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.

Catty and Critical

My wonderful and amazing sister was telling me about the book “Make Every Man Want You (or Make yours want you more)” by Marie Forleo and especially about the following chapter:

Many women find it challenging to acknowledge and compliment other irresistible women, especially while in the presence of their man. Insecure women will criticize another woman’s clothing, shoes, bag, hair, body, makeup, or success. These catty and critical women mistakenly believe that tearing down another; irresistible woman will somehow be a preemptive strike and prevent their man from finding the other woman desirable. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
First of all, being critical of another woman casts you in a bad light. You are seen as insecure and jealous. And let’s be honest, your man probably noticed her at least ten minutes before you did, so why pretend otherwise?
Here’s the other thing. By bad-mouthing attractive women, you unconsciously program yourself not to become one. The universe is like a big photocopy machine that sends back to you copies of what you “order” through your thoughts. By being catty and critical, your thoughts are sending “attractive is bad” out to the universe, and the universe has no choice but to say, “Yes, master! Attractive is .” Because none of us wants to be bad, we will not allow ourselves to become attractive or, heaven forbid, irresistible.
Here’s what to do. When you notice another hot woman, silently bless her and say, “That’s right, girl. W-o-r-k!” This will recondition your mind to approve of being attractive, and the universe has no choice but to say, “Yes, master!” and support you in being as foxy as you want to be. Personally, I like to point out attractive women so both my partner and I can enjoy the eye candy. It is fun and supports honesty between us, and the bottom line is that he’s coming home with me.

I actually saw the light bulb go off in my head when she told me about it.  It was not just about attractiveness, but about anything and everything  you wish you had more of.

Disclaimer : From the reviews and what my sisters said, this isn’t a book about doing stuff or following rules for men to want you but more about loving yourself and enjoying yourself so your man will love you more.  It’s not about dating but about reality and relationships.

Friday’s Five: Egyptian Women and Biographies

I am still researching Egyptian women but here are five I found interesting and would like to read more about.

  1. Saheir al-Qalamawi
  2. Rania Elwani
  3. Shajarat El Dor
  4. Doria Shafiq
  5. Hoda Shaarawi

Friday's Five: Things Every Wife Should Know

It’s not Friday but another Kolena Laila post.  Marriage is tricky business.  Even the most compatible couples have their issues but smart couples know how to deal with them.

You will fight

You probably fought before you got married right?  If you didn’t then consider yourself extremely lucky.  Your first fight as a married couple is usually freaky.  You are shocked and hurt not just because you had a fight but because you had a fight even after you went through all of the hassle of getting married.  Take a deep breath and get over yourself.  Disagreeing is normal.  We all fight with our siblings and parents and these are the people who have known you your whole life.  It is normal, just remember to stay civilized and learn when to compromise and let go.  Unless of course the fight includes abuse of any kind you should learn to let go and once you have made up forget about it.

Stop yourself from nagging

No body likes a nagging wife.  Nagging does not work.  The more you nag the better your husband will learn to resist.  If nagging worked, a wife would nag once and would never need to nag again (convinced right?).  Gretchen Ruben (The Happiness Project) has some really great 14 tips to stop nagging.

Appreciate the little things

Your husband throws his socks on the floor and it is really annoying.  But he also remembers to do little things your love, like call you in the middle of the day just to say hi or buys you flowers for no reason.  Whatever the little things are make sure that you appreciate and enjoy them.

Create habits

Whether it is a Wednesday movie night, Friday barbecue or Saturday bowling find an activity you both love to do and make it a habit.  Some people might argue that this is boring and routine.  I think it just adds some structure to an already hectic life.  It is also couple time when you can do something together as a team.  My husband and I make pizza every (well almost) Thursday.  I make the dough and he makes the sauce and adds the toppings.  I make fun of him because he’s really obsessed about slicing mushrooms as thin as possible and makes sure they are all the same thickness and he makes fun of me because I move around too much in the kitchen and get in his way all the time.  It was originally a healthier alternative to ordering pizza but it turned into a fun activity.  We have learned how to act like a team.  I learned not to interfere with his slicing skills and he has stopped nagging me to make the crust thinner.

