December 2010


This morning, I decided I would take pictures of the waves crashing on the shores of Alexandria since the winds were high and that usually means dramatic waves.  Innocent enough, no?

However, this morning, and as I started my walk on the cornish the first encounter was lets just say expected. Having been in Egypt before I was no stranger to the harrassment on the streets of Cairo or Alexandria. Add to that, I had just seen the Egyptian film 678 last night in the cinema and, yes, you guessed it, it was about harrassment.

You may be thinking “What happened?” Well, let me tell you. An older man with white in his hair was standing behind a bus stop bench, and he had his penis exposed and he was massaging it and looking at me.  I stop and I tell him in my best Egyptian Arabic and sternest angriest voice something along the lines that this is ridiculous, put your shit away, what is this stupidity, besides there is barely anything there. And sure enough a second later as I look back (having walked away) he had zipped himself up again. I see a man in uniform a couple of steps away and I shout out to him and tell him there is a man playing with his dick and point him out to him. I keep walking.

Later and after some reflection and talking to my friend about this I made the following observations:

a- I was expecting this to happen.
b- Seeing an exposed man did not faze me in the least.
c- I was not upset by what happened but rather that I didnt have my camera out to take his picture.
d- I have learned to normalize and deal with sexual harrasment as a daily occurance.

My observatoins upset me because I believe that:

a- I have a right to go out into the world with the expectation of no violence.
b- I have seen so many unwanted exposed penises in the streets that it no longer shocks me when a man exposes himself to me in public.
c- The idea that I missed an opportunity to document such an occurance is upseting because I missed it. But also because the idea that I wanted to document it disturbing one and I am not sure why, I will mull that one over for a bit longer.
d- It upsets me that the normal state of my world and that of many women around me is one of sexual violence and harrassment.  And that it is so normal that I have with me an arsenal of tools and skills I use to combat it and not a day goes by with out the use of at least one of those strategies.

I have written about harrassment many times before and I will continue to write about it. The silence needs to be broken. Our bodies are not public property, they need to and should be respected. If you too have been harrassed you can have a voice too. There are many initatives around the world about this issue one that is in the making (and I work with) is objecDEFY, you can tell your story there too!

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So I’ve opted to be in Cairo for the holidays. A number of people, especially Caironians asked “Why, you live in Beirut and you choose to come here?” Well, why not? I love Cairo. I love the history, and the neighbourhoods and the vastness of the city. I love how you can keep coming back and have a wildly different experience of this city each time. I love how familiar it is and how negotiable. And most of all, I like having some favorite places and memories to revisit. It is a city I have a fond history with and I like to keep coming back to time and time again.

 

I especially love that every time I have been here it has been to do something different and to meet different people, and so my experiences have been so varied. This city is massive with a lot to offer. I know a number of people complain about it’s traffic, its harassment, its dirtiness, its air quality, among other things. For me, this is part of what I love about here. Its part of navigating through the time and space that is Cairo.

 

I also recognize that I am a voyeur, a visitor, an intruder and I come with my privileges as a tourist, even if I am not doing touristy things. And it is my friends and the people that I see and meet, build relationships with, and talk to that allow me into their lives and their worlds. They do so with authenticity and genuineness  that helps me balance my privilege  and live, even for a few days, a Caironian life away from museums and Khan El Khalili.  And that is the difference that makes me want to spend my New Year’s here.

 

So Ive been the grinch most of this week and then I came across this… love it and finally put a smile on my face.

 

Happy Holidays 🙂

 

I miss you. I miss you so terribly. I miss how you made me smile no matter how I was feeling. I miss how safe you made feel. I miss how we talked for hours about nothing and it all seemed so important. I miss how you put a spring in my steps and made the world pop with color and life. I miss how full you made an empty room. I miss how words seem to fill the blank left by an unfinished sentence. I miss the words that tumbled and spewed out of my keyboard from the simple ideas you put in my head. I miss the inspiration you put in my life. I miss our morning conversations and our endless nights filled with the radio waves of a lonely hearts station even though our hearts were not lonely. I miss the turmoil of not touching you despite your closeness. I miss feeling all the way to the deepest darkest core of my soul and knowing that pain meant I can feel where there was nothing before. I miss you. I miss you so terribly. But I don’t want you anymore. I miss you, but I don’t want you.

So, I’ve been dreaming of writing in beautiful Arabic calligraphy.  I’ve had this dream for quite some time, I even have two beautiful big encyclopedia’s of Arabic “Line’s” bought for me as a gift by a wonderful friend. Yet I want to take this to the next step and actually learn from someone… and so I am asking for your help.

Please let me know if you know of a good Calligraphy teacher to study with for a month or two, preferably in Cairo or Damascus.