Barely 6 hours from landing I got into a cab, comfortably sat next to the driver, excited to take a ride into the heart of the city. Before long he had his hands on my thighs and breasts. I removed his hand violently and jumped out even as the vehicle moved. A hearty welcome and introduction to Cairo and a life of constant harassment and ridicule as a woman and a black person. I walked gingerly, my first week of the internship. I felt goose bumps on my neck and turned. Tall, handsome, in khaki trousers and a sky-blue shirt; his image remains vivid in my mind. He walked behind me and before long I knew he was stalking me. I stopped several times to let him pass. He waited for me at the next junction, pretending to buy something from street vendors. Afraid he would follow me into an elevator; I sought help and survived. Another came from behind me and brushed his hand against my buttocks; in broad daylight. I turned and shouted. He walked away-no apology forthcoming. I walked into a sports club, paid the required 100 EGP, preparing to cool down in the swimming-pool. Before I could; I was informed I could not use the pool. I asked why since I had paid. ‘Use of the pool is for members only’, they said. Nobody told me this before I paid. I was there because I needed the pool. My roommate (Spanish) had used the pool several times before. She was and is not a member. Why was I treated differently? “Samarah, samarah,” [dark-skinned person] they whisper, everywhere I go. “Are you a refugee?” they ask. Should every black person be a refugee? Some point fingers at me and laugh. It must be comical to see someone so ‘imperfectly’ created. It hurts. Sometimes I feel like folding the tent and go back home. But I won’t. I am different. I am black. I am beautiful. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. I understand diversity and tolerance. I know being black is not a disability. I am proudly a woman. I will not feel any less because this context does not treat me with dignity and respect. I stand up to this blatant discrimination and refuse to back down. I am here for a purpose and will not give up until that purpose is fulfilled.

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What a great story of standing up...racism can take root anywhere, it is not localized. It is important that you stand tall and represent yourself with dignity and even more important that you bring this issue up with others in safe forums...such as here. Good luck changing hearts, minds and actions one person at a time.

Pheobe

Thank you Pheobe for the encouragement. Sometimes it does seem to be too much to take but I will hold on. At least I have the choice of going back home after my six months here are done. I feel so much for the refugees from Somalia and Sudan who are here. I can imagine how painful this blatant racism must be to them with the added vulnerability of being homeless, penniless, jobless and not knowing when life will ever be normal again.

I was so touched by your story, I didn't know Egypt had so much prejudice against women of color, which is very disturbing. But admire your courage to be there and go through your internship. I really admire your strength and strong stance against prejudice and discrimination. Sadly alot of people in the world are not open minded and still live in with primitive beliefs on multiculturalism. But little by little we are breaking down those barriers. I wish you the best of luck with your internship! Thank you for sharing your story! :-)

"I embrace emerging experience. I am a butterfly. Not a butterfly collector." - Stafford

Thank you for your taking the time to read my story. It makes me even sadder knowing that I am facing this kind of discrimination on my own continent.

Your post reminded me back in 1985/6 in Cairo, I experienced a similar attitude about being black. Interestingly some of them were even darker than me but they called me 'samara sa kam' As i looked at my watch to tell the time they laughed because i could not understand I just smile and moved on.

I took it as fun

Amie

Amie

Thanks Amie.

I must say I have been encouraged by some of the Egyptians who come to me and say 'don't listen to them, they are not reasoning' when some people say something unkind to me. So yes just like any other place in the world there are some great and not so great people here and I have also learnt to smile and move on when someone says things which bother me.

MaDube