Thursday, December 15, 2011

Once Upon a Voting Day!

At exactly 10:30am on a sunny Monday morning, I was standing in line next to my mother ready to give my voice to someone I was in no way terrorized to vote for. This time I was going to take part in making history and witness Egypt as it blossoms into the beautiful democratic country it ought to be. Well, I was a part of making history alright, but the democracy part now seems like a blurry image of something I can’t really tell if it’s real or just mere hallucination!

Since great minds think alike, all women showed up early and I mean all women! The line was endless; it was two streets away from the Mohamed Taymour’s school door where I’m supposed to vote. It was hopeless, part of me actually considered leaving and coming back in the afternoon or may be tomorrow but the look my mum shot me when I started complaining pinned me right where I was, sinking in the muddy streets of Nasr City.

You would think the fact that it was all women would make the four hour long waiting interesting and fun, but as it appeared women didn’t talk about politics, in fact we were ordered by one bossy woman not to talk about the candidates because she considered that to be a form of advertising and influencing. So, what else women talked about? Food, yes it came down to the point that women were exchanging recipes, actually two got into an argument of whether it was better to use garlic chopped or minced when preparing molokheya! And knowing that my knowledge about cooking ends at microwaves you can guess how happy I was.

As the street got busier with cars dropping off women and the sun was growing merciless, a young woman appeared with a megaphone screaming that any woman above 60, pregnant or with children should proceed to vote directly. That’s when my mum chose to sarcastically mock me for not bringing my 20 months old baby along.

By 1:30pm my back was killing me and my feet were slowly outgrowing my boots but on the bright side the school’s door was at least visible to me. Right in front of the school, there was a Muslim brotherhood booth with lots of men wearing hats with “El horeya wal Adala” logo, they weren’t actually promoting for their candidates, not in an obvious way at least, but they were lecturing people on how to vote. Other parties sent in their youths wearing t-shirts with printed logos distributing informational flayers about their candidates. Some women refused to take those flyers because that was unethical while others took them then threw the flayers away.

Approaching the gate, we were walking a lot faster now; I had to part ways with my mother because we were in different voting committees. My battery was dead by then so we agreed on a meeting point. I headed to committee number 75 and I was devastated to find a line again. But with the scary bossy lady off the radar we were free to talk about politics, candidates, and the SCAF whichever way we liked. One woman innocently joked about the Mubarak era saying that he saved us from the elections hastiness, when another woman starting yelling “who’s saying Mubarak? Do you have any idea what he did to us? He robed us blind?!” After we soothed things out between the two and prevented what could easily turn into a catfight considering the heat and the long hours came my favorite part, the talk about the candidates and the parties. I was voting for “El Kotla Al Masreya” and “Mostafa el Naggar” out many reasons but the most important, I think, is to bring diversity to the parliament. Almost everyone I know, including my grandparents, are voting for Muslim Brotherhood and I just don’t want to repeat the farce of the NDP all over again.

Just as I wrapping up my wise political theory, three army soldiers barged into our diminishing line yelling, “Lobna Khairy! Where’s Lobna Khairy?!” I swear it was my first time to be aware of my knees’ existence, my heart just pounded as the thought of being arrested, tortured and rapped like the horror stories I hear about women’s interrogations in the Egyptian police station brought vomit to my mouth. I replied hesitantly, that my unfortunately I was she, one of the soldiers answered “your mum is waiting for you outside” Could I be any more embarrassed? My mum actually sent the “army” to look for me when I was just lecturing the women, who by the way were much older than I am, about the importance of diversity in the political scene!

It was almost 2:00pm when I was up next to vote. I was doubtful and scared; what if I marked the wrong person? What if I took too long and people started complaining like it happened before with other candidates? But the truth was the people in that small filthy, if I may add, classroom was more helpful than I could have ever imagined. They guided me through every step and successfully managed my stupidity. And I voted without messing it up. For the very first time, I wasn’t hesitant about my candidates of choice or the vision of the political party I am for. For the very first time, I actually knew what I want for my country’s future to look like and I did my part. I voted!

