8 May 2005


Never thought I was going to enter this islamic store, or so does everyone call it in the area. Al-tawheed we al-Nour. It was quite an experience.

I am heading to France this week so M. asked me for hunting pants that she can wear under her cloths in winter. She wanted them in pure cotton, and pointed me to this tawheed place. So, there I went.

Upon entering the place, I thought I was transformed into this new world. A hive, except it is a lazy one. Only crowded. All the sellers are men with the praying sign on their forehead, some with long beards, the plupart majority wearing greyish short pants and weird colour shirts. You can't miss but feel that they all look the same. Of course, the sound of 'iza'et el coran al kareem' was screaming everywhere. Coran, ahadeeth, preaching, all what you want.

So I headed to the women section, expecting the sellers to be women. Veiled women. Munaqaba women. Whatever. It is women section for god's sake. Never expected a man to sell women's underwear. To my surprise, no women. All men. No women whatsoever except the customers. How weird, I thought to myself. A man selling women's underwear; giving her suggestions to the size and colour. Yikes! Really. Very twisted. I overheard one of them saying, 'I only have combilizoonate hamra wee eswed.' Hilarious. Another seller showing women an underwear where she wanted it in white, and he was convincing her that blue would also look good, especially with this unique flower. The elastic here is comfortable. eh eh! They are not doing it in a degrading way or anything, but it just sounded weird to my ears and to my eyes. A serious man, with beard, talking about combilizonat, and who knows what else!

What is more funny is that the women buying, most baladi ones, were totally comfortable. Buying stuff with no minimal sign of uncomfort. There was even this new bride who came with her mother to buy her wedding underwear. What the heck? Begad!

So here comes my turn. I looked to the guy and couldn't help but remark, 'so why no get women sellers in the women section. It is haram or what.' The guy gave me this silent look. I continued, 'la'a seriously I am not joking. Why not get a woman to do this woman job thing. I assume you get a little uncomfortable at some level.' He smiled. Not a word. Looked to my shirt and hair and didn't answer. Oh well, I got what I wanted and left.

What is my problem? Well, I just personally can't imagine a guy, with all the ongoing talks about them being sexually excited faster than women, work in a female section. All day long, showing underwears, sexy or not, checking what the women size might be if she doesn't know her exact size, giving her suggestions about the good colour or bad ones, ..... I mean, if the guys are not married, aren't they gonna, even for a second, get aroused somehow. I don't really get it.


Blogger Mohamed said...

Funny :)

You should've asked him the question the other way around; "Isn't it haram for a man to sell women's underwear to women?"

5/08/2005 11:26:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

Yeah, I could've. But I couldn't even say 'underwear' in arabic and in public, and discusse it too.

I assume you agree it is awkward that a man sell women's underwear, right? It is not only me who feels it weird.

5/08/2005 11:39:00 am  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Yes ofcourse I find it awkward. I found it awkward asking about underwear for myself from a woman (that was in some other store)!

5/08/2005 11:50:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you two need to loosen up, ya3ni you turned out to be more conservative than taw7id wal nour employees and regular customers?

omal how will you feel buying condoms or the pill from opposite sex salesman?

5/08/2005 01:45:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Oh please! :) No, no.

Well Alaa, it is just awkward. Really. Comblizoon wee hagat kedda coming out from the mouth of a serious look man! Very contradicting to my eyes. Plus you have to see him unfolding the merchandise, showing the slip cut or whatever...pointing to the fine details. Hilarious!

but I think you are right... I am too private maybe!

5/08/2005 02:11:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

la'a condoms I don't mind buying from anyone.

Did you notice how they're selling condoms in "On The Run" Esso shops over the counter. I find this to be dumb blind immitation of the west. I mean we're not supposed to be a culture that is having sex on the go kiddah.. (we could be, bass this makes it so obvious).. oh, I have my girlfriend with me in my car, and oh, let me drop by the gas station quickly to get my condoms. eih elwad elcool dah.

Mesh 3aref.. seeing them there over the counter next to the cashier was strange. I was waiting for someone to come in and pick one up besara7a.

