Thursday, October 27, 2005

Beyond homesickness: Western wives in Egypt

Beyond homesickness: Western wives in Egypt

With Karen's niqab (veil) covering up most of her face, you can still see bitterness in her eyes. You can hear resentment in her voice as she tells her story. She refuses to have her real name and nationality published, but she claims to speak on behalf of many Western women living in Egypt, married to, or divorced from, Egyptians. After converting to Islam, Karen moved to Egypt with a few other women who shared with her idealistic ideas about living in a Muslim-majority country. They were soon confronted with the reality about the people's "ignorance of Islam" and deviation from its teachings. Her first year as a foreigner on her own in Cairo was the most difficult. "I have never felt as lonely as I felt here in this city with 16 million people," she says. "Being a woman as well as a foreigner put me in a double disadvantage. It's a men's country, [where] men don't take women seriously ... and tend to take advantage of them." She decided she couldn't stay in Egypt unless married and she accepted a marriage offer by an Egyptian man, a decision that she regrets. "Marriage itself is difficult, cross-cultural marriage is more difficult, and when you don't understand the other's culture, you have a third degree of difficulty." Cultural differences resulted in her divorce. Egypt's culture, in Karen's opinion, is one of manipulation, not directness. "Egyptians are obsessed with covering their back. In the West we are direct because we have a system that covers us up." As a result, she says, "The [Egyptian] husband [of a Western woman] thinks, 'My wife is not respecting me' when all what she is doing is being direct." Cultural differences made Karen feel "oppressed" in her marriage: "The Western woman enters the relationship on a 50-50 basis, whereas men in Egypt tend to be brought up to feel they are superior to the girls in the family.

10 Comments:

At October 27, 2005 9:38 PM, Blogger sissyblue said...

You know I used to feel sorry for these women, but I don't anymore. I'm sure there were lots of people who warned them about doing something so stupid, but they stubbornly went ahead with their ridiculous plans.

 
At October 28, 2005 12:41 AM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

I have to agree with sissyblue. It's called research.

 
At October 28, 2005 2:46 AM, Blogger John Sobieski said...

I read the whole article, and my sympathy just evaporated by the end. Stupid women who get themselves into stupid situations and brainwash themselves that it all makes sense. puhleeze

 
At October 28, 2005 3:12 AM, Blogger heather said...

I have absolutely no sympathy for this woman either. Although it doesn't give her age, not even the very young could be that ignorant in today's world. What did she expect? I think we should send Barbara Walters to save her--I hear she on very good terms with the Islamists.

 
At October 28, 2005 3:17 AM, Blogger the adventuress said...

I have no sympathy for these dumb cows either. They believed the Karen Armstrong version of Islam and went to Egypt only to find out that everyone was practicing the "wrong" (i.e. the correct)type of Islam -- bigoted, childish, narrow-minded, woman-hating.

 
At October 28, 2005 7:54 AM, Blogger bordergal said...

Some women just can't be saved.
I just read an article about British Pakistani girls who were taken to Pakistan ostensibly for a visit with Grandma and Grandpa.
Once they got there, Mom and Dad told the girls that they were going to be married, and that they would be shot if they tried to escape.

The girls did get back to Britian, where they were given lodging, etc. at taxpayer expense.

Their next step? Reconciling with "shoot the daughters if they try to escape" loving old Mom and Dad.

 
At October 28, 2005 2:47 PM, Blogger Olivia said...

In this day and age, when we have so much information at our fingertips - TV, newspapers and especially the Internet, it's no excuse to claim ignorance at what sort of society Egypt is. Or any of those Islamic countries. What did Karen expect? Some sort of 1001 Arabian Nights with dark-eyed Lawrence of Arabia types? Geez, grow up already!

 
At October 28, 2005 4:30 PM, Blogger John B said...

Karen: When you lie down with dogs, don't complain when you wake up with fleas. Why don't you escape Eqypt and say "screw Islam"?

 
At October 28, 2005 11:57 PM, Blogger Caroline said...

This post, together with Nordic Smile's comment re Barbara Walters, reminds me of an old joke that landed in my email box one day (it even shows up on an urban legends site):

"Barbara Walters had done a story on gender roles in Kuwait several years before the Gulf War, and she noted then that women customarily walked about 10 feet behind their husbands. She returned to Kuwait recently and observed that the men now walked several yards behind their wives. Ms. Walters approached one of the women for an explanation. "This is marvelous," she said. "What enabled women here to achieve this reversal of roles?" The Kuwaiti woman replied, "Land mines".

 
At November 01, 2005 9:41 AM, Blogger oskar said...

I feel sorry for this woman who is in a difficult situation. But I agree with the other commentators here that she put herself in this situation and should have done better research.

I have nothing against inter-ethnic or cross-cultural marriages (my own is partly cross-cultural). However, just like any marriage you have to understand your future partner's cultural background. For example, would you be willing to let your children grow up in this country/culture? If not, you'd better think twice.

 

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