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4.0 out of 5 stars Life Behind The Veil, 25 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Fatwa: Living with a death threat (Paperback)
This book is part of what has become a whole genre of "real life" literature dealing with the dangers and problems facing "Western" (i.e. white northern European/North American) women who marry Muslim husbands and go to live in the Arab, Iranian etc countries.

I read the book out of curiosity, having visited Egypt in the past, on two visits. The first time I was there (1994) I was on a four-day break in Luxor, at the Hilton, but the second time (1997-98) I was on a fairly strict budget (by Western standards) and lived for three months in the country: in Aswan, in a tent on the Red Sea, in a rented flat in Alexandria (one month) and (for another month) in the quite remote desert oasis of Siwa.

During my second trip I heard a lot of stories about Western women (mainly British) who married Egyptians. The affair often began during felucca trips down the Nile or the like, under the desert stars etc...The marriage was usually followed by a trip to the UK by the woman, to sell her house (often all she had left after UK divorce...). Then return to Egypt and purchase of a flat in her new husband's name. Then another trip to UK to tie up loose ends. The shock usually came when the British woman returned to her new Egyptian flat, only to be confronted by the woman she thought was her sister-in-law and who in reality was the real/first wife of the Egyptian husband...Result? Usually return of British woman to UK, sadder, wiser and penniless. A kind of legalized fraud.

I met two British women myself who had married Egyptians, but who had different and differing experiences. One was a woman of maybe 45-50, who was married to a much younger man, a Copt (Christian). True, she had financed their business but their marriage was obviously genuine and quite like any typical UK equivalent. The second woman was young and had married a man from Ismailiya...it had not worked out and they had been divorced; she was living alone in Alexandria and liked it there and was even studying at the University and living a kind of expat life with occasional trips to the Spitfire Bar (one of the few places where you can now get a drink in Alex without a problem) or the "Portuguese Club".

The difference between those cases and the one in this book may be that in the book the lady had children by her Egyptian husband.

I have to say that, having had problems myself with the system in Egypt (in my case a run-in, through "a series of unfortunate events" with the Mukhabarat or secret/security police, eventually ironed out, thank God!), the attempt of the lady in the book to break free and to eventually get out of Egypt did make my blood run a little cold. This is not a country in which to be powerless or poor (or in trouble with the authorities). A hard country from which to exit "unofficially"...The lady who wrote this book of course had the added built-in and, in a Muslim country, inescapably handicapping disadvantage of being a woman.

In fact, some Egyptians can be charming and friendly and, unlike the lady here, I do like tamiyah (falafel) and --admittedly an acquired taste!-- molokiyah (a peculiar slimy vegetable soup made from indigenous green leaves), though I have to agree with her that fool (cooked beans) is foul!

The lady soon found that a Western, British woman in what Steiner called "the age of the Consciousness-soul" has different cultural expectations from a Muslim man coming from a quite backward and static culture. The financial/lifestyle differences are obviously also huge.

I had to wonder why she so quickly became enamoured of Omar, her future husband. It seems to me that 30 years of "anti-racist" propaganda in the UK has led to a situation whereby it may seem normal to a lot of girls, brainwashed by "anti-racist" propaganda during formative years of education (in schools, or via TV and magazines etc), to get involved with non-European men (Arabs, blacks, whatever...) whether in the UK or elsewhere. She does not say where she comes from but the slight evidence in the book makes me think Grimsby or that region. I think from the £-LE exchange rate and her statement that this all happened 15 years ago, around 1988-90.

I found the book a slightly skin-crawling good read on the whole.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Sep 2010 16:20:51 BDT
This is a very nice, well thought-out review by someone who clearly has experience of the country.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Sep 2010 13:30:25 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 6 Jul 2011 08:17:51 BDT]
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