Mind you, its not the notion of condoms, its having them sold right next to the cigarette packs in a gas station.

5/08/2005 02:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny! :) Helwa! cool gedan.

But do you think you felt a little strange because we grew up to see these matters as private! Why did you assume that most likely it will be used by a cool guy with his cool gfriend waiting for him in the car. Could it be that a married couple just decide to go get one kedda 'on the run.'

5/08/2005 02:45:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

the previous post was mine

5/08/2005 02:46:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

I'm just saying its strange.. doesn't fit our culture really, and probably bcs we think of it as private too i guess. Condoms are great, don't get me wrong.

But just the setup is totally unEgyptian, condoms next to cigarette packs next to chocolate snacks. Makes sex looks so easy and simple (which in Egypt it isn't), and an 'on the go' thing, just like buying a pack of cigarette (as frequent as smoking), or getting a quick snack. Looked abit strange that's all.

5/08/2005 03:23:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

You know what I'll do next time I go to 'On The Run'. I'll hold one of these condom packs and ask the cashier, "excuse me, what is that?".. hehe

5/08/2005 03:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol no didn't notice condoms at esso.

the easier it is to buy them the better the alternative is not less sex, its less safe sex.

but condoms aside I think you two are mistaken about how easy sex is in this country, first of all marriage is big here, its common for people to get married while young.

the sexual lifes of married coupls is not something that egyptians are shy about, they talk about it everywhere, its the topic of most religious anything (classes, websites, newspaper pages, you name it).

sex in itself and sexuality are not a taboo.

how this fits with other conservative traits of Egyptian society, and how can all these circumsized women be in touch with their sexuality is beyond me, its just on of these things that prove Egypt is a Singularity.

5/08/2005 06:10:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Mohamed, if you can really go and ask this question at the esso shop, please let us know. I will be interested to know the cashier's reaction.

But my question is can you really ask this kind of question. I bet the guys will be like 'what the heck. He is 30+ and doesnt know what this is? ......' hehe . Will you be ok with this kind of thinking the cashier guy will have of you? just wondering actually!

Alaa, yeah sex is discussed everywhere in egypt. More and more at ease with talking about it, especially among friends. It is not a taboo anymore..was it ever? Should it be? I don't know!

5/08/2005 07:03:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Yes Haal, I think I'll do it. I'll just bring one of my friends with me for support. That's exactly why I would do it, to have the chashier think, 'what the hell is this guy about!'. The cashier himself might not even know what those packs contain! But I would love to see his reaction. I think he'd probably tell me, "these are condoms sir", and would ruin my fun though.

Do you really think that all guys in Egypt know what condoms are or look like?

Alaa & Haal, sex is not a taboo. Everyone (guys atleast) talks about it from the age of 12. Its a taboo to talk about it in public (but that's becoming less and less so that's true).

I differ with you Alaa. I think sex is very easy in this country, for those who are after it. I would think that the only problem is finding a place to do it. Hard to get a motel room (illegal in most places), and everyone lives with their parents.

To be honest, I cannot imagine myself buying condoms from a gas station in Egypt. I must be really desparately horny and the girl waiting in the car only has a few minutes left with me! I'm sorry, that's the only image I get seeing those condoms in Egyptian gas stations :)

You know what, I think they're selling that stuff in those Esso shops to complete their image of cooleness, selling all the colorful imported snacks, and just like 7-11 abroad they're having condoms right there for those cool dudes in a hurry. No one can blame them right, as long as its safe sex.

5/08/2005 07:27:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Mohamed, why bring a friend? What kind of support? lol! He will probably crack before you even attempt to pick the stuff.

I agree sex isn't a taboo. Everyone knows about it and talk about it with their friends, even if in a joke like context. Plus, the movies are becoming more and more explicit. In the old movies, they usually do it in a form of thunder, rain, shutter hitting, or some kind of glass broke..Very funny. Now, I think they do it different... less symbolic.

So, I assume you are implying that 'place'factor is what is limiting 'sex' in egypt?

5/08/2005 07:43:00 pm  
Blogger ألِف said...

Hahaha...Very funny indeed.

