Circumcision.

Just got called downstairs to check out a sick goose, only to hear little 1 yr old Ahmed screaming. His father calls me and there is a man with him, putting Bethadine (antiseptic fluid) on Ahmed’s little penis and testicles. The man laughs jokingly and I realise it has something to do with circumcision. I turn away, saying “Ooh,orig (15) la, (No). They find my reaction amusing. This is all happening with the entire family sitting around discussing what to do with the sick goose!!!! I cannot bear the sound of that poor baby screaming in pain. Desperately trying to hold back the tears I say to Omar. ‘please do not call me down here again!” Every time I come downstairs I see abuse; women, children or animals in some awful state, either being mistreated, not fed properly, or beaten by an adult. It’s a lot better than it was, but there are some things that still happen.

 My legs are shaking, and my stomach feels sick. I cannot bear the sound of that poor baby screaming in pain. Desperately trying to hold back the tears I say to Omar. ‘please do not call me down here again!”

We go into the animal enclosure, ostensibly to tend to the animals but really so that I can cry freely. It breaks my heart, seeing all of this. It makes me furious that man abuses children in the name of God. If ‘God’ created man in his image (as the story goes,) then what gives men the right to change that by cutting off bits of his creations, and then saying that God dictates it?? God, (really God? ) it makes me so angry. I can still hear the child screaming and it is unbearable!!! I managed to save the girls from it, but how to save the boys? At this point, Omar too is wishing that he had not called me! Apparently Ahmed was circumcised last week but this time, they are just making sure he does not get sick, tending his ‘wound’.  But that poor little mite is in agony! But why today, of all days, was I called downstairs to witness it?

library_by_vityar83-d6l7va6Lately, I have been visiting the Soul Library, where the records of everything in existence are held, including our reincarnational histories and soul purpose. I can ask for someone’s records, if the person asks me for guidance, and then I see ‘myself’ climbing a ladder in a library, and picking out the appropriate book from the many shelves that seem to endlessly line the walls. I don’t have any conscious control over this, the Library just randomly appears in my vision at some point during the day. when I have asked ‘upstairs’ for the info. Then I see myself choosing the book, then returning to read it at a table, still in the library.

A day or so later, I channel the words from the person’s guides, based on what is in their book. I cannot necessarily read their book, but I do get the overall energy and ‘trigger’ symbols from it and their guides tell me the rest. But they are speaking directly to the recipient. I am just the translator.

Yesterday, I managed to borrow, one of Jane Robert’s books from an online archive. The book is called Psychic Politics, An Aspect Psychology Book. Reading this I discover that Jane also visits a library, but she tends to get information on other subjects. I have always known that our records are held in Libraries, and I always wondered if we could get other info from them, while still in a physical body. Jane’s book says YES!  So there I am, reading away and my guides ask me ‘Do you want to visit a different part of the library?‘ Meaning other than people’s soul info. To say I was excited is an understatement, and the people that know me, know that I do not get excited over things easily, if at all. 51K-9WBzuZL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

“YES PLEASE!”

So they ask me to choose my subject, and I initially think, Jesus, I want to know about Jesus, and what really happened. But, no Seth has shared that already and it didn’t feel terribly important to know. Then I thought, Moses and his relationship to Nefertiti and Akhenaten, if it existed at all (I have a theory…). I was told to ‘pick my thread’. I had no idea what that meant; the thread of the subject, a finer point? What?

I went to sleep, and then this morning witnessed little Ahmed, and I was so angry I said to my guides. “Male circumcision. I want to know, who the hell, came up with that crazy, abusive idea?”

Half an hour later, they told me. You can read it here. That was a surprisingly  quick response, so they obviously had set it up for me. Witnessing poor little Ahmed’s agony was all I needed, and it was obviously brewing because I can vaguely remember them telling me during the night, a few nights ago, about something to do with Abraham, but I couldn’t remember what! Another doctrine that needs to be changed, removed, rejigged. An abusive practice that should not be allowed, that along with FGM, which is another subject for another day.

As it turned out, I had not yet visited the other library yet, but did a few weeks later! Picking my ‘thread’ also made sense when I visited this other part of the library. I have posted this on my Gaia Method blog.

The Birth of a Bread oven.

When we built the new animal enclosure last year we had to re-build the bread oven, putting it outside the new walls. This entailed dismantling the bricks and the concrete disc, a heavy pre-formed disc, which forms the heated base for the bread to sit on, beneath which lies the fire. 2013-06-21 08.48.22

Then the Bread Oven maker came and started to re-build it. He first had to make a circular brick base, about three bricks high, to lay the concrete disc on. This was all coated in mud. The opening at the bottom is the fireplace, where the fire is built and stoked. The opening in the concrete is for the hot air to reach the domed ‘cooking space.

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Once this has been mudded into place, he begins to build the dome with red-bricks, one layer at a time. He continues to build it up, one row at a time until he has his dome shape.