So as I walked outside the room my head was filled with two thoughts, first, how sorry I felt for those students who have to go to that school because it was unbearably hideous, old and smelly and second, the fact that I, ironically, waited for 4 and a half hours to vote in just 2 minutes! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Polygamy in Egypt

According to a recent statistics conducted by National Centre for Sociological and Criminological Research (NCSCR) after only three short years of marriage, nearly 25 percent of Egyptian husbands take on a second wife when almost 70 percent of those second marriages end in divorce!

The alarming rapidity with which men remarry raised the imperative question of why Egyptian men are yet again embracing polygamy in the midst of the deteriorating economic status of the country, the obligatory military service and the exacerbated unemployment crisis. Nevertheless, the validity of polygamy in Islam was almost never really questioned here in Egypt, it was never legally banned before like in many Islamic countries including Tunisia, Turkey, Tajikistan and Indonesia, yet it was always frowned upon by women!
Polygamy is God’s right granted for men limited to four wives with a number of conditions underlying fairness to the first wife. The problem is that women overlook the sanctity of protecting fellow Muslin sisters from the various harms in society because of selfishness and the idea that their husbands are insulting them by taking a second wife,” said, Sheikh Mohamed Gad, Head of Panorama el Shrouk Mosque, Shrouk City, Egypt.

In Egyptian society, the reasons why husbands take second wives can vary randomly. Some men remarry out of nothing but love, yet the idea of informing the first wife is too scary for many reasons, to mention a few, to avoid marital problems, to maintain a healthy peaceful environment for the children and escape the divorce demands the first wife insists on when informed about the second marriage. “There’s nothing wrong with my first wife, I love her and I still do, but I did not want to sin or do anything that will jeopardize my faith so when I met my second wife ,  I decided to get married. It was not an easy decision, and it requires a lot of sacrifice from my second wife to keep our marriage as discreet as possible, but in the end I am doing nothing wrong or illegal,” said, Moustafa Hussein, 36, businessman.

Others seek fatherhood, which is one of the most common reasons why Egyptian men remarry when the first wife is reproductively challenged. However, in most rural cities in Egypt, many men blessed with daughters remarry for the second and even third time until they have the heir they hope for. Despite the hail of equality messages Egyptian media adopted throughout the past seven years, well educated men still pursue the outdated desire for a son. “I have four daughters and I love my family, but I wanted a son of my own and thankfully now I have one as a result of a second marriage; I informed my first wife after having my boy because I didn’t want to create problems out of nothing if God didn’t grant me Hamza,” said, Ayman Galal, 48, anesthesiologist.

When torn between misery and family, some men try polygamy to have the billboard-like marriage they dream of instead of breaking the first one. “It was the endless fights and demands; I didn’t want to divorce my first wife and I still don’t to keep my family together, so I married another to give me the peace and patience I need to continue my life,” said, Amr Faramawy, 42, businessman

Yet, not all Egyptian women refuse the idea of polygamy; in fact some wives don’t want a full-time husband and would not mind being a part-time wife either which means sharing him with another wife. “I married my second wife 6 years ago, my first wife knew all about it from the moment I decided to get married, she was jealous and hurt at first of course but now she has the time she needs to look after the kids as she likes without having to worry about me and what I think of her,” said, Emad Antar, 42, field engineer. 

Polygamy is most certainly the most controversial family system in Islam; however there are many conditions that allow the man to have more than one wife yet keep the responsibility and presence of marriage alive. “Polygamy was mainly intended for protecting widowed women with children, to give her the security and marital life she accustomed and guard her from sin,” said, Sheikh Mohamed Gad. For a husband to remarry he should be able to afford the expenses of multiple households, he should be able to give fairness in terms time and treatment to both wives, and a justifiable reason to get married like if the wife is sick or barren.

Polygamy like any system has its advantages and disadvantages. “Look at the number of Muslim women who are not married, divorced or widowed; if a man can be fair and pay for more than one home, then why shouldn’t he marry another,” said, Sheikh Mohamed. Polygamy will definitely help abolish the phenomena referred to as “spinsters”, curb men’s excessive sexual needs where one woman may not be enough, and increase population. But the problems resulting from the misuse and the misinterpretation of polygamy is the reason why most men are cautious about second marriages.

