My trip to Cairo and my encounter with an ancient tradition

Great Pyramid of Giza, Cairo.

After a couple of unwanted vagina experiences, I take more precaution when traveling to a new place. I do more research and read more about the power and disadvantage of traveling with a vagina.  My google search includes the words “Women in [ place I am visiting];” The expected long list of articles never seem to disappoint: Don't appear to be traveling alone, blend in, know where you’re going, choose your accommodation carefully, watch out with new friends, and the list goes on and on.  At the end of my trip, I still manage to come back with a bad experience story to tell. Women are an easy target for abuse and harassment, so always trust your instinct when you encounter questionable situations. A traveling vagina should always take precautions.

When my husband, Isaac, and I decided to travel to the Middle East, I did a deeper research and took all the measurement required to avoid cultural impact. I knew I was going to feel discriminated and excluded for being a woman. That did not stop the excitement of the upcoming trip. I was about to see for myself the ruins of Ancient Egypt, one of the earliest civilizations in world history, known for its achievement, arts and architecture. With the love I feel for art and architecture, what else could I ask for. Coffee please.

Great Pyramid of Giza, Cairo.

While preparing for my trip to Egypt, I made sure I bought very conservative clothes, especially for my stay in Cairo. The idea of converting myself from head to toes was making the trip a hassle, but as a tourist, I  respect the country's rules and identity. The goal of this trip was to enjoy the difference in culture, the pyramid and monuments - you need to see them to understand why a visit to Egypt is a must.

In our second day in Cairo, we decide to spend the afternoon in The Great Pyramid of Giza. After visiting the archaeological site, we enjoyed a delicious meal in a restaurant on the market, Khan el-Khalili, Bab al-Ghuri. Isaac and I decided to go for a walk to Al-Azhar park for some much needed green space. We were going to take a taxi from the market to the Park, considering all bad things we read online about women security after hours, but the street was packed, full of people and cars. It was 8 p.m., the night was young, beautiful, and we were dying to see a little more of this part of the old Cairo. The walk was just 5 minutes away. That short walk was the most interesting part of the recognition of my vagina through my journey in Egypt. Black, no sugar.

Market Khan el-Khalili, Bab al-Ghuri, Cairo.

The sidewalk was full of people, the streets was full of cars. Isaac and I started to walk towards the park. This was not the best place or time to blend in. I was fascinated by the amount of cars, the many people and how different this culture is from mine. I always kept my head down and my guard up. I felt people looking at me strange or maybe it was just my mind playing tricks after reading so many articles. I continued to remind myself NOT to look up or look at others in their eyes. After two minutes of walking towards the park, Isaac and I let go of each other's hands to walk quicker thru the crowded sidewalk and street.

Again I felt someone looking at me, it couldn’t be my mind playing tricks, this was too strong. My subconscious told me to look up, and I did. I noticed an old man that had his eyes locked on me with a malicious look. Deep black eyes accompanied by a frown. I put my head up and I knew what was coming. Isaac wasn’t aware as he was two steps ahead of me. We made it to the sidewalk when the old man, in his late 60s, walked towards me and threw a cup of HOT Coffee directly into my face. My vagina instinct or animal instinct (however you want to call it) made me dodge part of the coffee, I felt like Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix. I moved so quick any boxing coach would consider taking me to participate in the Olympics. I felt the coffee touch my right ears and part of my head. I screamed as hard as my lungs would allow me to.  

Some people looked at me in disgust, others kept walking, keeping the rhythm of their normal lives. The old man was standing about ten feet away, speaking Arabic and spitting on the floor. I was feeling confused and extremely lost. Million of things came to my mind, and many more to my husband’s. In the middle of the confusion Isaac didn’t know whether to attend to me while I was screaming in pain or aggressively charge towards the old man. I reminded him we were tourist and any unreasonable action might be to our disadvantage. A couple of good Samaritans heard the commotion, got in between the old man and Isaac after hearing us speaking another language “Is she OK? you are not from here are you? You both look Egyptian?”, as if that is a reason to catch coffee with your face. They later apologized for the action of the old man, who fled the scene after he realized he just offended a tourist. They also excused the old man’s action saying “he is not right in the head.” I was finally able to understand what was going on. The old man though the vagina I was carrying belong to a prostitute. I was a prostitute because it was late night, I wasn’t wearing a hijab and wasn’t holding a man’s arm. I was in tears, feeling humiliated and impotent. I thought of going to the airport and stopping the trip.

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Cairo.

Next morning. We had one whole day left in Cairo. There were two more places we had planned to visit: The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha. I was feeling extremely insecure. I wanted to get out of Cairo as soon as possible. Stay in the hotel all day to avoid unwanted situations would have been just fine with me. We decide to spend a couple of hour at the Egyptian museum in the morning, and it was worth it.  After lunch, we departed to the Mosque. This mosque is more of a tourist place, but you see many locals enjoy the view, relax and and have a peaceful time. Before entering the Mosque, a lady at the ticket booth offered to help me place my hijab. There is a particular way to put it and she was so proud to teach me. I was very moved by her gesture and kindness. Things were looking different and my vagina was starting to feel not so much as a prostitute. We spend a couple of hour inside this amazing edification.

The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha

After exiting the Mosque and spending few minutes under the 100 degrees heat, I decided to remove the hijab to feel the dry warm air thru my hair. I really admire these locals vaginas.

I was alert and waiting for the second cup of coffee to land on my face. Again I felt people looking and following me. I asked my husband “is that young man following us or is it my panic.” We stopped and effectively the young man around 18-years-old was following us. He got closer with a big smile. All kind of thoughts came to my mind, he didn’t come directly to me, He approached my husband and asked him if he could take a photo with me. Now, I was a famous vagina for sale, I thought. “Of course NOT” I said without hesitation.  

Outside The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha, Cairo.

A couple of minutes later, a young lady around the same age, approached me directly, and asked if she could take a photo with me. It is going to sound weird, but I said yes. I was trying to look for an answer, but the communication was broken. Were they confusing me with someone else? Something was out of place. We kept walking and a group of about 10 young teenagers wanted to take a photo with me. Now my curiosity and anxiety were very high. I was ready to run out of this place. We tried to get answers from people around the mosque, the language barrier didn't help. No one could explain. The first thing we did when we made it back to the hotel was to google [Why do local want to take photos with women?]. Surprisingly, We found out I wasn't the only one that went thru this selfie request, the younger generation in Egypt see women without a Hijab as heroines. In less than 24 hours my vagina had gone from a public vagina to a vagina full of courage.  

I still wanted to take the plane back to Rome, where our connecting flight to go home was going to be. As much as I love coffee, I was not sure I could face another coffee on me, but I was willing to take the risk and see what Luxor was going to serve me for having a vagina. As soon as we landed in Luxor, I felt free. Luxor was a totally different city, calm, slow pace, not so hot and relaxing. It provided a pleasant environment, so I started to dressed as a tourist wearing comfortable clothes. In Hurghada which is a very common destination for British and Russian tourist I wore shorts and swimming wear.

Temple between the valley of kings, Luxor.

I will love to visit Egypt again. It is an amazing Country full of history and culture. I am sure I won’t forget all the con’s, but I will also remember the pros. For those adventurous vagina out there, I will strongly recommend, If you are going to Egypt without a tour, please travel with a penis.

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If you, as a tourist, have ever felt mistreated or discriminated against for having a vagina. Share your story and help travelers be prepared for what they may encounter.

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