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He builds it up around himself until he is left standing in a hole!

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He tidies up the remaining bricks at the opening of the hole so that he can fix the four bricks that make up the vent at the top.

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Mud is then applied to the vent to complete it. The vent allows the excess air to leave after the bread is cooked, but it is ‘plugged’ while the oven is in use.

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The next step is to build another reinforcing brick wall at the bottom of the oven. This adds to the insulating ability of the oven where the fire is lit. 

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The next step is to apply more mud and finish the shaping of the bread oven opening and the air vents. He also spends time smoothing down the mud with water to give it a smooth, even finish.

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The finishing touches are to apply the decoration!

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And there you have it, a working bread oven. It took the man a few hours to build this oven and he charged a little under £15 for the making of it. The mud dries quickly in the sun so the women were able to use it within a couple of days.

Once the bread is cooked and the oven is cooling down, the women then put fava beans in a pot of water and leave the pot to sit in the hot ashes overnight. By morning they have Fuul, which they can eat for breakfast with freshly baked sun bread!

Mixed Marriage in Upper Egypt

cooke-familyI’m just watching an American series called Texas Ranch House. It’s one of those programs where they put modern people into an old world setting and then film them for a year. I have always had fantasies about living on a Texan ranch, I have no idea why, but it is possibly a past life desire! Obviously my subconscious is remembering the good memories of that possible lifetime, because watching this series feels very much like watching my life here in Luxor and that ain’t no fun!

Its not so much the way they live as the way the roles of men and women change, the more time they spend in the ranch. There is the ‘rich’ family, with their one female helper/servant, and then you have the cowboys and their cook living some way away from the main house.

Somehow, as they progress through the dynamics of life on an 1867 ranch the men seem to take control of everything and the women get pushed further and further into the house. I’ve only watched the first two episodes but already I am recognising the same dynamics as I experience here. The Ranch House mother summed it up for me. She was the driving force behind getting her family to do this project, but slowly she experiences that ‘position’ slowly ebbing away. “I was the driving force to get us here but I felt like I disappeared. I’m kind of doing the backbone job, I’m holding it up, getting it ready, making it move forward but, its so not about me, so you have to trust those around you…well you have to recognise that.”

Sucks to that! That is how I feel here. I wasn’t aware that women have no power, no input, and no value here, other than to take care of the men. What makes it worse is that the men are so inept! They are chaotic, they have no boundaries and absolutely no common sense whatsoever and yet, as a woman I am expected to trust them.

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For me, being the main financial backbone is completely disempowering. I feel like Rapunzel, kept in a tower by the wicked witch (no guesses as to who that is) and I am visited by my ‘prince’ who uses my hair/love to climb to me. But of course the wicked witch cannot know that the prince loves me, it has to be kept secret, or rather, in our case, his role is take care of her and the family of brothers and their wives. If he starts to pull away from her and his caretaking role of protector to be in relationship with me then she does everything in her power to bring him back to her. I am constantly reminded that I have no place or power here and my job is just to provide for them. Everything is fine so long as I am here in my tower/flat and do not interfere with how they do things here.

Just like the woman in the Ranch series I feel like I have disappeared. I have to be here to ‘take care’ of everyone’s needs and as soon as I try stepping back into my power and focus on my own needs and goals then I too am pulled back into focussing only on husband and family. It’s nearly like a survival tactic on their part. If I focus on my own life then somehow I won’t be focussing on theirs and to them their survival is more important than mine.

I see this happening to many Egyptian/foreign marriages. The Foreign women are there to provide security and financial wealth to the families they have married into. Instead of marrying a husband they have married an entire family and that family is very large with lots of ‘needs’. If you stay with the husband and his family then you are just the finance and you have no real relationship with our husband. You become a wife, but not a wife in the way we in the West see it, no…you are just the provider and support, nothing more. Your husband may well love you dearly but could he live with you somewhere else and just focus on your relationship as we do in the West? Would he be able to build a life as a couple, without having to take care of dozens of other people too? I don’t know. I’ve not seen it here!

The problem with being the financial backbone is that they do not recognise that European money does not grow on trees. They will manipulate and emotionally blackmail you in order to get their needs met, but your struggle is not recognised at all. The fact that you have given them every penny and are left with nothing for yourself is not their problem. They don’t really care. They care about the men’s health and welfare, but if my husband was not here with me would they care about my needs after they have bled me dry? Somehow I’m not so sure. I have seen other foreign women, married to Egyptian men, who have been fleeced and left destitute. The husbands and their families took what they wanted and dumped her, leaving her with nothing.