The situation is funny of course, and the way you talk about the serious man spreading out the merchandise and talking about it like that. But "with all the ongoing talks about them being sexually excited faster than women" was the top :-D

Really, you speak as if describing a mysterious phenomena. Besides, what if the seller does get excited once in a long while? He's not going to start barking like the movies :-) Have you considered a gay woman-seller getting excited because of you? Or a seller in a grocery store getting excited while chopping your 1/4 Rumy cheese?

And what is it with us not being able to call things their names in our language!

As for condoms, I admire Mohammad's reflection on the issue. Although buying a pack of condoms on the run and disappear is less...emm...intimate than ordering it from Otlob and having a delivery guy knock on your door. It also reminds me of a story that took place in a pharmacy one nice summer evening..I might tell about it someday..

(DAMN..another long comment, sorry :-0

5/09/2005 01:17:00 am  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Eih dah, they deliver it through Otlob too! This is too good to be true. I haven't looked at their 'sex menu', so I didn't know.

"And what is it with us not being able to call things their names in our language!"

Yes, we need to write about this. Why is it much easier for us to use 'bad' words in English than in Arabic?

Haal, I have very cool friends when it comes to silly stuff! So they'll give me support, and I'll have someone to laugh about with afterwards.

I think the 'place' factor is limiting somewhat, but Egyptians as usual are very inventive. Remember my 'I love Cairo' post...

5/09/2005 08:24:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

Alif, do you really think it is funny...com'on it is really weird to me at least. Even in the states the women sections have female seller. I think what got me was the 'type' of men. Beard, praying mark, not making eye contact,.... all that stuff and at the same time selling women underwear. Funny for me at least.

As for gay men, in canada I bought the best lipstick from a gay seller at a 'clinique' shop. He adviced me on the colour and chose one for me. And it turned out that he was right. More insightiful than the women clinique seller. Of course it was strange initially a man showing me lipsticks and telling me how to put it to look best. I was cracking inside, in fact kept asking him for more stuff.

Not able to call things their name in arabic, well, they sound a little weird I guess.

5/09/2005 09:55:00 am  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Gay men are the best when it comes to women's fashion, and they're the best for women to hang around with, eh. You sound like a Clinique person fe3lan.

5/09/2005 10:05:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

what do you mean I sound like a Clinique person? :)

5/09/2005 10:07:00 am  
Blogger Mohamed said...

ya3ny, the all-natural toned-down stuff seems to suit you. Don't know about 'Happy' though!

5/09/2005 10:22:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

You insist that I aint happy... why! I am.

5/09/2005 10:42:00 am  
Blogger Mohamed said...

No I don't insist khales. I said before that sometimes you sound exuberant.

5/09/2005 10:52:00 am  
Blogger haal said...

Well, you might be right. I am both actually at the same time ;)

5/09/2005 10:58:00 am  
Blogger Alina said...

If you think underwear is so awkward to be sold by men, try to picture how this is: a young man (25 tops) selling cosmetic products door to door. Apart from shampoo, lipstick and eye-shadow, imagine him in front of six curious women presenting different types of tampons: day, night, comfort tampons... You cannot imagine how red his face was when he finished! And there we were, just waiting and sadistically watching and trying to capture the moment when it will be too much for him to manage!

5/09/2005 12:42:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

hilarious! Poor guy. Did he breakdown at some point? Was he doing a good job convincing you to buy these tampons?

I think, seriously, it takes a special character to be able to manage these types of jobs. Seriously. If you are a shy type, forget it.

5/09/2005 12:49:00 pm  
Blogger Alina said...

There was no breakdown point because he had some experience on the matter. But we did not by the tampons, not a good brand, and you know, women are very elitist, snobish even when it comes to something getting so "close" to you! But we bought eye-shadow and shampoo and lipstick!

5/09/2005 03:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad sad story. I'm thinking of going there myself and insiting on understanding why they do that. I definitely feel that it should be women sellers in those sections. What r they afraid of? Mingling between workers of the opposite sex?? They'd rather let opposite sex sellers and buyers mingle and talk about underwear? Or are they against women working??
It is sad and disgusting and so so ignorant of them.
Islam allows male doctors to examine female patients because that's a neccessity and if a good woman's doctor is available then it's prefered.

