Glowing Lantern

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, April 28, 2008

I met Glowing Lantern on the train from Aswan to Cairo.  Her seat was the window seat next to mine.  Wearing a head scarf, she was a young student going back to her college in Sinai, after a visit to her sister in Aswan.  She spoke excellent English that she learned mostly on her own; clearly she was motivated and energetic and intelligent.  As Egypt passed by the windows, we talked about what it is to be a young woman in the Muslim world.

When Glowing Lantern--her self-given penname--was much younger, her father moved to the United Arab Emirates, where he practices law. He trusts his daughters and lets them do what they want, providing it is moral and permitted by God, so she went back to Egypt to study pharmaceuticals.  Later, Glowing Lantern wants to work in Europe, as it's too crowded in Egypt and too hot in the Middle East.  She asks her father for advice, but "you must make your own decision," he would tell her.

Glowing Lantern wasn't married yet, but hoped to fall in love: "love marriages are more common now in the Muslim world." 

But being a woman in the Middle East isn't always easy:

"I was groped one time," she admitted, saying that she wasn't sure how to react, later talking with her father about it.  When she sees Western tourists dressing with little clothing and the Egyptian men following her with their eyes, she feels "ashamed for them." 

"People should dress like other people in the place where you live, otherwise people look."  Even the women wearing burkhas draw extra attention because of the mystique, she added.  With men having easy access to all the internet porn sites and prostitution, problems such as groping are hidden by a false sense of outwards piety (of course not in every man).

Glowing Lantern had read the Koran, yet still wasn't sure what happens when women die. This was one of the main parts of the Koran that seemed both illogical and unreasonable, yet it was there, clearly written and unwritten:

As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed virgins for companions: a truly overflowing cup. (Koran 78:31).

"I don't know, maybe we rejoin our husbands," she wondered.

After a good talk, we fell asleep as the train continued north, reaching Cairo in the early morning.
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