Thankfully my husband does care enough about me and I am careful enough to know how this works so I keep myself safe. I haven’t given up my whole life in order to be here, but I have left behind people I love. I know I have someplace to go to, so if everything went wrong I know I would be OK! The same cannot be said for other foreign wives however, who may have nothing to go back to; having spent their life savings to be with a husband who swore he loved them but really just wanted her money…or body…or both!gty_oprah_green_mi_130204_wb

Anyway, back to the ranch. I was speaking with one of my daughters on skype recently about a woman she saw on ‘Oprah’ who became a multi-millionaire by writing a book, and who subsequently lost it all to a man who swore he loved her! This woman had altruistic motives in being rich. She wanted to use her money to help people just as someone had once helped her. However, she found that people, instead of being just being grateful and using the money to help themselves began to expect her to give them money! She felt drained, recognised what was happening and stopped giving her money away. She was surprised at how this had happened, but I experience the same thing here. It reminds me of the scene in the Jesus movies when Jesus goes into the leper colony and all the lepers mob him trying to get him to heal them! They took what they wanted without thinking of him, not caring if he was damaged in the first place. 

Because people do not have any boundaries here it is very difficult to set them. Nobody wants to acknowledge them and will actively break them until they get back to their comfort zone, even if that means hurting you. You are not allowed to say no, or to refuse what they give you. If you do you are upsetting the apple cart and they do not like it at all. If you step out of your assigned role they will do everything in their power to put you back in it. They have a system here, if they borrow something from you (and they borrow things all the time!) they then will pay you back by giving you some of their food. ‘How lovely’, you think…initially! Over time however, you realise that you cannot say no without the entire house being up in arms. You are now obliged to both lend them stuff or give them what they want…because after all they give you food in repayment! The whole system here is based on obligations.

We tried it before, refusing, nicely, their food and bread etc. because I was tired of handing things out the door every time someone was toplant-growing-through-pavemento lazy to go to the shop, which is a minute’s walk from our house! It became a huge battle and this battle was waged everyday. I was no longer flavour of the month, mother killed my duck out of spite and jealousy and my life was made miserable. I gave in. I wasn’t strong enough…yet…to deal with the fallout of stepping outside the ‘box’.  And perhaps too I had not yet healed enough my own childhood guilt about being from the rich family while other people around me were not so ‘privileged’? I also did not have enough experience about what actually happens when I step outside the box! Now I know what will happen but now too I am more prepared. If I  am ‘sent to Coventry’ then so be it. I have no ducks or chickens or rabbits. They disappeared downstairs…like everything else. At least I can live a life I actually want…and can enjoy, and will be free to write, to weave, to live in the way that is me!

I often feel like a small plant trying to grow through the cracks of a concrete path. I send my little shoots up only to get squashed back by the footfall of a passerby. But I keep trying to grow. I think that maybe I’m tired of it now and I need to send my shoots out to find another crack to grow through, one where there are fewer people to step on me and squash my tentative growth.

Now I’m going to watch the rest of the Texan Ranch house to see how the ‘helper’ girl becomes a cowgirl despite all the men freezing her out! I might learn a thing or two!

Gourna Hospital Crisis.

We have heard this morning, from a friend of ours who works in the Gourna Central Hospital on the West Bank, that the ICU has been shut down and that the children’s ICU will be shut within three days, leaving all of the women who are waiting for caesarean sections without any post-natal care. The doctor who was doing the deliveries had a nasty shock when he found that he would have no access to the ICU and that all of the nurses/doctors who normally work in the unit have been signed off for ‘holidays’; holidays which they still get paid for no matter how long they don’t work for.  Many of these ‘expecting’ women have no money so this was their only hope for having a safe delivery. The doctor in question was furious that no-one would allow him access to the unit but he decided that he could not do the deliveries without the unit so now the women are in a terrible position. The appointment book was ‘full’ for women having caesareans and they now have to go to a private clinic and pay over 1000LE for their op, money which they do not have. There are no longer any doctors to work in the ICU so they shut them down.

Not only that but they also had two dental rooms, kitted out with expensive dental chairs, such as the ones we use in the UK and Ireland. Well, in his wisdom, the manager of the hospital, decided to shut one room and turn it into a check up room, unfortunately the chair, complete with its wires, was in his way.4810816-i1 So he cut them off and cleared the room, leaving a completely useless, expensive dental chair, which had been donated to the hospital, in the process.

The manager of the Hospital, a Mr. Mustafa Hafni Labib apparently trained as a Doctor specialising in urinary infections, but has had no training in the management of a large hospital or in any management at all. The doctors who are paid to work there also run their own private clinics outside, where they get paid a lot more for equally lousy work. They don’t bother to turn up for work in the hospital but still get paid for it. They ring up and ask him to sign in for them and then don’t bother to come in, or they get him to sign them off for holidays, where they then go and work in their clinics, charging an arm and a leg for the privilege of being treated there.

No-one understands why this doctor/manager is suddenly changing everything and closing things down and many suspect that he is an MB supporter, or perhaps that they were contributing to the care of the hospital!

