Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I came back from Dahab early after tiring of beach-bumming. I didn't make it to Luxor during this break but I'll go later on in the year. After throwing on a wrinkled pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood, do some window shopping, and get a few groceries. I am always hyper-alert of my surroundings and acutely aware of the people around me in case I need to make a quick exit. Usually I'm a friendly person but in Cairo I've perfected a menacing look that can cause a man's testicle to shrivel before what ever perversion he was prepared to mutter to me leaves his lips. I counted 6 different men at 6 different times unabashedly following me for blocks, waiting outside stores until I was done looking around, walking up behind me panting heavily or slowing their pace to walk beside me, crossing the street when I crossed, etc.
To be fair, Egyptian men aren't the only men who stalk women. I've had Italian men follow me around Rome declaring their undying affection in the way that only Italian men can do upon catching a glimpse of a woman. The difference is that a lot of the Egyptian men do not pick up on social cues and body language nor are the particularly skillful or stealthy at the art of stalking. Because very few Egyptian women go out alone, it's difficult for the young men to grasp that an unaccompanied young woman does not want to be pursued and accompanied. For some, a threatening glare alone or simply ignoring them doesn't do it. Some get to close and breathe down your neck! With 2 of the guys, after several blocks, I had to stop in my tracks, turn and yell, "Stop following me!" before they got the hint, apologized and turned to go in the other direction.
My advice for other women when walking around Cairo alone:
1) Be aware of your surroundings at all times. There is always so much going on at once that it seems easier to just tune it all out or focus all your attention on a few things but try to look around you. If you catch someone looking at you, keep your eye on him as you move.
2) Fake them out. As I've said, Egyptian men aren't particularly stealthy at stalking their prey. Most will follow you unabashedly and even smile at you when you notice that they are there. There are many ways you can lose a stalker: Stop suddenly in your tracks and let him walk by, walk into a store, cross the street, etc
3) Trust your instincts and never talk to the stalker. You will know whether the person following you is harmless or not. After following you for some time, some guys will try to ask your name or where you're from, anything to strike up a conversation. It may be difficult for you to do but ignore him until he finally leavers you alone. Most will grow bored of you after a while and leave. If you feel uneasy, don't lead him in the direction of your house. Remain on busy streets at all times
4) Public shaming. Egyptian men are very sensitive to public shaming, When all else fails, yell loudly at the stalker in English or Arabic so that others around you take notice of him. "Igri", meaning go away, works but you can always yell in English.
5) As a last resort, find a street cop or the tourist police. One of the few benefits to a police state is that there are always police everywhere, especially at tourist attractions and busy streets. The Egyptian police may not understand you but they can create the necessary distraction to scare off the stalker. If you feel particularly endangered, they can handle the situation.
Egyptian Lover’s “Freak-A-Holic” lol. This video reminds me of the men on the street...