Today is the last day of the holy month of Ramadan. The ending of “fasting and other abstentions” but also the telenovelas, reaching highest television rating especially in the last week. During this month come airing more than 60 series, designed, written and produced exclusively for this time of year. Egyptian telenovelas and series are characterized by, needless to say, the absence of kissing and compromised scenes, for short duration: no more than 30 or 40 chapters which perfectly starts, develops and completes a GREAT story. (the writers from many parts of the world should put this into practice and to not stretch like chewing gum the stories, taking the first, second and third season of absolutely predictable and bland series) and further characterized by the presence of a hero, a strong character who “steals” the attention.
I had promised in this Ramadan to not be “TRAPPED” for any series and stay away from sweets but I found it impossible (both). The last year was due to Fifi Abdo, this year was because of Ghada Abdel Razek, who always have strong roles… I must admit I am in love with this woman, in the best sense of the word, I admire her deeply, not only because I know what it means for an Egyptian woman to pursue art, but because their performance is really impeccable.
The first telenovela I saw where she was the heroine, the main figure, was “Zohra” where she married five times… of course not at the same time but the mere fact that a woman has both “marriage and divorce” is something outrageous… Well, in this series which ended today she is a very famous lawyer and horrible things happen to her but eventually gets out gracefully with a not so happy ending but “winner”…
I will not tell the whole story but the final chapter summarize: She face a court room full of people (jury, judge, members of the court, prosecuting attorneys, public and so on) she presents the basis of the case involving her ex-husband… Heading the judge with a firm tone, passionate, and at times her voice breaks for crying but she successfully manages to contain, pointing the defendant… in short, the scene is priceless.
I could not help hearing the comments of the women present… many referring to her with scorn and disapproval, to which I objected a little upset until one silenced us all: “It’s a novel nothing else, shut up!”
Egyptian women although, in general, are very different from the women of “TV” I’m sure that deep inside they want, for one minute, to be that lawyer who leaves a full room speechless, or that dancer that delights the eyes, or that one who achieves to marry her matched love…
Finished the chapter. There was a female debate between cups of tea and sweets… (And there was present who writes, yours truly)
Suhaila, the youngest, in a timid voice said she would love to be a lawyer and her mother replied that no man likes a woman to speak in the highest tone and she should finish school first before “venturing” her future… (At school boys and girls from high school are separated but they have a subject called “home” where the little women learn to cook, the best cleaning tips and how to manage a house, the little men for their part they learn some electricity and plumbing for any broken or damaged surprise them in their homes) Rania stood up for her little sister “There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a lawyer, nobody could take advantage of her and you should be proud if tomorrow your daughter is a doctor”… The mother smiled and said: “I’ll be proud as long as you are women of good and don’t cause the roof of your house fall into your husband’s head”. Rania said that she doesn’t think about marry and that she should encourage Suhaila in his ambitions. Then the mother really angry told her, among other things, that if Suhaila wants to go in a wrong way is her fault because she still “not covered” with the veil and all she knows to do is comments.
The discussion was heating up and I wanted to lose myself under the carpet. It ended with the shout of the mother: “Yanhard Eswid! Khalas!” (Black day! ENOUGH!) And Rania slamming the door… The mother went to the kitchen and I started to lift the cups to help, Suhaila smiled at me and said: “I was joking … I just say … “ and stared at the table.
Once in the kitchen I was about to talk to the mother, knowing that she could say: “Shut up!.. dancer” but she began a monologue complaining: “Back in my day things were different. When I was like my girls I wanted to be like my mother”. In my Western mind, a few years ago, it would have been impossible to understand her discomfort and anguish, I would have been totally against her and would have supporting the daughters without more, but today by dint of having heard, seen and experienced so many things here in Egypt, I can understand both sides of the ring. I told her this: “Times have changed a lot, but a mother’s heart never changes because that feeling goes beyond times and you just wants your daughters to be happy… I hope you can find a point where your happiness and theirs are one”. She gave me a hug and said, “Magda enty assal! Sukar! “… Yeah, I thought, with all this sweet I’m honey and sugar for sure… She concluded that “Inshallah” with God’s will.