Twice my husband has had to rush into this hospital for emergency care. The first time he nearly cut the top of his thumb off while working in the Sugar cane field. He was taken, bleeding profusely, to the hospital for stitches but he was told that there was no-one there who could do it for him and therefore he would have to pay to go to the Hospital on the East Bank. They would of course charge for this! They also did not have any supplies with which to sew his thumb with! He decided not to bother and to manage it himself.

Whenever you have a procedure here, either in the hospital or the private clinics, you have to buy all of your medical supplies yourself. That includes drips, syringes, pain-relief, bandages, cotton-wool etc. EVERYTHING. All of the things a hospital would normally have in their dispensary you are required to purchase. The doctor gives you a list, which you take to the pharmacy attached to the Hospital/clinic and there you buy it. Often the list contains stuff you don’t actually need but that the doctor gets to keep.Then you have to pay extra for the doctor and, if you have to stay in for treatment, you also have to pay for the room. It is a massive con!

The pharmacy where you have to buy all of these supplies and medicines make a commission on everything you buy too. Doctors will only send you to their approved pharmacies because they are in a commission-based relationship with them.  I am often shocked at the amount of medicine a patient is required to buy, even if they only have a cold! All of it is about money for the doctor and money for the pharmacy, but no-one gives a damn about the people, and the fact that they are poor! If you are lucky enough to have a caring pharmacist, which we are, then he will often change the medication to a cheaper version so that the very poor person can actually afford it. Often even our pharmacist cannot understand why a certain medication is prescribed and will often refuse to give it out. He is a very knowledgeable and caring man and has never been wrong yet, plus his wife is a doctor so she usually helps him with his work. 

On the second occasion, when Omar had to go to the hospital, he tore his scrotum on a hook on his donkey cart and needed stitches. Once again he was taken to the hospital only to be told, by the doctors’ that it was too serious even for them and they didn’t want to be responsible for his not being able to have children in the future. The doctors were shocked when they saw the tear, which was quite big, but the testes themselves were undamaged. My husband was left reassuring THEM that it was all OK…really! So they sent him home without doing anything. Thankfully, our friend in the hospital called another friend who does the post-caesarean sewing-up, who promptly came around with his little black bag and sewed up the tear. Although he is a nurse he does a better job than any of the doctors here; and he doesn’t charge a fortune. He let me watch what he was doing so I was able to take the stitches out myself when they had healed up enough. Its amazing what you learn to do here as a result of terrible medical care.

A few months ago wahmedscalp2013-05-20 13.14.43 (2)e took Omar’s nephew to the skin specialist doctor, who has a clinic across the road from the hospital. 10 year old Ahmed had developed bald patches on his scalp. To my untrained eye it looked like either a fungal infection or alopecia.When we got in to see the doctor he was very nervous when I said what I thought about it. He had a book of scalp photos with different types of skin problems and said that it was unlikely to be alopecia as ‘what did a 10 year old have to be stressed about’?  Was he kidding? Did he have the slightest clue to how stressful this child’s life was? No! He said it was ‘probably’ a fungal infection and he prescribed over 100LE for creams! That’s like prescribing £100 worth of skin cream for a fungal infection in the West! The doctor had no clue what it was. He also said that if the creams did not clear it up then he would have to have steroid injections in his scalp. WHAAAAAT??? That would cost 150LE! But, for everyone else in the family’s sake we bought the cream which didn’t work! So his father brought him back to the doctor who gave him steroid injections in his scalp and guess what happened? That’s right…absolutely nothing! 

The doctor seemed to know nothing about what might have caused this so I went online and did some research! I thought that perhaps he had picked up the infection from the animals, as he is always with them. I grew up in the country and I was familiar with infections like this. They were a fact of life. I figured they were ringworm of the scalp as the other kids also had ringworm, both on their scalp and on their skin. As it turns out that is exactly what it was. A cousin of Omar’s is also a pharmacist so he went and asked him and he gave him ringworm cream for 7LE and it is now clearing up!!! Ringworm is such a common fungal infection here that I was completely gobsmacked that the doctor never thought to ask whether we had animals or not!  I don’t even think it is ignorance in many of these cases but greed which motivates such bad medical care. They are not interested in people, just money!

And this is why we have such a bad situation in the hospital. I just wish I had the money to set up a functioning hospital and training facility to care for people properly, without doctors stealing every last penny from them. I feel such a sense of hopelessness here sometimes when I experience such bad care in filthy clinics and wish I could set up maternity training and basic healthcare for the people here. Maybe one day it can be achieved…

In the next few  blogs I will describe some of these private clinics, which these doctors own, to show you just how they work and then you can judge for yourselves…

A State of Co-dependence.

