What It’s Like to Be Harassed in the Streets of Cairo and How to Deal With the Aftermath

By: Maya Hesham

Harassment is nothing new. We have had this word hardwired in our brains, since we were nosy four year olds, yet we dared not speak of it aloud. It ranges all the way from catcalls to gropes and unwanted, hungry claws at our skin.
Although it’s most common to find a female curled up in a corner, crying her eyes out about some asshole who grabbed her ass, or to wake up to the sound of her yells at another asshole who called her “wataka” or “malban”, it’s not exactly uncommon to find a guy complaining about being assaulted, too. This kind of inhumane act does not differentiate between genders.

*a series of unfortunate memories starts unfurling at the back of Maya’s head*

I was seven when my mum forced me to kiss that uncle, while I repeatedly told her that I feel his fingers intentionally biting into my behind when he holds me.I was eleven, walking home from a friend’s house that is just down the street, when a man 20 years older than I am, pulled me into a dark alley, crushing my bones and touching my body greedily.I was thirteen when I got my first unsolicited dick pic, and when I rejected it, I was called a tease.I was sixteen, walking in the crowded streets, when I found a teenager like me with bloodshot eyes blocking my way and placing his hands on my chest, where his eyes lingered, I screamed but no one heard or cared.

*chest heavy, mind a chaos, but heart happy for conquering all that*

Despite how tragic this might sound, this is an example of what every female faces at least once a day if she’s lucky.

“If you at any time, suspect an unusual, unwelcome touch, don’t hesitate to call that bitch out.”


Even though I would love to scream from the top of my lungs at that bitch, it might not be safe at times. Men are immature, especially Egyptian men, don’t risk triggering one that looks dangerous when you’re alone, you have no idea what an infuriated, rejected, horny man is capable of, and trust me you don’t want to know.
First of all, I’m not telling you to stay silent, or enek termy ha2ek f el ard, when you get assaulted. But let’s face it, 99.9% of the time law hawelty tefdaheeh w telemy aleih el donia, one of two scenarios will happen:
One, hayo3od ye2ool ana ma3amaltesh haga di magnoona, w el nas elly f el share3 el gamil beta3na hatza3a2lek enty w te2ollek howa enty ayza menno eh ma tesebeeh f halo, banat el youmein dol.

Two, he’s actually not a khawal— lol — he admits what he did, and says ento mesh shayfeen heya labsa eh, di heya elly ayzany atharash beeha aslan, so the people will only say “rabena amar belsatr yabenty” or “roohy estory nafsek badal manty bete3redy nafsek ala elly yeswa w elly mayeswash” — this line is my personal fave wallahy, yaani ento mo3tarefeen eno mayeswash bas betdaf3o anno?? ento kwayeseen?

As is obvious, el motaharesh mabye3melsh haga wehsha abadan, enty el sabab, you are satan on Earth, so again 99.9% of the time, getting the people’s attention will not help.
Back to my main point, before you decide how to react to the grope or catcall, please think carefully about the type of person who did it. Does he have bloodshot eyes? Are his pupils dilated? Is his mouth half open? Does he look dangerous? Does he look like he was just having fun? What is he wearing? Does he look like the type to follow you home? 
IF HIS PUPILS ARE DILATED, WALK AWAY, RUN PLEASE, DON’T EVEN LOOK BACK ONCE YOU SEE THAT. Dilated pupils mean either that he’s under the effect of cocaine or marijuana, or that he’s a heroin addict and that’s the impact of its withdrawal, or that he’s soooo aroused to the extent that it’s showing on his body, and if you stay for 2 minutes more, he will most probably pull his dick out and start stroking it.

I have read a lot of stories lately on instagram and twitter, where girls who have been followed by a man for a long time, or sensed a hand on their bodies, go to the closest female they see and tell her to act like they know each other, so the harasser can go away, because he’ll obviously know that she’s not alone. I have not personally tried that, but girls stand up for each other now, so please don’t hesitate to do that, your safety matters more than your unexplained embarrassment.

If the streets are crowded and you’re too scared to confront the harasser, yell fire. He’ll probably panic and take some time to recollect his composure, use that time and get lost in the crowd. But if you think you can handle him, law shaklo halfoot yaani, shout at him while making eye contact, and he’ll walk away, haykhaf yetfedeh fa he’ll spare himself the drama.

One more thing I need to stress on regarding how you react to harassment, is that it’s okay to be shell-shocked while it’s happening to you. It’s not because you’re cowardly or fragile, and it most certainly is not a sign of you liking the assault. If you can’t turn around and remove the unwanted hand brushing on your body’s curves, or just open your mouth and spell a simple no, odds are that you didn’t see it coming, so you still can’t fully wrap your head around it, and that’s more than okay. Please don’t think that him continuing to touch your body, is your fault, because “el sekoot alamet el reda”, IT’S NOT, he can feel your petrified body closing in on itself, but he thinks that’s normal because he has been an assaulting jerk for his entire life.

So what happens when you go home, and you start reflecting on what happened to you throughout the day? The aftermath is everything. 

First of all, you need to know that harassers don’t molest outfits. So no, you weren’t wearing a tight dress or a revealing skirt, you don’t need to beat yourself up for things that have nothing to do with you, even if your family and friends try to convince you with otherwise. It’s so toxic and will eventually push you over the edge.

What you need to comprehend more than anything though is that your body is yours, it’s not the groper’s or anybody else’s. There’s no need to feel disgusted with your body, or to hate it. It’s as nonsensical as hating your favourite T-shirt because your sister wore it without telling you. What does the T-shirt/ your body have to do with any of this? 
If the assaulter is someone you know — a relative or a friend — collar them about it, if you didn’t openly express your dislike towards this type of action while it was happening, because believe it or not it’s still a surprise for some men that we don’t really like taharosh. If they do it again, then now you know it wasn’t unintentional, so expose those assholes or cut them off.

Nevertheless, I have heard multiple stories, about girls who opened up to their parents about their harassers, who also happened to be their relatives— from their dad’s side of course lmao— and instead of getting the support they need, their cries for help were not believed.

They were denied support from their own families, who either claimed that it never happened, and the molestation is just a thread of their too-vivid imagination, or confronted the relative and believed his denies, taking his side when he victimized himself. So if your family supported you, well and good, if they didn’t, fe seteen dahya. That’s why it’s important to stand your grounds, and be genuinely persuaded that it’s not your f a u l t.

I think I have ranted enough about misogynistic, sexually-deprived men and the pervasive patriarchy, so I might have to shut up now.
Stay safe and love your body,Maya xx

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