Are you a sexual harrassment supporter?

Yes, you! And might I also say that it is time we call it what it is, violence against women, which is becoming a norm in Egypt.  Sadly, many people who say they are against sexual harassment are actually supporters without realizing it.

If your first response is, she got attacked because of how she was dressed or where she was, then I am sorry you are a sexual harassment supporter.  No one (regardless of their gender) should be abused or harassed for any reason.  Period.  Why is that so hard to understand?  When people say things like women are like candy and need to be covered up, they really are saying that men can not control themselves and are rapists waiting to happen.  Women are scientists, doctors, engineers, fighter pilots, moms, referees, etc.  They are not candy.  They are not diamonds.  They are human beings who have the right to dress as they choose without having to justify it or be punished for it.

If you think that sexual harassment affects a woman’s honor (شرف ) then you also have a problem.  Her humanity, dignity, soul, heart, psyche, body and more have been violated, but not her honor.  Her honor is only defined by her actions not what someone else does to her.  It is time we stop being dinosaurs and realize that honor has nothing to do with it.

If you are a man and feel that your honor is being violated because a woman was harassed/raped/abused/attacked please take a number, have a seat and wait until hell freezes over.  This has nothing to do with you.  You do not own women.  Your honor is only defined by your actions not by what happens to someone else.  Your job is not to harass women.  Full stop.  If as a decent person (regardless of gender) you choose to stand up against harassment then thank you, that means you have chosen the right thing.

If you feel that videos of attacks make us look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world, then please go drink some arsenic. The fact that you believe that half the population lives in constant fear of being abused or harassed is less important than our collective image means you really need some therapy.  I totally agree that the privacy of victims needs to be protected, they at least deserve that from us. But covering an attack up or pretending that they are not an epidemic is just sick and stupid.

We have a serious problem in Egypt.  It is called misogyny , as defined by wikipedia

Misogyny /mɪˈsɒɪni/ is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.[1][2] Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of the mythologies of the ancient world as well as of various religions.

If you find any way to blame a victim or justify an attacker then you are a misogynistic inhumane creep that needs to find a hole in the ground to bury yourself.

If you think you don’t support violence against women, but see people blaming the victim and don’t say anything that makes you a supporter.  If you lead men to believe that this is about their honor and don’t right their views, then you are supporting more violence against women.  If you want to hide the fact that these attacks happen then you are a supporter.

If you do not take a stand against crimes against women, you are supporting them.  If you belittle efforts that are made to stand against these crimes then maybe you support these crimes.

If the only solution to this problem in your view is violence against men then this is another problem, it is called misandry.  We can not fight violence with violence. We can only start educating everyone on how to stop the current epidemic and to make sure it never happens again. We need strong laws and implementation of these laws.  We need to feel safe by knowing that we are protected, not that we need to walk around carrying weapons to fight back.

A stand, is long overdue.

For Women: A culture of gold in Egypt

Kicking off our first post in the guest blogging series.

MamaMona has been a favorite blogger of mine for quite some time.  She writes with an honest voice in a diverse range of topics.  On her blog you will find posts about parenthood, shopping, Egypt, Islam and lots of other things.  Perhaps what makes her stand out the most is that she is an Egyptian woman who was raised in the US and then came back as an adult.  It makes her perspective of Egypt different than people who have lived their whole lives in Egypt.  She is a reminder that you can be a very dedicated mother, yet still your very own person.  Here is Mona’s take on Gold and the Egyptian culture.


 

A culture of gold in Egypt

In Egypt, gold is a big deal. Since the days of the pharaohs, gold is king. Growing up in the states, I never really thought about gold jewelery and always preferred silver to gold anyway. In the US, 14k gold is very common, while here, it’s almost never sold or dealt with. It’s strictly 18k or 21k in the Arab world.