After my last post about the control issues here I continue to experience the ‘flow’ of dynamics. When my husband came back from the field his mother told him that I had come running down the stairs when I heard the cow and that she had stayed with me while I was there. Omar understood immediately what she was doing and told her that it was my cow and I had every right to be there. It was her own jealousy that made her sit and watch me and what did she think I was going to do anyway? Carry my cow over the wall and run away with it? She kept her mouth shut throughout, but everyone was there and heard him. One of her other sons, one I like, also said that I had paid for the cow and that if I wanted to take a knife to her and eat her then it was my business. I was upstairs and hadn’t heard a word of this, but I could hear Omar shouting downstairs. When he came up and told me I explained how I had felt and how I continue to feel here. 171 (2)

Because Mother knows that Omar always supports me she plays a different game, as does his elder brother who is always in cahoots with her. In this culture the older brother is the boss, he makes the decisions for the whole household, taking the role over from his elderly father. This is also the system in Pakistan and seems to be a particularly Islamic cultural tradition. Although in this case the brother isn’t the eldest, he is the next eldest and takes it upon himself to tell everyone else what to do, even if he does it badly and makes selfish, and often foolish, decisions. A manager he is not!

The dynamic never changes; mother tries to dominate and control me, thinking that her son will support her, but when he doesn’t she pretends to really like me telling him that my shoes are better than all of the women here. I know she doesn’t believe a word but she needs him to ‘stay’ within the family system of control so she does whatever has worked in the past. Then, for the days afterwards, she and other family members try to ‘pull him back’ into being dependent on them, inviting him to eat downstairs with them. He only ever eats with me and they know that, but it is their way of ‘capturing’ him again and putting him back in his ‘rightful’ place. Any attempt at independence is curtailed at all costs. Then they will subtly suggest that my actions make everyone sad. For example our gas ran out and we had to wait a week to get another gas bottle from Aswan. We have a little emergency hot plate, which I bought for this purpose, but Mother told Omar that his brother’s wife was sad with me because I did not use her cooker to cook on! I do not like unhealthy dependence in any shape; and they also know that I manage my life perfectly well, without depending on them for anything. Their lives are chaotic. Why would I depend on them? But they want us to be dependent on them so that they feel secure! It doesn’t matter if we feel disempowered so long as they feel OK.

To make matters worse we sold our ram yesterday a the souk, because we want to buy another female. We had originally bought this ram from the Elder brother when he needed the money but he didn’t want the sheep to ‘go outside’ of the house. Usually he takes control of everything here but Omar wanted to sell it himself and said as much to his brother. As a result his brother was angry and yelling at everyone all morning.  We sold the ram and Omar built a feeding trough for the cow and the brother was still angry. Omar felt so uncomfortable that he left the house to go to the field when I left to visit my friend as he didn’t want to be at home! That is most unlike him as he usually has a very thick skin! But this time his family’s behaviour got to him. 2013-11-04 10.47.05 (2)

The family cannot handle anyone being independent of them and will do anything to bring an ‘errant’ family member back into line. But its not just me she has a problem with, it is all of the wives, bar one. On the same day as the cow incident, one of the wives had an argument with her husband and was leaving to go her parents. Mother starting shouting for Omar, who thought something terrible had happened, only to hear his mother tell him to stop the wife from leaving. Omar went ballistic and shouted at her to mind her own business. It was his brother’s and his wife’s problem and nothing to do with his Mother or anyone else for that matter.

The system here is that when a wife marries and moves to her husband’s home she is then under the control of the Mother-in-law. If Mother doesn’t like the wife she will complain about her endlessly to the son who then starts to treat his wife badly! This goes on until the mother dies. It is as if the mother is taking  unconscious revenge on the ‘new’ wives, paying them back for her own mistreatment at the hands of her mother-in-law. In our house Omar’s dad, who is lovely, but senile, left his family home when his father died and created his own home, so Mother was in complete control; she didn’t have to deal with her Mother-in-law’s behaviour for long. But she still continues to control and manipulate the other women’s lives because she can!

The petty jealousies and envy here are often hard to tolerate. No matter what is given it is never enough and they ‘covet’ what other people have all the time. A couple of days ago we bought Dad a chicken from the local chicken seller as Dad decided he would rather eat meat than go to Mecca! Knowing how Mother gets jealous of anything anyone else has we thought we would give her some too, to keep her quiet. As soon as Omar brought the chicken home her first question was ‘where’s my part?’. Omar immediately replied that we had already thought to give her some before we even bought the bird! She apologised and said she was only joking! Of course she was. 2013-05-18 09.19.18 (2) After killing the chicken she then decided she had to go to visit someone’s family whose father had just died, telling Omar that  ‘Ann will have to pluck and clean the chicken herself. I have to go now’. She didn’t have to go, she was just jealous and trying to ‘get me back’ for not buying her a chicken! There is nothing like revenge in this culture! But, Omar did the cleaning as we still gave her some. Personally I know that giving in to these tactics mean that they never learn or never respect your boundaries, but try telling that to her son who has seen them struggle for food his whole life!