Be true to yourself

There are many times when you will have to compromise or do something you don’t really want to but this can’t be a permanent thing.  You have to stay true to yourself or your marriage will not work.  Period.

There are so many other things wives should know but these are just the first five off the top of my head.

Kolena Laila will be running until the 31st of December.  Join the conversation.

Friday's Five: Things Every Woman Should Know

I am a day late and it is Saturday.  I have all of these post ideas written down in notes all over the place but my crochet obsession has taken over my internet obsession which is a good thing in general.

This post is dedicated to all women and is also a Kolena Laila post.

Women should know lots of things, these are just five of the things I think are important.

Handling finances

Every woman should know how to handle her own finances.  A woman who can create a budget and stick to it is a woman who can buy her own Choos ;- ).  Whether you make money, still take an allowance from your parents (if you are young and still at school) or are a housewife you have to understand money.  Knowing where your money goes and how to stretch it is a learned skill that anyone can acquire.

Change a tire

Every woman should know how to change a tire, unclog a drain and do simple fix its around the house.  Just because there is someone else who can do it for you does not mean you shouldn’t learn, you never know when you might need to do it yourself.

Defense

Self defense could save your life.  When I was a child I once watched a public service show on women and safety, the tips were simple; when you are out alone always walk in the middle of the street where there is the most light and keep your bag close to you so no one can snatch it away.  Simple and effective.  Carry pepper spray or even deodorant.  I am not paranoid nor do I believe that we live in a jungle where woman are targets and victims but it is always better to be safe than sorry.  You can find some tips here on safety and self defense.

Choosing friends

Some friends are like diamonds other friends are like broken glass, pretty useless and can hurt you, learn to spot them early one, keep the diamonds and recycle the glass.  Choose friends who are supportive, honest and a positive influence.  If your friends just make you feel bad about yourself it might be time to move and make new ones.

Standing up for your self

Learn to stand up for yourself firmly and intellegently.  Learn to negotiate.  Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to mean being aggressive it just means you are a smart lady who will take no ones crap.  Be assertive, positive and polite and you can do anything in the world.

One final thing, remember to pass it on.  Not just this post, but anything you think is useful for the women around you.  Women have always swapped recipes and these are just recipes for a better life.

Kolena Laila will be running until the 31st of December.  Join the conversation.

Women, Ads and Stereotypes

When will advertising people get that not all women fall the same segment.  I get annoyed when I see advertising which targets the woman who only cooks, shops or gets her hair done.  Like these two ads for example.

StereotypicalAds
StereotypicalAds2

The first one was for a Kuwaiti Women forum, it just talks to the Kuwaiti woman who just wants to change her look, loose weight, find a recipe or shop.  It there are so many successful, intelligent and amazing Kuwaiti women out there.  Politicians, artists, scientists and so much more.  I didn’t click because I was so annoyed and they might have other topics that might be interesting but they marketed themselves a little on the shallow side.  Even the picture they chose was not very expressive of your average Kuwaiti woman, unless she’s shopping crazy.  The second one is for mobile internet connection.  There’s a billboard by my house that has this ad and every time I pass by it it aggravates me.  Yes, i do look for recipes online and yes I window shop online.  But there is so much more that I do on the internet.  Why isn’t there an ad that targets professional working women, who use their internet connections to do research or business. University students use the internet to study, that too might be a healthier more positive image.  Even friends connecting would be a better image even though it might touch another stereotype of women being too talkative.  How about a mother and her children looking at educating websites or looking for childcare articles.  I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of these ads.  Has anyone every studied ads, women and the middle east.  Do women even care or is it just me?  Is anyone else offended from this kind of sexist/stereotypical advertising?