I said goodbye giving thanks for having such a feast and opened the doors of their home to me. On the way home, on the subway, waiting in the section where the women wait their wagon, thought and thought… Once inside became clear to me even more the ideas… watching around me…
Egyptian women know how to wait, are patients. I’ve seen them several times to exercise that gift that not everyone has, because patience is a gift that requires a lot of practice. From my balcony while I hang the clothes I can see my neighbor across, everyday cooking for an hour and a half, sometimes her husband goes to “supervise” (because the Egyptian man loves to get into the tasks, which they themselves describe as feminine, only to prove that they also know) and when it does is shouting and moving clumsily the utensils… A thousand times I saw this I writhed in anger to see this woman in silence listening as her husband calling her stupid or retarded… But she knows that her husband knows she does it very well and after he congratulates her in front of all the guests and asks to the God to bless her hands for having done so many delicacies… She knows him and knows that it is best to keep quiet and leave it drain because then comes the reward. He may need to go to the kitchen to yell a while to feel part of the culinary success of his wife… (Attitude that would leave him the pot as a hat with soup and all… in another place with another woman).
Nagla, Eman and Zeinab are classmates. Nagla started wearing the veil by imposition of her father and because she is afraid that people believe that she is not a good Muslim. Eman uses it to not be bothered at home but she says that when she becomes independent she will take it off. Zeinab chose it not to wear a headscarf but every day suffer the taunts and accusations of classmates and teachers who call her “bad” by the mere fact of not being covered.
Shaima, the upstairs neighbor is the oldest of three sisters who are engaged while she remains single hoping someday that love discover her presence, fall in love, marry her and be happy together… stay single this is unfortunate in Egypt… If you not are married it’s because no one was interested in you yet and if so is because you have “something”… If one you love doesn’t love you get yourself one who loves you, because as Egyptian grandmothers say, “You must marry the man who loves you, not who you love”.
Many men for work often travel to another city or even to another country, they can take days, months or even years. Women are waiting at home and when they return is the happiest day and they receive their husbands with the most delicious food, fruits and a loving home. Without questions or accusations about his absence, because if something is known by Egyptian women is “Don’t ask something that you know have an answer that may not going to like”. It is common for an Egyptian man to advised his son: “You must marry one who will wait” and it is common for a woman to advise her daughter: “You don’t need to know anything as long as your husband gets home”. These concepts may be ridiculous to many women I know, who would not wait even half an hour for a man, but they have a very large value. Why? Egyptian women married once and surrender her body and soul to her husband… he will be her first man and the father of her children. The husband, the children and the house will be her “everything” and she will do everything in her power to keep the light of the lamp in their home. From forgive the unforgivable even herself be postponed in order to maintain the stability…
Many times I have heard comments from Western women about Muslim or Arab women saying that they are repressed, alluding that they are not free, that they are governed by their husbands… And the truth is that a vast majority of these qualifiers are worthy but there are also Egyptian women who behave like Westerners… they are living in full Middle East and they looks more like the stars of the “telenovelas” and even bolder…
Egyptian Muslim woman is a woman patient, has submissive female manners. They are not just moms… They are excellent mothers and leave everything to make the family smile. This in return will give them a license tomorrow to take part in the future elections of their children, either professional or love… guiding their choices or choose for them if necessary. The mother is a highly respected figure and is very rare that a son or daughter makes “deaf ear” to the “maternal opinion”… And in a society where “they will say” it’s important, not only gives an opinion the mother but also the father and the whole family… But why care so much? Because in the case of Suhaila, for example, she carries on her name the name of her father, and her grandfather and so… So it’s not just what she will do with her life, she is “the daughter of”… and her mother is “Om Suhaila” (Suhaila’s mother). In her days was all very different for sure, but today with the information and contact with the West “those days” are made that: “Those days”.Young women today aspire and dream far beyond a husband, children and home… I don’t know if they want to be like Ghada Abdel Razek or like Fifi Abdo but they want something more.
Suhaila, Rania, my neighbor across, Nagla, Eman, Zeinab and Shaima are fictitious names of real stories of women I know.
It took me some time to understand these things. I confess that until now I am amazed with some stories, but if there is something I must to recognize it’s my admiration for the intelligence of the Egyptian woman: That ability to be silent, waiting and that surrender that not everyone has it.
They chop cucumbers and tomatoes preparing traditional green salad while watching the famous “Musalsalat” (Telenovelas) and they can identify their selves with the heroine or not… but they are the real main characters and heroines of their home.