Most Egyptian women love gold. Throughout a woman’s life gold is key. When a baby girl is born, people buy gold earrings, bangles, pendants even tiny rings for the newborn. This is seen as a good gift because the parent can keep it or sell it eventually if need be. When a young woman is getting married, there’s the Shabka. It’s a traditional jewelery set that’s a wedding gift to the bride from the groom. It’s a huge deal, the woman goes with her fiance and probably her mom to pick it out. This is a big part of the engagement/marriage agreement, I gather. .

Gold jewelery is usually any Egyptian woman’s prized possession. Often stored in a mother of pearl box (on Egyptian soap operas at least.) Gold is often how some rural women keep their wealth, on their arms and ears, etc. The thing about gold, it’s considered a girl’s best friend here. It’s something that people like to have, and seen as more than just an accessory or a piece of jewelery because in tough times, if need be, people sell it for cash. Nowadays, more modern styles are popular. White gold and diamonds are popular with Egypt’s elite as well.

On a more personal note, I recently was purchasing something from a gold shop here in Hurghada. The glass cases and windows were totally empty. Just bare velvet neck shaped displays. Recent crime has shop owners worried. Tourism is really down and times are tough since most people’s livelihood comes from the tourism industry. A woman came in to the shop with 2 small girls. She removed their earrings and had the man weigh them and waited to hear how much she would get for them.  I could do nothing but look at the ground and feel like crap.

To Each Her Own {A special book review}

A while back Juka sent me a copy of her book To Each Her Own, which is now published and on the shelves of bookstores in Egypt and will soon be available from Amazon too.
All this goes back to November 2008, or at least for me it does when she posted her bucket list of things she would like to do and one of them was publishing a book.

The story or should I say the story line because it is not like a conventional story with a beginning and an end but more like looking into the lives of a group of  young Egyptian women on a timeline in their lives. It leaves you with the feeling that the girls are now your friends and that you will pick up the phone and check on them.

A book by a young woman for young women, well men can read it, but I think it touches women more. Six young women who are ambitious and live purposeful lives are always a great example for other women. The characters are so real and that is not a surprise since they are based on real people.

A lovely read, yet it might leave you inspired to find yourself, embrace it and move full speed ahead in your own life of purpose.  It should also make you reach for the phone and call your friends because the feeling of friendship and camaraderie in the book is quite high and heart warming.

Juka, I wish you all the best and hope that this debut book is just the beginning of a long list of bestsellers and I want a signed copy of this one too.

If you  are interested there’s also a book launch and signing event at the Sherouk Bookstore tonight at 7 pm.

Egyptian Flag Ball Giveaway

Inspired by Sina’s pride in Egypt and a general feeling that one should be more positive and proactive I have decided to have this giveaway.

I first made these a while back.  They are available for purchase here.

Back to the giveaway  for a chance to win one all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me why you are proud of Egypt.

For an extra (optional) chance you can become a fan of Chocolate Mints in a Jar on facebook.

The giveaway ends Friday June the 18th at midnight Egyptian Time.

The Truth About Being An Expat

Disclaimer: This is my own personal opinion based on my own personal life, circumstances, personality and other stuff.  This does not apply to any other expat except myself, unless that expat can relate.

First things first, what is an expat?  An expat is a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country.

