Experiencing life as a woman is complex. Experiencing life as an Arab woman is even more complex. Experiencing life as an Arab woman abroad is extremely complex and filled with nuances. Salma El-Wardany is an Egyptian-Irish Muslim writer who incorporates these experiences and the emotions involved in her work. Recently, she visited Cairo and posted thought-provoking photos coupled with her very own poetry which reflect her deeply personal experiences. The intersection of her experiences certainly makes for interesting and significant content, and sadly it is content that is not often represented and portrayed in mainstream media and art.
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There are two Egyptian women working in the public toilets. …. One is smiling and talking to me in Arabic while the other nods in agreement. I understand snatches of their conversation and mutter some words in English. I am too unsure of myself. Have been away from home too long. My country seems to be disappearing from my skin as I stand confronted by women who have lived their whole lives in this soil. I feel like a stranger. Know they have more right to this land. I’m scared to present myself as one of them. … As I leave the bathroom she tells her friend that I am a foreigner, don’t worry about talking to her, she doesn’t understand. Her friend replies in shock, swears I look like them. … I leave fast. Hurry away from their questioning looks. They’re looking for Egypt in me. Waiting for me to answer in my mother tongue. I feel like I don’t have the right. I am once more home and still remain a foreigner. … I wonder if this will follow me everywhere. If even the land that birthed me will spit me back out when I am looking only to be claimed. … ???? by the talented @nader.abdo … #Cairo #Egypt #Home #Travel #travelling #mixedrace #writing #myegypt #write
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This country can tear you apart. … I always leave it hungry for more. Wanting to be part of these dusty streets and the 1am laughter. There is always laughter at 1am on the streets of Cairo. … This city pulls me into it until I can no longer resist. Teases me with a dream. With the laughter. Promises me everything. I have lost myself to this city many times. We’re slow lovers. Always touching. Tasting. One hand on each other, never completely letting go. We pull each other back. … But just like lovers who can’t decided whether they’ll stay and put the work in, we are heartless with each other. We can be cruel. These streets can be unforgiving and if you spend enough time on them, the endless traffic, the pollution, the shouting, there is always shouting on the streets of Cairo, you begin to grow weary of one another. … The frustration of unfulfilled promises leaves cruel words on our tongue and we grow angry and resentful. We say things we don’t mean. Are hurtful. We prod at the bruises because we know just how to make them bloom. We pull apart from one another, angry and with scrapped knees from the ways in which we fell over each other. We leave and swear never to return. … But just like slow lovers, when enough time has passed, we begin to ache for one another and cannot help but answer the call. Then we tumble hot and heavy into each other once more hoping that this time, this time it will be different. …. ???? by @nader.abdo who understands this City. … #Cairo #Egypt #myegypt #travel #travelling #mixedrace #write #writing #igthoughts #spilledink
The photos, each taken in important or notable areas of Egypt, represent specific themes in her poetry. Under one photo, taken at the Mohamed Ali Mosque located in Cairo’s famous Citadel, she expresses the feeling that pretty much every woman knows all too well, which is the softening and shrinking of their own being, in order to fit into a man’s image. She even compares a woman’s strength and resilience to the marble from which the mosque was constructed.
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We women are a lot like the desert. … We know how to survive when the land is barren. We have learnt how to thrive in the harshest conditions, with only the smallest encouragement. … We are desert roses. Blooming when and where we can, snatching at the light whenever it comes along, drinking deeply when we get the chance. … We have lived in deserts our whole life. The air is always too hot. The conditions too hash. The sand is still in our mouths. … But yet, still, even so, we bloom. We rise. We grow. We thrive. You may think this land is not as beautiful as green pastures, but I’ve never known any material harder than woman, and we were raised in barren places. … The men we know have had it easier. Grow happier. Have never had to fight for their survival. But the men we know are not much to look at. Have grown into pale versions of what they could be. And us. We women. We have been fed nothing but fire and ash and yet look how brightly we burn. … ???? by @nader.abdo who understands the flames. … #egypt #cairo #fayoum #travel #write #writing #woman #desert #webloom
El-Wardany’s message is not only conveyed through photos and poetry, but also in public speaking. Check out her recent Ted Talk on her experiences as a multi-cultural Muslim woman, and her fight for a new narrative surrounding Muslims in the world today. Her work is not only enriching and enlightening, but a comfort to Arab women everywhere who deeply need to bond over these experiences and emotions.