I have time for a quick Christmas present from the women of Abu Sir to the rest of us before I scamper to get my Christmas lunch organised. Yesterday I was out for a ride with a friend and stopped by one of my neighbour farms just to say hello and chat briefly. He had a story that almost had me falling off my horse in laughter. The women of my area have my deep and abiding respect. They care for farms, families and homes in pretty tough conditions but never fail to have a smile, a greeting and to lend a hand to others. They are the steel of their families. While this is a very traditional part of the country and one of strong religious conviction, these women are also very accepting and friendly and have always been a source of laughter and joy for me, a very nontraditional aging Canadian. I've been hearing from many of my neighbours that they are very unhappy with the mismanagement from the Muslim Brotherhood and the meddling ways of the Salafis for some time. One neighbour told me how when buses came to shuttle protesters into Heliopolis for the demonstration at the presidential palace that turned so bloody a couple of weeks ago, quite a few of the mothers around me informed their sons that if anyone wanted to take the bus into town, they were welcome to do so but not to bother to come back.
So apparently a group of Takfir wal Higra moved into our area to help our local population behave in a more "proper" manner. They were seen walking along the roads in their short galabeyas and had taken a mosque for preaching and an office in Abu Sir for organising. A week or so ago, eight of the men went into the main souq of Abu Sir and as they were entering noticed one woman sitting by her produce with a little bit of leg showing from her galabeya. Very rudely kicking at her leg, they told her to cover up and be decent. This was a monumental mistake. As it happened, this woman was the head woman for the souq and a member of a very populous clan in the area that number in the thousands. She and the other women in the market attacked the eight men and beat them so severely that they had to go to the hospital. When the men tried to file a report with the police about the attack, the police refused to take the report, saying that they weren't going against these women as well...were the men crazy? So now the youth of Abu Sir are using the office as a tea room and the mosque is no longer being used for their fundamentalist sermons and no one has seen the Takfir group for some time.
If anyone is wondering who to support to get rid of Islamists in Egypt, here is your answer. The women of Egypt are some of the strongest women I've ever seen.
Maryanne Stroud Gabbani came to Egypt as the wife of an Egyptian/Canadian businessman and the mother of our children in the late 80's.Her husband is no longer with them, the children are pursuing careers abroad, but Egypt is still her home, albeit, a rural rather than urban one.