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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Things People Do in Public!!

OK. I know this is an odd subject for a Blog and some may find it embarrassing. It came to mind while I was walking to work this morning. Don’t ask me what triggered it because I can’t for the life of me figure it out. However, it did come to mind and I felt I had to get it down somewhere. So here goes.

I would like to make it clear at this point that I do not intend in any way to insult anyone by this Blog. I especially do not intend to insult the religion of Islam for which I have a very high regard. I am not a Muslim myself but I have chosen to live in an Islamic country and I have a very high respect for the religion. Therefore, please do not read into this anything that does not appear in black and white here in this Blog.

As I mentioned, this topic came to mind while I was walking to work this morning. It did not come directly – more sidled in somehow. I was thinking about a day a couple of years ago when I lived in a hotel but was finding my way around and needed to visit a different district in Hurghada, a place called Dahar (when I left the holiday company I moved to this district and lived there for a year. I now live in an area called Mubarak 2 near the main tourist centre of Sekala). I had wandered off the beaten track, as we say in English, down a street rarely seen by tourists to take my shoes to have new heels. I was working as a Tour Leader/Holiday Rep and they were my uniform shoes so I had to take them on my day off.

You could tell this street was not intended for tourists. There was no English, German, Russian etc anywhere in sight. Everything was in Arabic. The shops were not like the conventional shops we have in Europe and we are used to. They were all very open to the street. The ‘specialists’ were also working in open fronted ‘rooms’ (never saw any access to a back room and toilet so Heaven alone knows how they coped with basic natural necessities). Their services were advertised in Arabic but you could guess what they did by the equipment they had on view. For example, the man with bolts of cloth, a couple of sewing machines, a clothes press and some new clothes on hangers was obviously the local tailor etc. I’m sure you get the picture. Of course, in this environment, no-one speaks anything but Arabic so being understood can be difficult. At this point I had only been in Egypt about 3 months and my Arabic was about 5 phrases – the normal; yes please, no thank you, good morning/afternoon/evening, how much is it, hello, good-bye! I was obviously going to do well here – NOT.

Anyway, cutting a long (yes, it can be even longer) story short I found the shoe repair man, made him understand what I wanted, managed to understand when my shoes would be ready, and set off back towards the area called Downtown which is the old tourist centre from when Hurghada first became a holiday destination. Walking along this sides treet approaching the roundabout which marked the return to polyglotism I had to pass a coach parked alongside the pavement. I noticed the doors were open and it was when I passed the side door mid-way along the coach that I saw the events that sparked this Blog.

There were three men on board this coach. One was sitting in the back, one was standing in the aisle and one was standing in this doorway (the side door – you know, the one where you have the on-board toilet). It’s a good job I am older and a bit worldly-wise because otherwise I would have been highly embarrassed by what I saw rather than highly amused (as I was).

This man was standing, as I said, in the doorway facing the street. He was holding his galabia (this is the local name for the long garment – the unkind among you may refer to it as a dress – worn by men in Arab countries) high around his waist with his left hand. His underpants were halfway down to his knees. He was using his right hand to knead his penis and masturbate himself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oddly, he did not seem at all perturbed that people walking past would see him. I guess this man to have been in his late 50s or even early 60s and certainly old enough to know better than to do this sort of thing in public. And – what were the other men thinking being on the same coach with him and letting him carry on like that???????????

BEFORE YOU ASK – NO, I DID NOT STICK AROUND TO WITNESS THE WHOLE PERFORMANCE but I did find the whole experience exceptionally funny.

Also, it is true to say I have not seen anyone else behaving in this way the whole time I have been in Egypt, so hopefully it was a one-off.

It was a surprise to find this in an Islamic country because masturbation is expressly forbidden within the Islamic faith.

I have read a translation of the Qu’ran since I have been in Egypt in an attempt to better understand the society I have chosen to live in. I did not find any specific reference to the prohibition of masturbation, at least not in so many words. However, there are references to guarding your chastity even from your right hand which scholars interpret as forbidding masturbation. Further evidence from the Qu’ran comes from a verse that urges those who cannot afford to marry to remain chaste until God (Allah) grants them his bounty. Scholars quote further evidence from the Sunnah or Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Mohamed or records of his sayings, actions and things he approved of). I have not read the translations of these so cannot speak from first-hand knowledge.

That doesn’t really matter though. What matters is that in Islam this practice is forbidden, so what on earth was this man thinking of.

There are many Internet sites set up to inform about Islam and, here in Egypt, there are at least 2 Islamic TV channels broadcast in English – I watch Huda TV sometimes and I understand this channel is now available in the UK. Here you will find a regular forum with advice from a high level scholar of Islam (a Sheikh or Mullah). The question of masturbation arises in these sites – not frequently but often enough to be found easily – and advice is offered.

Certainly, all are advised to abstain from this practice. They are mostly advised to fast instead until the urge passes. Fasting is supposed to focus the mind on God (Allah) and away from worldly desires. I have to admit, I admire those who do fast. I tried fasting during Ramadan and barely lasted a single day so I really take my hat off to them for managing this for a whole month. I had wanted to fast as a show of support for my work colleagues but, having failed miserably, had to resort to simply making sure I did not eat or drink in front of them during this time. I would have felt really guilty enjoying my lunch or a Diet Pepsi while they watched knowing that they would not eat or drink until after dusk no matter how hungry or thirsty they were. Ramadan was during the hot weather last year making it even more difficult. This year will be yet more of a challenge because it will start in mid-August so will be hotter than last year and the days will be longer. It takes a great deal of will-power and, I am sure, help from God (Allah) to succeed. I can certainly understand this advice.

However, it seems there are extenuating circumstances where this practice is allowed.

For example, if a married couple are having physical problems in the bedroom then they are allowed to masturbate each other until they can resolve their difficulties. It is also permitted if it prevents the person involved from actually committing adultery which is an even worse sin.

Perhaps this is what the man I witnessed would claim except there was no-one there for him to commit adultery with.

Personally, I just think he was being a dirty old man. Thank goodness there aren’t too many of them around.

Still, I had a good laugh to myself at his expense and he has provided fodder for this Blog so can’t be all bad.

Let’s now sit back and enjoy the wonderful Egyptian sunshine.

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