada" porque estudio en un colegio americano y se graduo en la universidad americana en cairo... ni siquiera tiene acento cuando habla ingles...

en 6 semanas he visto 4, talvez 5, parejas tomados de la mano... no hay contacto fisico entre hombres y mujeres en las calles... la ropa es muy conservadora... trajes de banio para nada... las jovenes usan jeans o faldas largas con blusas largas y panioletas...tambien se cubren los brazos con "mangas" que se pueden comprar por separado en diferentes colores... imaginalos como medias para los brazos... no muchas usan velo, pero las que lo usan usualmente se cubren los pies y las manos tambien... algo a considerar: cairo es c a l u r o s o... estamos en medio del desierto... yo calculo que 90 por ciento de las mujeres ocultan su cabello... dos razones principales: solo su esposo debe ver su belleza y para no distraer a los hombres en las calles...

esta semana estaba en el mall a eso de las 3 de la tarde... quise entrar a una tienda pero vi un aviso: cerrado por oracion... adentro vi a tres hombres orando... la mayoria de las tiendas cerraron en los siguientes 5 minutos... un mall con unas 100 tiendas (5 pisos) se convirtio de repente en un lugar de oracion... no digo que todo el mundo se puso a orar, pero muchos lo hicieron... solo he visto hombres orando en publico, afuera de las mezquitas, en las tiendas, etc...un dia al caminar vi a un guardia de seguridad en un edificio orando atras de su escritorio en un edificio.. no habia nadie, solo el de rodillas en su alfombra de oracion... tambien he observado muchos hombres leyendo el Koran en el metro... una amiga hacia el comentario: que pensaria la gente de ti si te vieran leyendo la Biblia en el metro en Nueva York..?

hay dos licorerias en maadi... maadi es un area extensa de cairo... yo calculo un millon de personas... ni siquiera en los supermercados encuentras cerveza... pensaba en la seccion de licores en estados unidos o latinoamerica, en solo una de ellas se encuentra probablemente 10 veces la cantidad de licores que vi en esas dos licorerias en maadi... beber no es parte la cultura musulmana.. la semana pasada un amigo llevo a su esposa al aeropuertoa las 3 de la maniana y el trafico estaba terrible... me decia que le parecio "raro" ver miles de hombres, muy pocas mujeres, en las callesa esa hora conversando, riendo, pasando el rato y nadie tomando... yo he ido a un club de salsa un par de veces... fue muy interesante ver a unas 100 personas ahi "solo" para bailar... no sirven alcohol... me dijeron que es asi aun cuando no es ramadan...

este deseo de pureza en esta cultura... sera muy conservadora? no se... pero la gente parece ser feliz aunque no disfrutan muchas de las "libertades" que ofrece el mundo occidental... yo no puedo ver los corazones de las personas y nunca sabre quienes siguen estas "reglas" por tradicion o por un deseo genuino de ser "puros" para Dios...

que significa ser puro para ti ?

IMPORTANTE
quiero dejar algo bien claro: yo n o estoy a favor deque el rol de la mujer en la sociedad sea menor en ningun sentido comparado al hombre... yo creo firmemente en la igualdad... en egiptose ven mujeres en posiciones de liderazgo tanto en el sector privado como publico...



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