There are comments made about everything we give to anyone else and she watches everyone like a hawk and then puts on the ‘act’ that says ‘everyone else is getting something but not me,’ no matter how much we give her. What we paid for the chicken, we had paid her to get her  rotten tooth extracted in the dentist the night before! She had been in agony for days, refusing to go to the Dentist but Omar gave her no choice! This jealousy is so boring now and it takes all the pleasure out of doing something loving for someone else. The older brother’s wife is exactly the same, plays the guilt trips to get us to pay for her needs when it is her husbands job really. We usually step in when it is something big they need and which I know they cannot afford. We sacrifice our needs for a time so that they are looked after. But there are limits and I try to make sure they are kept…even if it makes us unpopular! We are not rich!

I think in many ways, you have to develop a very thick skin, which I haven’t yet, in order not to care about other people’s games and manipulations. It sure isn’t easy and I often find my self feeling rather hopeless, especially when I have given most of our money away to them and they still demand more, making us responsible for their happiness. If I lived by myself it would be  lot easier but my husband reminds me of myself about 15 years ago. Over-extending himself, giving everything away to care for his family and generally not even thinking of his own welfare. There is nothing worse than living with your younger self; but I do understand him as a result, even if it frustrating!

Crime in Luxor Increasing.

Since the revolution, and the decrease in tourism, crime in Luxor has risen to scary heights! There are kidnappings at least every couple of weeks. Everything that can be stolen will be stolen. Women are easy targets as they all carry rather voluminous handbags, but men are also targets, especially for young women. elizabethvercoe

A couple of weeks ago we went to the old souk in Luxor to get our fibre supplies and we were standing at the counter. It’s only a kiosk really so people waiting for you to be served have to stand behind you; there is no other space. Omar, (husband) was standing beside me when a young woman and her mother came up and stood behind us in the queue. But suddenly Omar swung around to the woman behind him, grabbing his back pocket, where he had his wallet. “What are you doing?” he asked her loudly. He had felt her fingers in his back pocket, trying to take his wallet. She backed off, making excuses,  embarrassed that he was confronting her in public. “You want to take my wallet?” he asked, and basically told her off. But he was shocked, shocked that it was a young woman, who he never imagined would do something like that! He was still shocked when we arrived home a hour later!

Today, he went to Luxor to get our monthly money out of the bank. He rang after he had taken it out of the ATM and as he was walking to the International Hospital to get some paperwork signed. A guy was following him from the bank and Omar was beginning to get worried. The young man followed him for quite some distance so he decided that he should jump in a service taxi for safety! That was the only way to evade the follower. He wouldn’t normally worry about things like this but after hearing so many stories lately about thieves he now tries to be a lot more vigilant. I don’t go out with my purse or passport anymore, it’s too unsafe. hsbc

The night before last he was in a private clinic with his nephew (whole other blog there!) who was having laser treatment and while they were sitting in the waiting room, which was full of people, a guy walked in, went to the wall with the air fan on it, calmly cut the wire connecting the fan to the wall plug, hoicked the fan over his shoulder and walked out. No-one said a word because they all assumed he belonged there, or that he was going to fix it.No…he was stealing it. That same night, the doctor, looking out of his office window, noticed another guy run off with one of his client’s motorbike. Again, he didn’t think anything of it initially because the guy just hunkered down, fiddled for a second with the motor, then got on the bike, started it up and rode away. It was only when the owner of the bike went to get his bike that all hell broke loose!! 

This kind of crime is happening all the time here now. The man who owns the seed shop, around the corner from us, had his bike stolen too, from right outside his shop. However, he could not report it stolen, as he had bought it from someone who had stolen it from someone else! That’ll teach him!

But, lessons aside, it is becoming far more unsafe here, for the Egyptian’s themselves. With less money, they are turning to crime even more. Three people in this house alone have had all their wages stolen from them over the past few months. When you only earn 300 LE a month, the loss is huge!  Even with all of the police and army guarding everything crime is on the rise. I’m not really sure what they are there for as they don’t actually do anything but smoke, mill about and chat to each other.

The army might be controlling the country again but the thieves are controlling the people! Time to tie everything down folks!

 

 

Luxor Souk: http://www.elizabethvercoe.com/EgyptPhotos1.html

Tank HSBC photo: http://teachermassey.blogspot.com/2011/02/egypt-revolutionary-vacation.html

Married Life in Upper Egypt.

