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The taxi stopped in front of my apartment building. Finally I was home after a long day at work. “How much do I owe you”, I asked the taxi driver as there was no meter in his car. “3 (Egyptian) pounds”, he said, while he put his hand on my thigh. At first, I froze, but then I remembered all the times I was sexually harassed in these last months in Egypt. I knew that I was leaving soon and that helped me I guess. “Here’s your money. I7tiram nasfak!”, I yelled at him. “Oh, but it’s okay, I don’t want your money. We’re friends and we’re gonna enjoy our time together.”, he replied while rubbing my thigh and moving his hand up. I threw him money and escaped. I only felt safe the moment I shut the door of my apartment behind me.
The moment the end credits rolled over the screen, it hit me like a hammer. I broke down remembering all my experiences with sexual harassment while I was living in Egypt back in 2010. The opening paragraph is just one out of dozens times it happened to me.
I was living in 6th of October City, a rather new city 40km away from Cairo. My work was around 3-4km from where I lived. To get there, I first had to take a pick up bus – a pick up with seats in the back that can hold up to 10 people – to the Hosary Mosque and from there a minibus – a van that is used for travelling outside of a city or to travel between neighborhoods – to a small intersection close to our offices. From their I’d walk the remaining 300m to the building.
One day, I was going home after a long day at the office, I was sitting in the pick up bus. If you’re lucky when you get in, the men let you sit closest to the door so that you don’t have to squeeze yourself through the whole bus when you need to get off. Next to me sat a man, late 40’s, wearing a dishdasha. At first, I didn’t pay attention. I thought his hand was rubbing my leg by accident. The poor guy was probably just looking for coins to pay the bus driver. But unfortunately the rubbing continued. I was then about 400m from the place I had to get off. I told him “i7tiram nafsak”. He just continued. The other 8 people, men and women, young and old, just sat there and looked and kept quiet.
You know what was even worse than the harassment itself? The fact that people around wouldn’t speak up for me. I was asking myself all the time why. Was it because I’m a foreigner? Well, I was covered from my head until my ankles and always wearing loose clothes, just like the local girls. Why? Was I asking for it? Was is sending any signal to all those filthy animals out there?
I was relieved when leaving Egypt. No more sexual harassment!! It was almost asking for a celebration. Isn’t that sad? I was happy that I wouldn’t have to go through the daily hassle of going out again. Every day I would be like Faiza (from the movie). I would be sitting or standing in the public transportation and be scared. I’d arrive at work, shaking, crying, angry… and ashamed.
Now, I must say, Jordan was an improvement. Whenever someone would bring up the subject of sexual harassment, I would always be the first to say how bad things are in Egypt and how I never experienced any kind of harassment here. But looks like I had it coming.
One day, I took a service taxi from Downtown to 3rd Circle. I lived next to the Royal Film Commission so it was a short ride. It wasn’t the first time to take a service, but it was the first time alone. And guess what happened? Yeah, someone took the liberty of rubbing my butt and my legs and my thigh. Just like that. As if I was made for him to be used. And you wanna know what the worst part was? I froze, again.