Kolena Laila 2009

Women really
do
rule the
world. They
just haven’t
figured it out
yet. When they
do, and they will, we’re all in big big trouble. ~”Doctor Leon,”
en---Kolenalaila---brThis year  Kolena Laila will start on the 24th of December until the 30th.  If you don’t know what it is, it is an online initiative to give women a voice online by blogging, pod-casting, video blogging or whatever you like.  Last year I decided to write about Respect.  I still haven’t decided what to post this year, probably because I have all of these ideas floating in my head.  If you know me or have been following this blog you’ll know that I usually refrain from negative generalizations.  Yet, I also sometimes think that women need help in certain areas in life, like getting rid of sexual offenders, support after divorce and dealing with the changes that come with motherhood.  I like focusing on the positive more constructive examples of women being successful writers, entrepreneurs or scientists at NASA.

Kolena Laila is important for me not only because it gives a voice to women, it is because it helps women create an online community of strong women who do not view themselves as victims, but as productive members of society who can change it.

If you also believe that you would like to tell the world what you think about women and their issues, then join us this December from the 24th to the 30th.  For more info just go checkout the Kolena Laila site.

Friday’s Five: A Legacy of Women

This is a very personal post.  I have chosen to talk about the most amazing women that I have come to learn from and love very much in my family.  The women in my family from both my maternal and paternal side are exceptional.  They are strong in spirit and are a treasure trove of wisdom.  A single post can not begin to explain how much I value these women.

  1. My great grandmother [maternal]:  This is the only woman on this list that I have never met.  She died before my parents even got married but from the stories I’ve heard she was an exceptional lady.  She was well read and very intellectual.  Until the day she died, she would read books and magazines so that she could stay up to date.  When one of her sons wanted to become a pilot against his father’s wishes she financed his education from her own inheritance.  Her most famous quote as always quoted by my mother is “Mafish fa2r, fi 2elet ra2y” which in English is best translated as “There is no poverty only lack of opinion or thought”.
  2. My own grandmother [maternal]:  She is also a very intellectual woman who loves staying up to date.  She once called me to ask what facebook was all about and wanted to see it after reading about the April 6th strikes.  She asks all of us what we do exactly at our jobs and is very interested in what each one of us is doing in our lives.  She is one of the best people to go to for advice because she is level headed and can keep a secret.  She is trustworthy and honest every time.  She had her own atelier and designed fashion when she was younger and then moved on to helping my grandfather run his farm after she closed her shop and then eventually ran her own landscaping and nursery business when she was past her sixties.  She has to take care of my grandfather who is very sick while she herself is in her seventies and has already changed a hip.  Artificial hip or not she is still the family dynamo and never complains or grumbles.  She is an inspiration to all of us.
  3. My mother’s uncle’s wife number 1:  Another exceptional lady who until this day will gift every new born baby in the family with 2 hand crocheted jackets and a pair of booties.  Let me tell you that these jackets are so cool that I have been begging for one my size for years and I think the best thing I was looking forward for while I was pregnant was these jackets.  She is not in the best of health but she still goes to the club to walk and until she was in her sixties she would go to her aerobics class.
  4. My mother’s uncle’s wife number 2: A different uncle that is, just so that you don’t think one uncle had two wives.  This woman has a very interesting saying about women and work.  She says that every  woman has to work or have a job, be that a job outside the home or one inside.  The woman who works at home, need always have her hands busy.  She had a tough and bumpy life and is also old but definitely very young in spirit.  She will entertain you with inspirational stories, recipes and marital advice that is priceless.  She never complains even though she has been crippled by old age but she always smiles, laughs and never complains.  She has managed to raise not one but three very successful and amazing daughters who are a source of pride to her and everyone who knows them.
  5. My grandmother [paternal side]:  This woman buried her husband and two sons yet was never bitter or hysterical.  She died shortly after my father died and I personally think it was his death who broke her heart, he was her youngest and the one closest to her heart.  I was named after the Jasmine tree they had in the garden and my father would pick flowers for her.  My father’s family is not a family of many words or open emotions yet they are all kind, generous and very giving people.  Just looking at how she raised them you would have to think she was a great woman.  She too was a very sick woman but would always joke and laugh with us because that is just how she rolled.  She would give us money and tell us to go treat ourselves for no reason and would love to ask about school and stuff.  She never ever said a mean word about anyone all of her life and always prayed that she would need no one not even her children, not because she didn’t think they would be there but because she did not want to be a burden and her favorite prayer to all of us was “Rabena ye7abeb feeko 5al2o” which translates to “May Allah make his creatures love you”.  She would say that every time she saw us, because she knew the value of love, she did not pray that we became rich or powerful, but loved.