5/09/2005 05:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to remind you folks that the owner of the tawheed and noor shop is in jail for marrying 5 women at the same time. could this explain it ?

5/09/2005 05:33:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Yeah, it explains that he probably had married all the women staff. or that women are afraid to work at the shop. or that it is the norm nowadays to hide behind religion facade.

Ahmed, I am not sure what they are afraid of. I guess, both mingling and women working. Very backward indeed.

As for doctors, I know that a number of women are no more going to male doctors and prefering to go to female doctors. I have no judgement on that behaviour. In other words, a new trend to even lessen foreign interactions.

5/09/2005 05:53:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Married all his female workeres.. hehe.. maybe! Isn't he the one portrayed in Alaa ElAswany's Yacoubian novel. What's the name in the novel, I forget.

I think most women prefer male doctors to female ones because they are more competent. Or so they think ya3ny.

5/09/2005 07:24:00 pm  
Blogger haal said...

Dunno. I think the first priority goes to finding a good femalie doctor.

5/10/2005 07:36:00 am  
Blogger Alina said...

This thing with prefering to go to a woman doctor has nothing to do with culture or religion, I think. I mean, Romanians are Christian and you can see a lot of girls half naked on the streets of Bucharest, but when it comes to doctors, they prefer women. Maybe because they feel free to talk about anything, maybe because women are more patient and understanding...Or maybe because the "girl-talk" is overrated when it comes to picking a doctor.

5/10/2005 11:51:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Kayla

funny my wife prefers male doctors because they are more patient and understanding.

guess there is no truth in any of it, I mean to really generalize you have to try like 1000 doctors of each sex, thats never going to happen, we base our experiences on 2 or 3 encounters and this does not qualify us to make observations like male doctors are more likely to be blah.

but whatever makes you comfortable I suppose.

5/11/2005 11:46:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Tawheed we Fatooret El Noor (ever notice how pathetic their displays are, how much lighting they use?) and their all male staff is - to me - indicative of how hypocritcal those 'pious' folks really are. How many brain cells do they have between them?

As for condoms at Esso - eh ya Mo? Matseeb el nas te3eesh? I'd rather buy them off the shelf than have to go to a pharmacy and specifiy size and texture to some dimwit with a beard who wants to check my left hand for 'the ring' before selling them to me. I hope it happens one day: condoms off the shelf. Having to ask for them is pathetic. 'Momken ya 3amo 3elbet tops?' Even in the UK, I stay away from places that sell condoms behind the counter because I don't want to declare my preferences to anyone, male or female. Not because it's about sex; I hate having to explain what colour lighter I want if I'm buying one from a clerk ('I'd like the small blue one with the little white flowers on it - no, not that one, the one two shelves down'). Cigarettes we 2olna mashee, but everything else should be within your own reach. Even worse is buying blades for my razor (they keep them behind the counter because they can be used as weapons al, and when it's a woman clerk, God help you: 'Mach 3 Turbo pack of 8 please...no, that's Mach 3 only...no, not that either, that's not even Gilette...'). Grrrrr.

5/12/2005 04:11:00 pm  
Blogger Mohamed said...

You have a point there actually DNA. I think I too, would rather buy condoms from an Esso shop, hiding it between two chocolate bars, than have a seller ask me for details. I'm very discreet with these things!

yaah, danta adeem awy.. tops meen.. they have Durex now here!

5/12/2005 04:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Durex wala madurexesh, I only know them by that name - I'm not too fussy on brands (actually I couldn't care less) and I'm not going to ask for a 'kaboot'am I now?

5/12/2005 05:09:00 pm  
Blogger ألِف said...

A few days ago my mother told us about her first experience ever in this same shop, as a new branch opened recently near where we live, and she had exactly your impressions!

What's more, is that in other departments of the shop, she said, there were normal, conservative looking, prostration-marked, young men, but who didn't have the signée beards; only the women's underwear section had those men!!

I instantly remembered this post :)

1/27/2006 08:25:00 pm  

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