Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
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Online Since 1999
The Egyptian Series
had a question and answer session one evening and were
free to ask the difficult questions -- and did. We were surprised that
our Egyptian guide was willing to freely answer our questions;
however, he was. While some cultural bias was probably unavoidable, he
was in tune to American attitudes, having lived in the US as an
exchange student, and from working with American tourists
professionally. We felt that he tried to answer honestly and to the
best of his ability, even when the questions were tough ones.
We first asked about the Egyptian government and found that it is
controlled by one party, the National Democratic Party, which is
larger and has more votes than all the other parties combined.
Elections and voting are just for appearance. There is authoritian
rule and the national government sets all laws and policies as there
are no states. Police or military are used to enforce law and rules
set by the governing party. Police presence is apparent everywhere and
police carry automatic weapons.
Health care is a hot issue in America, so naturally we asked about
that. The government provides health care there, which is low cost and
available to all for about $10 per visit, including medicine. There is
a high demand for the free services and it is usually hard to get in
for something like surgery. Some people go to private clinics and pay
to get in sooner so they don't have to wait. While large corporations
may provide health insurance for employees, most people are
self-employed or work in cottage industries and are dependent on
government health care.
One of the most sensitive issues in the Muslim world is the issue of
women's rights, so naturally we had to ask. A Muslim woman chooses
whether or not she wants to wear the hijab (headscarf), however, we
assume there is probably a lot of social pressure to conform. Only a
few women still wear the burka, a garment that covers the entire body
and head with only a slit to see out. These women appear to be older
and probably are still more comfortable in traditional garb.
Women can work outside the home if they choose and many we met have
started their own businesses. Those we met, seemed to drop out when
the children came along to become a traditional housewife. We met
archaeologists and other professional women who left their professional
career for their children. It is not really that different from the way things were in the US until not
that many years ago, although we don't like to admit it.
One time in Cairo, we saw a group of men who were going to a funeral
which led us to ask about the funeral customs. Women go to the wake or
help prepare food, but only the men go to the burial. Muslims are
customarily buried quickly after death according to their beliefs and
are not embalmed. I wondered if only men go because they actually bury
the deceased, but I never had the opportunity to ask about it.
The man is considered responsible for providing for his family. If the
woman makes money, or has money or property, it is hers. The man does
not even ask how much she has. A woman keeps her own last name when
she marries and does not take the name of her husband. Our guide feels
that women actually are superior to men because they are respected,
well treated, and taken care of by men. Of course, that is not the
American idea of equality for women.
Waiters were male, hotel maids were male, and the guards at tourist
sites were all male. Although women can be police or in the non-combat
army we are told, we did not see any females actually working in these
jobs. Women are seen at bazaars shopping or at shops working, and
along the roads waiting for buses. I have the impression that woman
still accept a traditional female role, but appear to be making
tremendous gains toward equality of the sexes.
I wonder why I hear so often that Muslim women are suppressed, not
allowed to go in public, and prevented from getting an education, when
it is apparent that this is not true. I believe that Americans have
generalized the oppressive conduct of the Taliban in Afghanistan to
all Middle Easterners. I believe the idea of a male-dominated society
comes more from the women's wearing of the hijab (headscarf) than
Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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