I did not really choose to come to Kuwait, not directly anyway.  I never really wanted to leave Egypt.  You see I am one of those crazy people who actually love Egypt and want to stay and build a better country for the younger generations which will come after us.  I see huge potential in my country and believe that my generation can help start the fixing process.  After graduation I watched lots of young graduates leaving for better paid jobs or better opportunities and I remember having several discussions with them or people still considering leaving.  My argument was always the same, even if I did choose to leave I would go to learn something and come back and use the knowledge to help my own people.  I never wanted to leave for the money.  You have to know some more background info to know why I feel this way.  I was born in Kuwait, then moved to Scotland with my family as a child and then back to Egypt as a tween.  I suffered terribly from culture shock.  I spent years trying to fit in until I decided to stop fitting in.  I was a third culture kid, I was different, I had a different set of ideals and values.   Unlike the rest of the kids at school, I did not have a best friend whom I had been raised with and knew since Kinder Garten.  With every move I had to start all over again.  To be honest, all of this moving taught me flexibility, openness and tolerance which most kids my age new nothing about.  Unfortunately these skills are not very useful when you are 13 trying to make new friends.  My own father chose to leave a permanent job in the UK so that he could go back to Egypt to use what he learned to help Egypt.  The offer was he could become a citizen within a year and we would follow shortly after.  We grew up understanding and respecting his choice and thinking that this was the only right thing to do.  When I met the man whom I eventually married, he was already living in Kuwait and I understood that Kuwait came with the marriage.   At the time I was excited, happy and in love.  When we discussed where we would live, he too wanted to come back to Egypt but had to tie some loose ends.  Things happened, we got married and the loose ends sort of unraveled a little bit more and we still have installments to pay for which is basically why we are here.  My mom did warn me, but I didn’t really listen, she thought we should wait until he came back to Egypt.  Sometimes I think she was right.  But then again, she too resigned from a bright career in Academia (Medical School) to be with my father in Kuwait, so maybe it was a case of monkey see, monkey do.  She could have taken unpaid leave and spent half of her time in Egypt and the other half in Kuwait, but she just could not break up a family like that.  My husband himself told me if we postponed our wedding we might not have to stay in Kuwait.  At the time the situation just wouldn’t have worked out any other way.  I still believe I made the right choice despite everything else.

Now that you know the story let me tell you what I think about being an expat.

You are not a citizen and you will never be one

This is the case in Kuwait.  Unlike expats who live in the UK, US or other countries, who eventually choose to become citizens.  In Kuwait you do not have that choice.  So you know that it is a temporary situation that might last for a year or sixty.   Knowing that you eventually have to leave or get kicked out is a looming inevitabilty that everyone thinks about some time or another.  You can not own your house, you can only rent.  You can not make long term plans or goals because you know it just might not happen.   You have limited rights and you are not represented in parliament.  At the end of the day you are just a worker here, doing a job that is not permanent.  Since the economic crisis lots of people have lost their jobs, some chose to stay and take pay cuts and others chose to go back home.  It is sad watching someone fight the clock to find a job because their visa will expire and not only do they have to deal with job loss, but they might also have to deal with moving and other things.

You are also a stranger in your home country

Things change, you go back home to find people look different, buildings have been demolished and others replaced them,  relationships between people have changed; best friends parted, couples divorced, couples married, people have died and babies have been born.  You don’t know where the hip restaurants are anymore, you have no idea where to shop and you are totally lost.

You change

Change is natural, normal and inevitable.  But perhaps the scariest thing about change when you choose to become an expat is that you drift from who you were.  Let me remind you that this is a very personal thing.  But no matter how hard you try, things will change.  I am not talking about maturing and growing up kind of change.  But the kind of change that comes with new and different priorities.  Some people living in the gulf end up being very dull.  Shopping becomes their new hobby and restaurants are the only place they go out to.

Life lacks balance

Life is work, end of story, full stop, period.   When I was in Egypt, I’d go to Sakiet el Sawi, Alexandria Library and lots of other places for cultural events.  We’d visit museums or just go to the beach at Montaza.  Most people here have limited options.  I am not saying that these things don’t exist.  I am just saying it takes time to find these events or a network of friends who are interested in these things.  Sometimes you change and stop caring before you manage to find them.

You can not choose your friends

You can’t choose your friends anywhere, but when the pool of available people is smaller it becomes even harder to choose friends.  Let me be very clear, there are acquaintances and there are friends.  Acquaintances are the people you can go out with or have a conversation with that usually revolves around the weather.  Friends are people you can count on to be there when you need them to.  Friendships take a long time to build, trust is earned along the years and memories forge this bond.  When you do not have that kind of time and history you end up with people who are closer to being acquaintances than being real friends.  Of course there are some people who are really good at making friends.  Unfortunately I am not.  It can be very lonely sometimes.

