Wandering aimlessly the chaotic streets of Cairo was something that I have always loved to do. Whether by night or day, I always thought there is something charming about it. But, as I grew up, I came to realize the ugly truth: there’s no way to enjoy it without going through the awful sexual harassment on the streets everyday.
Starting from when I used to park my car few streets away and walk to the university’s campus on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, this is when I started changing my views about the streets of Cairo. And, even when I finished school and moved to Mohandessin for my first job, then Maadi for my second, it was still the same old story.
I bet we all agree how awful and common the harassment is in Egypt, and some ladies know how to deal with it, and some blame it on what you dress (which is definitely a lie), but for me it was different; yes, I try to fight it by writing and talking about it, but because I can’t stand it I will just put my headphones and music on every time I leave my car. I just chose to live in a bubble I created, but replacing the ugly words with the music I choose for myself.
It became something essential to me to an extent that if I forget my headphones at home I would be so nervous and don’t want to leave the car. I was always aware that people on the street verbally harass me as I pass by and sometimes I could guess what they are saying, but at the end of the day I felt okay as long as I don’t actually have to hear it.
For years now, I chose the headphones thing as my defense mechanism against harassment and tried to be alert all the time. Sometimes I just pretended that music is on so that I don’t have to hear anything. I was always aware that it is a very weak one, but it was the only way for me to partially enjoy walking in Cairo.
Only this year (or last year as we just started a new one), I got a chance to spend my first four months ever away from Egypt. As much as I hated the homesickness experience, spending four months with almost no harassments on the streets at all gave me a chance to realize how weak I was. I realized that instead of trying to solve the problem I just tried to live in my bubble by not listening to any harassments, while I’m aware that they will never go away like this. I always used to give myself the excuse that I have tried, given that I talked about the issue several times and during the International Women’s Day march in 2011, which was a complete failure.
This December when I went back to Cairo, I thought I should change. I was still scared of being harassed since the moment I walked out of the plane, and it actually happened. But, I just decided I will stand up for myself. I will not let anyone change the way I live or stop me from doing something I always loved to do.