Egyption History & Travel - 2010

So Many Choices

Seeing women in the streets of all three countries does not produce different impressions. In all three, women are seen in every kind of dress from Western casual wear to full coverage in burkas and niqabs. The majority in all three are equipped with head coverings like scarves regardless of what else they might be dressed in. It is difficult for a foreigner to assess how much all this dress is a requirement of religion, custom, region, or tradition. The guides in all three countries stated that women have the choice of how they want to dress, but acknowledged that family traditions and peer pressure in different areas of their countries have significant input into how “free” the women really are to choose their own mode of dress. And of course, age differences in dress are manifest even to a visitor: old women in all three societies are the most covered up though not even most of them wear the niqab; middle-aged women are less covered and less likely to be masked, and the youngest women appear in all manner of apparel. As mentioned before, one of the most startling observations we made in Egypt was true to a much lesser extent in both Morocco and Tunisia—the number of armed men everywhere! In Egypt we were constantly in the presence and under the protection (we hoped) of policemen, soldiers, and bodyguards. Guns of all sizes bristled from jackets, protruded from behind armor plated barriers, and stared down on us from turrets above the streets and on the sides of buildings. It was truly intimidating until we decided that

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