The money is not that good anymore

Some people assume that because I live in Kuwait that there is an oil field in our kitchen.  It is not true.  On second thoughts I am glad it is not true, can you imagine how much work running an oil field would be?  Salaries are higher than in Egypt that is true,  but so is the rent, food and all of your other expenses.  I am not trying to say it is a tough life or that we are poor.  Al Hamdu Lillah, we are not, this is not because of Kuwait anyway,  Allah gives what He pleases, to whom he pleases, when He pleases.  I am just trying to say that if people assume that just because they will be making 4 or 5 times more money than they are making in Egypt that that does not also mean that they will be spending 4 or 5 times what they already spend then they have no idea of what they are getting themselves into.  Just for example, rent is a big chunk of what we spend here.  My phone bill is crazy because most of my calls are long distance.

There is no support

For someone like me being away from family is hard.  We have a large tight knit family that act as a constant support group.  Living thousands of miles away makes that kind of support harder to get.

Conclusion

This is not a rant post or a complaint one.  This is just me stating the facts.  There are of course lots of good things about being an expat.  You get to experience different cultures and meet different people.  You learn to adapt and learn how to deal with life on your own without friends or family.  You have the chance to become so much more than you ever were and to rise up to that challenge, to grow and fulfill your potential or you can regress and become lesser of a person.  The choice is always yours.  You can choose to meet every challenge or obstacle by sitting down and crying next to it or you can turn them into stepping stones to your goal.  Whatever you decide in life you should always know that you are the one who will have to deal with the consequences of your decisions.  You should learn not to assume things but to question, research, learn and look into things with an open mind so you can make the right decisions for you.

What’s on your mind?

What is on your mind facebook

I think Facebook should come up with a different question than ‘What’s on your mind?’.  Even better I think it should change every day.  I had too much coffee and decided that these were smart questions for Egyptian users:

  • Eh el neez ya lazeez?
  • Sabba7 sabba7 ya 3am el 7ag.
  • Elle wa5ed 3a2lak?
  • Sar7an fe eh?
  • Enzel men 3ala wedani.
  • Zah2an? Tah2an? Medaye2? Yalla taha2 we zaha2 so7abak ma3ak.
  • Eh el a5bar ya shotar?
  • Eh el gedeed? Yalla 2ollena el mofeed.

And this is why children, you should not have too much caffeine.

Interesting Discussions to Follow

conversationI enjoy reading blog posts, but even more, I enjoy following the discussions that result when a post is interesting or hits a nerve.

Organica had a very interesting post on “Muslim Dating” which I found very interesting.  Young people today are finding it harder than ever to find a partner and still do it right.  The comments that followed were mostly deep, thoughtful and interesting.

Sudanese Optimist posted a very racist video made by Egyptians and called it Reason Number 9734 Not to support the Egypt.  I found the video annoying and stupid.  I had never given Sudan much thought to be honest, I never thought that Egypt was better or worse than Sudan.  I just knew that Sudan used to be part of Egypt one day and that there are conflicts in Darfur.  The discussion is a very intellectual and important one.  Please go over there and give the comments a read.  This is what some people think of the Egyptians and Egypt, it just might change your outlook.

And as James Nathan Miller said “There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

Blackberry and Iphone Silicone Skins in Egypt

If you have a blackberry phone or an iPhone and want one of those silicone skins click here.  Lots of colors are available in stock for different models (8900, 8520, 9000 and 8320).

They keep your phone safe from scratches and hard falls.  They’re also a colorful way to dress up and personalize your boring old business phone.

