Living Off the Nile

“Man on the Floor!”

November 6th, 2010 by asmetana · 1 Comment

“Man on the Floor!…Man on the Floor!…Man on the Floor!” The second or third day after moving in to my room in Zamalek, I did not know why in the world a woman was yelling in the hallway. I could not hear the words clearly through the door and didn’t want to open my door to see what was happening since I was in a comfortable position. Later, I discovered that she was yelling “Man on the Floor!”. No, a man had not fallen on the floor, but was present on the floor. Whenever a man is in the girl’s side of the dorms, a female guard escorts him. She will notify the entire floor of his presence by yelling. She will close the bathroom door and bedroom doors as well. Once, a girl who was in the bathroom when the door was shut could not get back out. It had apparently locked and she had no way to unlock it from the inside. She was in there for quite some time calling for salvation until a passerby heard her and freed her. That girl was me…Just kidding! But it could have been.

In the beginning I found the whole warning system highly amusing and slightly ridiculous. It felt like the entire floor was going on lock-down. My dorms at home were co-ed and last year my RA was male. If there was a man on the floor, who cared?  But, the warning is very useful and welcome to many of the girls who wear hijabs. Since they normally do not wear them when they are in their rooms or hanging around the floor, they would feel extremely uncomfortable if a man were to appear without warning and saw them unveiled. It is nice to for those who have just come out of the shower and are walking back to their rooms with only a towel.

Whenever there needs to be some mechanical maintenance done to the room, a man is normally sent up. The woman guard will then supervise the job and the door will remain open. This was interesting. Do I need to be protected from the maintenance workers? Should I feel threatened, vulnerable, or uncomfortable being in a room alone with them while they do their job? If there was a women worker in a male students room, I doubt there would have to be a male guard watching over. I had asked some of the boys if there is ever a “Woman on the Floor!” warning on their side of the dorms. Nope, any work that needs to be done there is done by women.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Justin Mattos // Nov 8th 2010 at 1:50 am

    Fascinating. Have you had a chance to talk or acquire any feminist texts from Egypt or that culture? It would be interesting to hear such a perspective that was not influenced by a Western point of view so it was more organic/accurate. Of course if that is not possible, at least one where they acknowledged the influence, tried to overcome it, and didn’t want to emigrate as soon as possible would be really interesting. The concept of a feminist has changed over the years and it is more complicated than feminist or not because well, being a man isn’t everything to be brief I suppose.