Egyptian women are fighting polygamy hard; in 2000 a new marriage contract was issued legalizing for Egyptian wives to put the conditions they want which if violated by the husband, a divorce can be easily granted by the court. Among those conditions are allowing the wife to work, number of kids or in some cases none, marrying another and travelling to work abroad.    



Monday, November 21, 2011

Lost in unedited thoughts

It happened before, this feeling, this fear, this fogginess and endless darkness.
The weather was exactly like today, indecisive.
Ten months ago I was at the same place I am today
Worried and confused.
I thought I will take a stance but I got scared away.
The effect was undeniable
far fetched victory
That was all
I got to a point that shook my belief system to the core
I was active in a good way
I got a cause to live for
I adored my son even more
I had a mission now to raise him like a true Egyptian
A justice fanatic!

Here we are again,
At the same place
Today, I love my country…
Egypt; a country so vague that makes you wonder whether you love it or hate it! 
Today I feel for my people
All the screams and blood.
All the lives that were shed.
They’re trying to say something but it’s too loud I can’t seem to hear them.
I got lost in the midst of all the voices trying to block out each other.
The once hated are now hailed.
The once loved are now hated.
Political parties are clashing.
Rumors of conspiracies are flying.

My country is turning into a victim.
I fear for Egypt…
Where are we going?
What are we doing?
The revolution is now cursed?
When will the dust settle?
It can take years…
I fear for my son
I fear for the future
It's all blurry again
It's all grey again

I hope Egyptians can no longer be manipulated
I wish for roads to be simpler and cleared
I wish for everyone to be honest
We are still virgins when it comes to politics
The grounds are all already shaking

I thought I understood
I thought I have changed
I thought we have gotten more aware
I thought all Egyptians are now patriots
I was wrong
There are Agenda's
There are conspiracies
There are manipulations
And the people are yet again paying the price...

Is this our country or will forever be theirs?
Egypt is cut open
And we are exposed
It's time to render
It's time to decide
Can we be a better country?

I am lost…   

Friday, May 27, 2011

A mature to be

(Published in Magnificent- April 2011)

Back in August, 2009 I was at the AUC studying the principles of voice coaching and TV presenting. Back then radio hosting and writing were my ultimate goals; they were the dream that forced me out of bed each morning and had me cursing every sunset that came by. On the very last session, the instructor- as promised- sat us all down to give her final feedback and honest advice. We were anxiously fetching for flattery and kind remarks to complement all the hard work we’ve put to ace our challenges. Being the sincere self she’s known to be, Dr. Maha tried her best to deliver her thoughts without embarrassing or de-motivating anyone.
I was expecting her comments to be limited to voice tones, facial expressions and body language when she surprised us all with her graver remarks. She was addressing characteristics that affected the way we talked, acted and reacted. She told me that I, for some odd reason, come off as the shy girl. She told Hossam, that he needs to lighten up his seriousness. She told Heba that she doesn’t need to smile because she already has a friendly face. And then she turned to Nancy; her voice changed, she was now speaking as a mother rather than an instructor. Throughout the course, she kept on telling her that she would be an excellent TV presenter for kids, which drove Nancy crazy because she wanted to be taken seriously, yet, no matter how hard she tried she always came off childish and funny. It was then that Dr. Maha uttered a word that I never thought could affect someone that much. Maturity! Her advice for Nancy was to work a lot, to read a lot, to gain as much experience as she can to become more mature!

At that very moment, maturity was more of a sign to me than just a random remark. That was- and shockingly still is- exactly what I’m missing. I had just turned 22; I was two and a half months pregnant; I was keeping it a secret from almost everyone and I was living in denial! The pregnancy news hit me by storm; it was as if betraying my own dream; a brick wall that I cannot destroy nor cross over. And I kept saying I’m not ready to be a mother; I don’t have what it takes to be a good mother. And it’s true! I was not patient; I was not, by any means, into kids; and I had too much on my plate at that time to simply shut off or make room for what’s about to come. But the truth is I was scared, terrified actually to raise another human being while I, myself, am not done growing up.