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CIB Egypt Your Customer Service Sucks

I’ve had a CIB account for 10 years minus a couple of days.  I can remember because I was waiting to turn 18.  I went alone and I had the thousand Egyptian Pounds that were the minimum needed to open a minors’ account.  I had been saving at the Post Office (yes I like to try and  save).  I was so proud of myself.  At my first job they asked me to open an account at Al Ahli Bank and I said no, I want to use my CIB account, they told me my salary would always be a couple of days late, I said I didn’t mind, I was a loyal customer.  At my second job, they transfered to CIB again so I didn’t change accounts.  At my last job they forced me into opening an account at the HSBC and even though their customer service was great I still preferred the CIB account because there were more branches and more ATM machines and the ATM card doubled as a Debit Card using the Visa Electron system.  I’d transfer my account to the CIB and use that card most of the month.  Anyone who asked me about my favorite bank I’d tell the the CIB.

So when last week I called them to confirm my account number for  a bank transfer I was doing and the call center representative neglected to inform me that my account had been closed because there were not transactions being made for a long time.  I was very clear and told her that I would be transferring money and that I was out of the country and she didn’t warn me.  I called yesterday because I wasn’t able to log into my internet banking account and the representative told me that the account had been closed.

It was so simple for them, one account, closed.  It is not simple for me.  First of all they wasted my time.  I was lucky that the transaction had failed otherwise my money would have been left in banking hell limbo.

To make a long story short, CIB you suck big time, you lost a loyal customer because your call center representative did not go the extra mile, your system is not smart enough or you just don’t care enough.  If she had told me the first time that the account was closed she would have saved me time but apparently no one cares about my time except me.  If the person who answered me the second time told me that he could see what he could do and tried to activate my account I would have been annoyed but still loyal.  Now I am angry and feeling betrayed.  I trust my bank.  I have to, they keep my money.  Once that trust is gone, the relationship is doomed.

In the middle of the conversation I asked to talk to a supervisor or manager so he told me that I would have to give him an Egyptian number.  How can I do that if I am not in Egypt?  Last month an HSBC rep called me telling me that they had noticed a strange transaction on my internet credit card, they had blocked it and were calling to confirm.  They called my home number in Egypt first and my mom gave them my number in Kuwait and they called long distance,  now that is what I call dedication.  To make that long story short, my email had been hacked and someone tried to make a transaction for 600$.  HSBC saved me those 600$ and a lot of hassle.  I was impressed by how they handled the whole situation and felt very happy.  CIB on the other hand did nothing for me and did themselves a disservice.  I might not have a lot of money at their bank but a bad reputation is bad for business.

If Egypt Wins The World Cup

This is a little hypothetical question.  If we win the next match in Sudan and go on to the World cup and actually win, do you think this might be a motivator for the rest of the Egyptians to work harder and achieve more?

I asked my sister that yesterday and she came back with what I thought was a very smart and concise answer.

“No.  Abu Treika is a role model, but the Egyptians are the same, fahlawa works for them, it is all they know.  Just like the Japanese know process and that works for them.  Nothing will change, reality bites”.

Unfortunately I agree with her, I just wish it were different.  I wish it meant something and I wish that people would take it as a sign that when a team works hard, trains smart and gives their all they can achieve something wonderful and that any one of us could be a member of that team playing any kind of sport in life.

On a different note.Yesterday, our Palestinian/Jordanian neighbor was screaming insults at the Egyptians for being happy and making a fuss about winning. She was asking where are the Egyptians when there is an intifada. She doesn’t get it, football makes the Egyptians happy, she also forgot all of the times Egypt paid in blood, sweat and tears for the Palestinians and every other Arab nation. Is it too much to ask for them to just let us be?  I am not for the idea that people go crazy over football but why do we have to judge other people when they are feeling happy and expressing that happiness by belittling them.  My question to her, why aren’t you in Gaza screaming for them instead of your cozy apartment in Kuwait enjoying your life complaining about the Egyptians?