One of the most difficult things for a wife here in upper Egypt is having to keep silent when the husband makes decisions which effect the entire family. Its now Eid Al Ahad, the feast of the Sacrifice, although it has become the feast of the meat! There are so many emotional issues connected to this feast but it is so much more difficult for the wives. In our family, with four husbands, four wives, their kids and two elderly parents, the meat issue becomes fraught with tension. DSCN2829 (2)

As I wrote in a previous blog, the men buy other members of the family a kilo of meat as a gift for Eid. But if a husband does not accept the gift of meat, for whatever reason, the wife has to accept that decision, without question. She cannot change the decision and cannot say anything about it. If the husband ‘shares’ what they have in  the kitchen, because someone in another flat has run out, then again she has no voice. Even if she is angry or upset about it she doesn’t show it, but it builds up inside her nonetheless.

Guilt is often an emotional factor in refusing the gift, and the refusing not only upsets the giver of the gift, but also the entire family. The intended receivers of the meat have their own reasons, usually because they do not want to deprive the family of the giver, and so it becomes a catch 22 situation.  Meat is the equivalent of two weeks vegetable money and so it is not an easy thing to gift, but because it is the feast they do it anyway, leaving themselves short. The men think of other family member’s needs before the needs of their wives. This leaves the wife feeling like the last person on the husband’s list of priorities.

The wife is powerless, and just has to accept whatever the husband decides. This pretty much applies to every aspect of their family life. The husband has a purpose, which the wife does not. He can come and go as he pleases, and often spends every night outside the house, spending time with his friends in the cafe, smoking shisha and playing dominoes, or running here and there doing favours for everyone else! The only thing a wife has is the TV, or the other wives if she gets on with them, Their lives are empty and depressing. They can pursue no hobby or craft, unless they are single or divorced, because they have to be on call for the husband, or taking care of the house, children and his elderly parents. 2013-09-08 15.39.06 (2)

As soon as the husband comes in everything is dropped and she has to cater to his needs. It doesn’t matter what she is are doing, she has to stop. This means that she has little time for herself. You often hear a man call for what he wants “YaBett, Mayya”, (Girl; Water). There is no please, no thank you, just the command. If she was watching TV when he came in then he picks up the remote control and changes the channel. It doesn’t matter that she was watching something. He now wants to watch something else. If he is hungry then she immediately has to cook and if its not hot enough or ‘something’ not enough he will shout at her and criticise her. Sometimes she will shout back, especially if she is already busy with something else but she still has to do it. These men create so much unnecessary stress with their constant needs and demands. The wives also have to feed the elderly parents, whether they want to or not, and put up with bad treatment from them too. 

If her husband wants to entertain his friends at home she has to provide them with tea, or juice or cook them food when her husbands tells her to. She has no rights to tell anyone to leave and if one of her brothers-in-law comes in he treats the place as though it is his, and never asks for her permission to enter. After all, it is his family home! A husband’s brother can also also chastise his brothers wife, and often they interfere in each other’s arguments. For a while, when I first got here, I was completely confused as to who was married to whom, as they all seemed to think that they were married to each other’s wives and were free to deal with them as though they were! They really were treated as just family servants!

The result of all of this abuse and neglect is depression, massively low self-esteem, psychosomatic illnesses, and other psychological issues.  Depression seems to be the norm here and when women do get ‘hysterical’ or reach saturation point, having ignored their own needs to take of the man’s needs and desires, they are seen to be the victim of a djinn (evil spirit)! This usually entails the woman breaking down and going ‘crazy’, because she cannot take it any longer.

When I firsegyptianwomant came to live here I woke up one morning to the sound of a woman screaming at the top of her lungs in the building next door to us. She was obviously having a really difficult time and I could feel the fear and anguish in her voice. She sounded to me like she was being battered. I went out onto the landing, feeling concerned and wondering whether I should go around to her, when my sister-in-law came out too. We looked at each other and both of us understood exactly how the woman was feeling but knew there was nothing we could do about it. WE felt powerless. My husband Omar said she must have a djinn in her. Didn’t sound like a djinn to me. I know the sound of a woman being beaten by a man!

Later we were told that she did indeed have a djinn and that the local sheikh was called in to take the djinn out of her. I asked how he did that and Omar told me that he would beat it out of her with a stick, because the Djinn doesn’t like pain!  Not only was the woman possibly being abused by her husband but she was also abused by a so-called holy man! I was dumbfounded! Nobody listened when I said she was being beaten by her husband; but a few months later I made friends with this woman and she invited me around for tea. While we were chatting, through my early Arabic, she mentioned her husband’s violence. She was a miserably unhappy woman. She was young and very pretty and had had a little daughter a few months previously, but her Mother-in-law wanted a grandson and constantly badgered her son, who was a bit of an idiot, to produce one. Having sons is a wives’ raison d’être. He took out his frustrations on his wife, instead of dealing with his mother, who was really the one who deserved it!!

For smart women, who marry men who do not match them. depression hits hard and they usually end up with a host of psychosomatic symptoms. But being possessed by a djinn is usually the way a woman declares to the world that she can no longer take it! Her mind, emotions and body hit the Wall.