It is such a huge transition being married with a kid; before when I was about to go to college, I never felt it was that big of a difference because I still lived with my parents, I still had to study, I still panicked during finals and I still had to wake up at 7:00am! Yet, only one factor was changed and I was never overwhelmed or horrified. But with marriage you become responsible for everything, starting with managing the house all the way to safety and cleaning, that of course and the fact that for the first time in my life I was living with a boy!
Exactly one month after coming home from what I can only call a luxurious honeymoon I found out I was pregnant, and my life started to shatter right in front of me. No more published articles, no more radio shows let alone the possibility of a TV show- because who would want to hire a bloating mum to be- and definitely no more clubs and long late-night dinners with super cool friends who have nothing to worry about. Back then, I thought of those nine months as eternity as if I would always be nothing but a pregnant blob. I just couldn’t see a life for me after having a baby and I kept on waking every night to the same nightmare of being an ugly, boring, fat, 40-year old housewife who has wasted her life doing absolutely nothing.
I was totally alone in this pregnancy; I had to rely on books, internet, my mum’s narration of her tales with what seemed to be a sillier version of me and other mums, who I can tell you now since my son is about to complete his twelfth month were lying straight to my face with the whole motherhood is a blessing story. Allow me to tell you what motherhood really is; it’s being on call 24/7, never having a fixed schedule; it’s to live your life day by day, when plans almost never fall into action. Motherhood means giving up on your wishes to meet your baby’s fierce demands. It’s not sleeping at night for weeks and in my case probably for another year. It’s to put your personal life on hold until your baby sleeps and when he does you spend it hoping his nap would last for at least an hour. It’s a constant sense of guilt and question whether you’re doing everything you can to provide a happy healthy home. It’s playing calm and patient when all you want to do is scream and run away. It’s never having a quite time let alone a quality time. Motherhood knows none of an “I” it’s always he, she or they. That is the ugly truth about motherhood, in some ways it is truly a blessing but most of the time it’s none stop work.

I learnt that the hard way and still to this day I wonder how every woman went through it and survived. I wonder how they get everything done without falling apart and yes I envy those who are still single and not looking. I envy their ability to sleep late on weekends and have a fun night out whenever they want. I’m still waiting for me to adapt, to mature and suck it up. I have a long road ahead of me and a lot of barriers I have to cross. But I can tell you this for now, being a mum is a huge life changing experience even if I’m, at the time being, still struggling, I know deep down that one day I’d wake up a new, improved and hopefully a more mature me…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of Strikes and Perseverance

(Published in Magnificent Magazine- April 2011)

It happened towards the end of a new year’s first month when resolutions were still searing with high hopes. But unlike usual resolutions, change no longer seemed far- fetched or scary. This time any change- no matter how tiring- sounded much better than our current today. With the scheming, the stealing, the poverty, and the never ending chain of injustice; it was inevitable for silence to break and for the people to roar.
On January, 25th, 2011, the Egyptian Revolution started…

It was to everyone’s surprise that the revolution kept going, for many it was just like any other riot that has happened before where water hoses and time were enough to put out. Yet, the consecutive blows did nothing to the demonstrators but keep them stronger. This time it was different. This time passiveness was no longer tolerable. This time and for the very first time in 30 years the people were truly fed up and had nothing more precious to lose than what has already been lost.

During the revolution, like many Egyptians, I was tormented by the many contradicting views, between the pros and cons, the supporters and the opponents and the rushing turns of events. Honestly speaking I had my doubts, not in a million years would I have ever thought we’d be where we are today. I never thought Mubarak would actually leave and a couple of months later we would participate in a referendum. But it happened!

During the revolution, like many Egyptian females, I was once more a prisoner of my own gender where Tahrir was considered a dangerously prohibited zone and I was banned from even thinking of going there. But I had to participate in some way and luckily I had three! First, I had my words; I wrote a lot, poured out my heart to white papers and found consolation in my laptop screen. Second, I had my voice; I talked, discussed and debated with those who were- and surprisingly still are anti- revolution. And finally, I had Amani el- Tunsi, my friend and a sincere eye-witness to what was going on in Tahrir. Amani had the guts and the power to go to Tahrir since the early days of the revolutions, I used to call her and listen live over the phone to what was being said and most of the times sung! My heart was just getting hooked to the tales of Tahrir by the minute and she was my only left hope.

