Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Egyptian Men Stalk You With the Stealth of Elmer Fudd


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...


mina said...

My husband and I just arrived in Cairo. I've been to Luxor before. The men seem to think I'm Egyptian and seem upset that I'm with a "different man" (one guy yelled that at us as we walked).

If you have a minute, we'd love to get some tips on where to go/what to see etc... Thanks!

sendingpostcards {at}

Frenchie said...

Hi Mina,

get used to being shouted at lol, it's a common occurrence. I'll send you an email. Hope your time here is pleasant!

ohradiogirl said...

Your blog posts make me laugh sometimes. I have not had the experience of being 'stalked'. And I'm happy about it. But I like your tips. Keep the info coming.

VegasSeven said...

I am a little confused here: What are the goals of the stalkers? What do they really want? What are their points of view of you? Do they stalk Egyptian women and all foreigners? Do you think it will ever end? Is it the same in all areas of Egypt and all areas in the city?

Sorry you have to go through this. Focus on the positive parts of your stay and what you are getting out of all of this.

Out of curiosity, what are the top countries foreign students study Arabic in?

Frenchie said...

VegAS, I cant really figure out myself what their endgoal is. I don't know if they are just trying to get attention or intend to find out where I live.

All foreign women get followed and harassed. Egyptian women do face harassment as well but I'm not sure if they are followed.

In nicer neighborhoods like Maadi, Heliopolis, and Zamalek where ohradiogirl lives, harrasment is not common. I've been to a few cities in the Sinai thus far and did not face the same level of harrasment as I do in Cairo. Mina also mentioned to me that she didn't face it in Luxor either.

As for Arabic, I think it depends on what your goals are for learning the language and what type of Arabic you want to learn. My short list would include, in no order:
Egypt- Egyptian Arabic is widely understood in the MidEast b/c of their media
Yemen and Syria- Both speak a dialect closest to Modern Standard Arabic (classical)

VegasSeven said...

It must be frustrating. You are trying to learn and respect a modern and ancient culture and language and look what one has to go through to do it.

The study of a culture is sometimes so much more fun and romantic in a text book but that only represents part of the culture.

Colleges and text books have created fields of study in a classroom based on ancient and modern cultures. It redoes the history to create this romantic, fake point of view of what the culture really is.

One has to go to the country to fully find out what a culture is about.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this! I briefly (or so I think) had/have? my very own egyptian Elmer Fudd, here in the Monterey Peninsula. Though well educated he displays the exact behavior you describe. He just doesn't get it - that it is unacceptable behavior here. He could not understand why it could be unacceptable to ask how big my "tits" were. After that conversation he sounded like a broken record trying to guilt me, saying this was who he was and that he was a passionate person and I too conservative, blah, blah, blah. I emailed him and politely indicated that he was right, we were not compatible, wished him the best, goodbye. He read it then proceeded to call me "8" times, finally leaving a message that I was probably at a movie theatre or something, thus unavailable to take his call. He did NOT get it. I blocked his number!

Great blog Frenchie - thank you!

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