I worked with one lovely woman who had mysterious skin rashes that just appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Her husband took her to many doctors in Cairo to find out what it was but they said it was psychological. They lived in their own house away from the rest of the family as she had become so depressed her husband thought it was best to move. When she was living in her husband’s family home she had had one son and two daughters. The other wife of her brother-in-law was really nasty to her about the fact that she only had one son, whereas she herself had three. Mona, a soft and very quiet woman, was so hurt by this constant barrage of scorn and spite, that she became ill. Women can be so cruel to each other here. Her husband, a good man, decided, after their third daughter, was born to move them into their own home so that Mona could be away from the spite. Mona never had any more children, having decided that she could never have a boy again but she became steadily more and more depressed and the illness got worse and worse. Her husband despaired but did his best to try to find the best medicine for her. But nothing worked. A few months later this spiteful woman apologised to her as her son had nearly died in an accident and she felt sure that Allah was punishing her for her nastiness!

It is incredibly sad to feel purposeless or that you are not good enough as a wife. Muslim men can marry four wives, although most do not. But they constantly use the threat of divorce to keep a wife in line. Wives are very aware that if they don’t fill their quota of sons that the husband can quite easily go and marry another one who will. Even in jest they are threatened. ‘If you don’t do such and such.’ they joke, ‘I will divorce you’. Women are kept feeling insecure, that way they can be controlled more easily. Men constantly make hurtful jokes about another woman being more beautiful and try to make their wives jealous. They watch belly dancing on TV, which is more like lap-dancing the way they do it now and the wife is powerless to do anything about it. All she can do is watch it too and try to make herself as desirable as the woman on TV, trying hard to dismiss the reality of it. I watch the wives as they go about their normal routine while their husbands are glued, addict-like, to the woman on the screen and I wonder what they really feel. It is an incredibly uncomfortable experience to witness.

Most of the women don’t have close friends or confidants and if they do there is no sense of solidarity between them. The wives in our house gossip with the woman next door or with each other. One of our neighbours has a few children, a couple of them boys. Her husband remarried a wealthy woman and lives with her and her sons in another house. The first wife was pregnant when he married the second one. Now he is trying to sell the house from under the first one, f2013-05-14 09.17.46 (2)or a pittance! He won’t grant her a divorce though. If he did at least she would get a pension from the government. He gives her no money so her eldest son tries to make some money for them to live, but he physically abuses his mother now too. She looks for solace from the women here, but they can do nothing to help and often are so cut off from their own feelings that they can’t even begin to identity with another woman’s problems. If they did they would start to question their own life and and then realise that they too are in a hopeless position.

The 45 year old woman down the road from us, in the little shop which they recently opened, had a baby girl at the beginning of the year. Her husband, a heavy marijuana smoker, came home one night and had sex with her while she was really ill! “Broken,” as she says. The result was the baby girl. The women joke about it because they can do nothing about it. They have to give their husbands what they want. They have absolutely no rights whatsoever. No matter what ‘Islam’ says, the culture is stronger than the religion!

Recently we had a wedding here in our house and one of the wives went to the beautician to have herself ‘waxed’ and threaded. I made a joke to one of the other women and asked her why she was doing that? Did she hope to find another husband at the wedding? “No”,” she answered laughing. “She’s trying to keep the one she has.” Much like women in the west, wives here have to look their best, otherwise their husbands will go looking for another wife!

When a man gets fed up with his wife, and they argue,  he usually commands her to leave and go back to her family. Because in this culture a woman, when she marries, goes to live in a man’s family home, she has no rights to the house at all. So if a husband tells her to go, she goes. All of the rights are his because it is his family home.  This also has other effects because the women have no rights in the husband’s home they also have no sense of belonging. They don’t get involved in the home because they know that they could lose it in an instant. They have no power to change anything. Everything belongs to her husband and his family and things can change in an instant!

The interesting thing about all of this is the fact that when the wife does go to her family home, her house falls to pieces! Her husband is so used to giving orders and having her do all the cooking and cleaning that he is in fact completely incapable of looking after himself! Slowly the house begins to look abandoned, even though he is still in it, and his brother’s wives and older daughters then have to come and cook for him. By the time his wife does come back, if she comes back, she has to spend days cleaning up the entire house, as he has been unable to take care of it. The reality is that women in this culture are strong, resilient survivors and the men are inevitably weak but controlling! They cover it up by making the women weaker and controlling her every move, but in reality they are like children, unable to even take care of their own basic needs. Without these women they would fall apart and I think they know that. That is why they keep them small and therefore they never have to face their own weaknesses and lack of power. They control every aspect of a woman’s life and the women are completely unaware of it, consciously! Unconsciously though, it takes its toll and many women die of heart attack, stroke and cancer, or though violence! Their bodies having had as much as they could take. It is not an easy life for women but they survive it.

In the next blog I will go into the marriage process itself, from first meeting to eventual marriage. Keep tuned.