21 gennaio 2012

Walk like an Egyptian

    Becoming interested in new things, deepening your knowledge, surviving while keeping your mind alive is not easy in this world. But it is also considered, at least here around, by many people a bad habit.
    Getting to know how others' lives work, which are alternative to ours, leads immediately to reflect on how we also could, in theory, have (or have had) habits, values, even different ideas. If others are for sure what we are not, they are also what we could have been, if circumstances had been different as well. We have not freely decided to be like we are today and not even we are absolute creators of our emotions and thoughts.
     I get to know myself better when I get to know what is different from me. And when we look around carefully, it's natural to relativize what we experience and how we live it, since we get to know new situations, biographies, destinies, all seen in other people's faces. In practice...
    Last year I learnt the little I know now about Egypt. Something by following AlJazeera, the most by following Esraa who is, indeed, my gate to another world.
    My friend lives in Cairo, a city where I have never been. She speaks english as well as arab. She is 24 and works in a bank.  
   Esraa is not a refugee in the Mediterranean Sea. Neither a political activist (even if she took part into last year demonstrations). You can talk about what happens to her day by day. Ordinary stuff which still sounds extraordinary to me. Sometimes, for example, we talk politics and she updates me on the "democratization" process in her Country. And sometimes she says she would like not to hear anything about that again.
   What I like is, as I wrote before, that I can't help drawing constant comparisons between her life and mine, her Country with mine, the situation of hers and of her friends with mine. Even leaving out personal facets of a friendship, I get to know things that I would have never understood through a typical holiday to Egypt packed with pyramids and local street markets.

     Esraa's English is ten thousand times better than mine, but this is obvious, given that in her Faculty lessons were given only in English: by comparison, my generation, here, brought up with movies dubbed in Italian and no international TV channels, is completely cut off from all the news that come from the global world.
       Her job, in a bank, is not (as some might guess) as a secretary of a big fat guy with white hooded head (those are sheiks from Saudi Arabia, not Egypt): with a degree in Economics she is the one who decides whether a family or a firm will be granted a loan. She had already graduated at 23 and... I prefer not to compare myself on that.
       She sent me recently the video I post here below which is obviously in English. It makes me understand how, as a woman, she views women's situation.

   Despite being muslim and therefore a believer (not like here, where Catholics are often essentially pure atheist), Esraa does not support the Muslim Brothers and not even the Salafis. Well... to tell the truth she   predicted that islamists would never win the uncoming elections... probably she has not been the best pollster this time.
    Does Esraa wear the veil? yes, she does, as you can see in the picture. This has been her decision. Has her free will been "perverted" by a male chauvinist culture? Please, have a look at the video then: in her opinion that is real sexism. Nothing to do with how people dress. And as an italian, talking about sexism, I realize I must simply shut up.

    But I understand other things from Esraa that I could never know from any TV channel, that I do not read in any newspaper and that I hardly might find in some blog. Once we talked about "sex & marriage" in Islam (but I should say probably: in Islam as it works in Cairo). I was quite surprised that she did not have a fiancé, nor a "boyfriend". She was surprised at my surprise. But in your Country, do the youth not "have fun"? I asked. But that was not the problem. How will you know you have found mr Right if you have not tried at least with one or two before getting married? I asked, rather logical. But... don't you even care to find "the right one"? I finally said. She says, down to Earth, she will not wait for "the right one" because for such things she might have to wait forever: what matters is to have a clear head about how I wanna be treated, she says calmly. And given the video that she sent me, I think she is thinking clearly enough: at 23, in a muslim country and, yes, wearing a veil. In brackets, she has relativized in one minute even our old myth of Romanticist Love.
   Esraa says hello and goodbye to everyone now. If you also have any friends as cheerful and open as her, who might be available for an interview, who do not get annoyed if someone plays with them or pretends he is a sociologist, please let me know: I am always curious about new worlds.