After a long night of celebrations on the 11th of February, I got a chance to ask her opinion, hopes and dreams for a better Egypt. After all, she was there protesting and demanding. She witnessed the entire revolution and was firmly biased to Tahrir and did not have a chance to be brainwashed by corrupted media or hidden agendas. Her words were precise and direct, she knew exactly what she wanted to voice to the point that she wrote a book that is going to be published soon under the name “Bent men midan al- Tahrir” (A girl from Tahrir Square) where she has narrated everything, minute by minute, and day by day along with all the people she talked to and discussed with the future of Egypt.

Amani told me that during those eighteen days she felt scared and terrified of what tomorrow might bring. “I used to go there every day with the possibility that I might not see my father again”, she said. “But I was hopeful and was overwhelmed with this strange love and jealousy over my own country. For the very first time, I knew what it felt to be free, to have a voice. What being an Egyptian really means”
When I asked her about the rumors of harassments, she said: “I never felt safer in my life; the men were helpful and defending. They helped us pass by, they helped us park, enter and leave. I felt at home. It was safe and cozy. Besides, we were not at Tahrir to harass or annoy, we had a cause. Even though the reasons may differ but we had a larger mission than silly boyish games”

The glory of this Revolution is not only about its political achievements but its remarkable impact on every person whether a participant or not. The state of being a revolutionary, a free bird who has all the rights in the world to accept or refuse; to demean or encourage; to go on or simply quit. We, as Egyptians, have lost this ability a long time ago. And you can easily spot our passiveness in everything, not just politics.
A student being abused by his teacher remains silent; an employer who is denied overtime bonus does not quit because he is terrified of unemployment; a wife endures her husband’s infidelity to please a sick society that disapproves divorce; A man stays in a lifeless marriage because he cannot afford divorce; A son’s dream is murdered by his parents follow their orders helplessly; A daughter is forced into marriage to escape her family’s prison, etc...
There was a time when no was not an option, when we were forbidden to think, chose, debate or even communicate, but not anymore. The revolution knocked on every door. Everywhere I go I meet people who started to voice their opinions and enforce their rights. Women facing their husbands asking for more respect and engagement; husbands no longer afraid of their occasionally scary wives verbalizing their anguishes; sons and daughters demanding their parents to listen and spend more time getting to know them; employers protesting for their financial rights and health care; students calling for better education; graduates arguing for jobs they can honorably life off, and people fighting the farce of high prices and the scarcity of a good affordable life-quality.

The revolution smoothly relocated from Tahrir square to our homes and minds. The change has already happened. We, Egyptians, have tasted democracy and freedom and I do not think there will ever be a turning back. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the brutality of change compared to the ease of bouncing back to an accustomed life, I say it is better to suffer a year or two of massive confusion rather than tolerating a lifetime of blurry attempts.

Friday, February 11, 2011

إلى كل من قال

إلى كل من قال علينا شباب الـ فيسبوك:

إالى كل من قال إننا معندناش إنتماء: مصر جوانا
إالى كل من إستخف بينا: الإرادة بتغير أمة
إلى كل من عارض وكان متشائم: نجحنا
إلى كل من كان خايف على إستقرار مصر بما فيهم إنا: مصر ربنا حافظها فعلا

النهرده نفرح ومن بكرة شغل!
كل رجل فى ميدانه

بلاش فساد
بلاش ظلم
بلاش تدليس
بلاش ظلم
بلاش تزوير

إلى كل أم: ربى إبنك وبنتك على حب مصر
بلاش أنانية

إلى كل رئيس عمل: إتقى الله
بلاش محسوبية

إلى كل مرؤس: إتقى الله
بلاش كروتة وطلسئة

إلى كل مدرس: إتقى الله
بلاش ملعنة

إلى الجيش المصرى: إنتو رجالة

إلى شباب جبلى: أرجوك إفضل إيجابى

إالى الشهداء: دمكم مرحش هدر

إلى المتظاهرين: عندكم حق الحرية طعمها أحلى كتير من عيشة مكبوتة

الثورة نجحت
بس ده البداية

فى صفحة بيضة جديدة لنج مستنية تتكتب
بلاش نوسخها

إالى عمى: رجع فلوس أبويا بالتى هى أحسن وإلا....
ميدان التحرير موجود

مبروك يا مصر