Sociology Reflective Essay I went to Khan el-Khalili on a Friday afternoon and it was about 40 degrees. My plan was to observe the different reactions between the people in the Egyptian souk and the people around the goldsmith’s shops and Naguib Mahfouz coffee shop, to my norm breaking outfit. I planned to stay an hour in each area.
I chose to wear a very heavy wool jacket and a pair of Uggs, (calf-high boots made of heavy wool) with a pair of jeans and winter accessories. My expectations were that people would laugh and I wasn’t sure if they would insult me in the Egyptian souk or not.I thought the foreigners would also laugh but probably not insult me. In the Egyptian souk all the women I saw weren’t foreigners and were wearing abayas of light cloth.
The first reaction was from an old woman sitting on the curb selling boxes of tissues. She looked at me with a grin and insulted me by saying, “you stupid girl don’t you have lighter clothes”. I ignored her comment and continued walking. The second reaction came from a group of kids who thought I was showing off my winter clothes.They kept on laughing and pointing saying, “amlalna feeha khawagaya”, (Egyptian wannabe girl). The third reaction was from a group of men who followed me teasing, asking questions like “eh el halawa dee bess, mesh hare alleky? ”, (don’t you think its too hot for such an outfit you pretty girl? ).
They were right, it was hot and I needed something to drink. I saw a man who sells eirk sous, a juice, I asked for a cup to see a close up reaction. The seller looked away trying not to let me see him laugh and said, “etfadally ya madam”.As I walked away I could see him laughing. The area around the Gold Smiths and Naguib Mahfouz coffee shop is very different from the souk. Most of the people there were foreigners were dressed in shorts and t-shirts, light cotton dresses, sunglasses and sandals…etc.
The most common reaction seemed to be fear. One of the women looked at me anxiously and grabbed her child and walked away. Other just looked at me and pretended they didn’t see me. A bunch of teenage boys some seemed westerns and the others seemed Arab, started laughing and saying “don’t you know its summer? , “crazy girl” No one reacted positively in either the souk or the tourist area; they all treated me as though I was crazy or some kind of threat. However the Egyptians just simply didn’t respect me. I made them angry, they wanted to change me. My clothes were very expensive looking and that may have embarrassed them because they were poor. The way I looked made them defensive and they took out their anger on me.
Also, they might have looked at it from a religious perspective and thought that was seeking attention. Seeking attention in Islam is forbidden especially for a girl.They might have thought that I thought I was better than the rest. That angers them because in Islam everyone’s equal before God. Foreigners in the tourist area also had a negative reaction. The way I looked frightened them as though I was an afreet. They might have thought I was a thief or really I was a dangerous violent person.
Unlike the souk they were wealthy people and might have wondered why I was wearing expensive clothes. They might have thought I was on drugs and that’s why I was wearing a jacket and a wool cap.People on drugs can get cold as a side effect of not having drugs. The people might have felt uncomfortable with the situation because the way I looked made them question themselves. In conclusion, the way people reacted to the way I was dressed entertained me. Their reactions didn’t challenge my knowledge of who I am.
I know my own story therefore nobody else can change that story. People’s reactions were different from my expectations, however the reactions in the souk were not very far from what I had anticipated.The foreigners on the other hand, in the tourist area reacted quite differently from my expectations. I did not expect them to be afraid of me or to become angry because I thought foreigners wouldn’t pay very much attention to me. Their reactions made me understand that different people from different communities can have the same reactions but for different reasons.
In the Egyptian souk the negative reaction but to the message that my appearance gave to them that I was asking for attention. To the foreigners I symbolized a stereo type they had negative connotations for.