Treatment of Women
Most of us have some idea though not a good understanding of the poor treatment of Muslim women in Muslim countries.Â That is a lengthy and complex topic and I could write about some of the rumors I’ve heard, but lacking concrete evidence I will not venture there.Â Instead, I will use our stories to discuss the treatment of western woman in Muslim countries and from there you can imagine how it much be for other women.Â One of the girls on the trip was walking with her brother in Aswan, though he easily could have been her boyfriend.Â An Egyptian guy came up behind her and grabbed her butt.Â She turned around freaking out at him.Â The brother told the guy to go away but the guy continued to badger her and follow them.Â Eventually the brother had to aggressively push the guy in order to get him to leave the sister alone.
I was in a bread shop in Jordan and these young, perhaps 10-year old boys walked by me and said hello, so I responded hello.Â Then one of them made a kissing noise at me.Â I was thinking ‘how old are you!?! you insolent little rat.’Â Throughout Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, whenever Andrew and I would approach a male (usually in a service role), the man would almost totally ignore me and direct all conversation to Andrew.Â This was rather shocking for me since I’m older and more well-traveled and therefore have always been relied on to deal with things.Â More than 1time the man would address a question regarding me to Andrew and expect Andrew to repeat it to me before I’d tell the answer to Andrew who’d then repeat it to the guy.Â It was as if I was deaf or dumb or speaking a completely different language.Â And perhaps what freaked me out even more was, Andrew went along with it! until I cut in and answered for myself.Â How demeaning.Â I understood the situation as a cultural act and was willing to tolerate in short bouts for the limited time I was these Muslim countries but I could not stand it long term.
Egypt and Jordan have almost no stoplights. There are a few stoplights in Egypt, however these are mostly ignored. Drivers only really wait at intersections if a policeman is directing them. Otherwise round-a-bouts are the main means of managing traffic. Jordan is largely the same way. Its really quite amazing that a city as large a Cairo can function with out traffic lights.
From Egypt to Jordan and into East Africa, the retail sector is very underdeveloped. This was a bit bothersome as I wanted to buy fruit, snacks, water, packets of tissue, and maybe laundry detergent. Finding all of these in 1 place in Egypt was nearly impossible as almost no shop sold fruit; in fact, we saw very little fruit throughout the country at all. The shops were all tiny with maybe 1 refrigerated case for Coca-Cola; even Cairo didn’t seem to have any large shops. In Jordan the situation improved with larger, better-stocked stores.
East Africa’s, specifically Tanzania’s retail sector was much more developed than either Egypt’s or Jordan’s. Even fairly small towns had decent sized stores, as well as local markets, that may have multiple refrigerated cases for drinks, frozen meat and/or ice cream.
Living in Harmony
Egypt while being predominantly Muslim has a large Coptic Christian population. Jordan bills itself as center of the world’s 3 major religions. Churches containing ancient biblical mosaics stand beside Mosques in Madaba (Jordan). Tanzania is 40% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 20% tribal religions and other. All of these countries, particularly Tanzania have maintained peace and stability despite difference of religion and in case of Tanzania, tribes. (Tanzanians are very proud of the fact that all their tribes can live together peacefully, particularly in the wake of the Kenya violence.) Each should be held as a showcase of how people can and do get along if they just respect each other.