Friday is the day of fives but I am sure that this legacy lives on in the later generation of my mother too.  My own mother is my role model and probably my hero.  She has done everything in her life to make me and my sister happy and successful.  She has been there for us every step of the way and she still is.  My aunt does the same for her sons and she has raised two lovely, amazing, successful and very interesting boys.  My generation too I hope will inherit this legacy of amazing women.  I see my cousins too are following in those footsteps as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and women.  My sister is amazing too.

I am proud of all of them, not because they are my own flesh and blood, but because they are a true source of pride.  Nothing beats the ability to look at them and watch them glow and grow everyday, getting past every obstacle and emerging stronger and more successful than the one before.

We Will Trancsend

I watching the clip and started to cry.  I cried because it was so touching, true and painful.  I cried because when you are so far away from all of the important women in your life you know how much they mean to you and how important their support is.  You understand that with their help, hugs and compassion, your life is a nicer place to be.  

 

Kolena Laila: Respect

Respect

Respect

Part of the Kolena Laila initiative.

I have been thinking about what the main issue for Laila is for the past couple of weeks.  I thought about what affects us, what makes us happy, what hurts us, what makes us sad and what would help us the most.  I looked up statistics on domestic violence, literacy, health, poverty and employment.  I wondered and I thought, and then I realized that I wanted to pinpoint one thing and only one thing that could help.

I thought about domestic violence and honor killings, but what could I possibly do to change that.  These are things that need years for people to change their ideas and values.  I am not just talking about domestic violence where a man abuses his wife or a father beats his daughter, I am also talking about brothers who mentally, emotionally and physically abuse their sisters just because they are men and their sisters are women.

Later, during a conversation with my mother she mentioned that the media also played a huge role in women’s issues by portraying women in a way that was not very beneficial to them.  Her argument was that role models were few and far between.  I agree,  women are bombarded with fake beauty ideals, the idea that they are either feminine or successful, that they can either have a career or  a family.  The problem is there is not much I could do there either.

How about sexual harassment, that’s a pretty hot topic right now and as much as I think that every harasser should be jailed and fined, for even a minor offense.  We need changes to laws and tough enforcement.  It needs government involvement and change in behavior on the people’s part too, because women are sometimes also to blame because they do not report these assaults because of societal fears.

Fairness and equality at work is more about the company you work for as opposed to the country’s policy.  Let’s be fair for a while, you are entitled to 3 months paid maternity leave, you should get equal pay and if you need to take an extended leave of absence for family reasons you can.  The problem is not with the law but how companies find ways to work around them to discriminate against women.

So many issues but only one in my view can be a real situation changer.

And that is RESPECT

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts? Confucius

Respect yourself, as a woman respect yourself.  Women should respect themselves before expecting respect from anyone else.  A woman is more than a pretty face, a dress size or a stereotype, respect her individuality, her inner beauty and her soul.

Respect your strengths.  A woman is strong, respect that, enjoy it and build on it.

Respect your daughter.  Respect her dreams, her wishes, her aspirations and help her achieve her dreams.

Respect your mother.  Whether you agree or disagree with her, she is the reason you are here today, respect the fact that maybe she had to make hard choices and sacrificed time and effort on your behalf.

Respect the men in your life.  When a woman respects her man, her husband or father, he will respect her back and most probably will treat her the same way.

Respect change.  Change is inevitable, respect it and you will understand and accept it.  Understand the cycle of change, nothing happens over night, but if women work together change can happen, it just needs time and hard work.

Respect your limitations.  No woman is super woman, seriously!  No they can not really move mountains no matter how hard they try, at least not alone.  Sometimes we need to listen to our limitations.  Sometimes we need to ask for help or say we can not do something.

Take a moment to think about the women in your lives, celebrate them and thank them.