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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Meeting Egypt's Gays

I'm back from Alexandria. It was awesome. The whether is far cooler around September and most vacationers who flock to Alex and create a mess there have already left.

This trip gave me the opportunity to peek into one of Egypt's underground communities: the gay community. I've always believed that there are zillions of taboos in Egypt yet those same taboos exist powerfully in the secret lives of millions of Egyptians. I know that premarital sex for example is widespread in spite of the wave of religiosity that is apparent in our society. I never thought though that Egypt did have such a well established gay community that includes powerful figures as well as average citizens.

I was having a couple of beers with a friend in a bar. My friend noticed a guy whom he knew and called him over. They started talking and then my friend introduced me to him. When the guy left, he informed me that the guy was gay. My friend is a very sociable and open minded person and so I wasn't surprised that he didn't mind knowing a gay person. I don't have a problem with gay people myself, I mean it's their life and everyone is free to live it as he/she sees fit.

The guy invited us over to sit at his table. There were 4 other guys sitting. I noticed something very amazing. I always thought that all gay people tend to act "girly" in the way they dress, speak, and even walk. That's not true. I didn't notice anything unusual in all the guys around me except for one: the guy next to me was 50% male 50% female! I felt a bit apprehensive sitting there beside him but I began to relax as time went by. However, I still wished to bring a girl at the table just so that no one will suspect me or something!

Wanting to come up with a good post for my blog, I started asking them questions about the gay community in Egypt. I learned that the internet plays a huge role in their communications. It's the force the drives the community especially since it has to stay underground. They meet up in chat rooms and decide to meet in real life only when they get to know the other person well enough. The community itself is huge and encompasses people from all social levels.

All 5 didn't "come out" to their parents and that made them lead a double life, one among their gay friends and the other among their parents and colleagues at college or work. One told me that his mother, who constantly asks him about any possible girlfriends, will die of a heart attack if she knew he was gay.

Gays in Egypt have to take maximum care because sometimes the authorities here leave the corrupt businessmen and the criminals and arrest homosexuals instead. "We try to stay close to each other, we don't usually open up to those we don't know" I was told.

Amazingly, the guys were well aware of what's happening around the world. They were aware of the same sex marriage debate that's going on in the U.S and other countries, and they unanimously expressed their disapproval towards gay marriage and gay foster parents. See, that's the irony. Religion plays a huge role in the definition of the personality of any Egyptians no matter how observant he/she is. Even though those guys are gay, they know that as far as religion is concerned they are committing a sin, and so legal sex marriage is something that shouldn't be even considered.

A guy told me he wants to leave Egypt and search for a better future somewhere else. "You can go to San Francisco" I said. "No, I don't want to go to America. I wish to go to Canada. It is more open especially towards gays" he answered.

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