Women stand outside the door of La Femme purchasing tickets to what they feel is their private oasis. As they enter, hijabs are tugged off, abayah’s (long robes) are removed, and a parade of colorful swimsuits fills this no-man’s land.
La Femme is one of two private women s beaches in the popular summer spot Marina on the North Coast. Inside women can lounge on the beach or pool-side in a bikini with no prying eyes. For many men this is an ideal situation.
“My husband doesn’t want me to go out in a bikini, and he doesn’t want anyone to see me, said Rehab, 30. “I come here because it’s easier. I can do what I like, and he isn’t anxious.
Besides giving women – veiled or not – a space to enjoy the summer sun freely, jealousy, ( gheerah in Arabic) has been one of the reasons La Femme and places like it are popular in Egypt. However, while in the English language jealousy has negative connotations, gheerah can mean both jealousy and protection.
Rehab is a computer science professor in Connecticut, and has lived there for the five years she has been married. For her, gheerah can be extremely frustrating at times.
“One of my co-workers lives near me, and his car broke down one day, she said. “I wanted to give him a ride but I had to make sure to call my husband to get an OK. It was irritating because I had to wait for him to answer, and I couldn’t leave my co-worker stranded.
He removed male friends from her Facebook account, and stopped inviting single friends to the house. However, while Rehab feels that sometimes her husband goes overboard, she understands and wants to make things work.
“The closer the relationship is, the harder it is, she said. “But you let things go because your relationship with him is more important than anything else.
Hussein met his soon to be fiancé in school. He says that like any man he felt a pang whenever Safa would talk to guys for reasons other than work and school. While his trust in her is unfailing, he doesn’t trust the ill intentions of the men around her, even his own friends.
“I feel it is something that comes gradually, said Hussein, 25. “Once I started caring about people, I would want to protect them from the outside world. It’s not that I don’t trust her, it’s that I don’t trust the people around her.
However, Hussein points out that even though this is something he feels, he doesn’t act upon it. He won’t fight with her or even his friends because of what might be a trivial matter, even if it does bug him.
“I don’t want to stifle her, he said. “I talk to her bit by bit and we decide on how things should be together. If something is bothering me, and I ask her not to do it she won’t do it because she cares about me. Being jealous is not bad, it’s something that is in all men.
But not all Egyptian men are overly jealous, or protective. Mervat, 43, says her husband is open-minded, and doesn’t worry himself about these things. According to her, he thinks things through, and that makes a world of difference.
“If a man were to say something to me on the street my husband would look him up and down and not fight with him, she said. “There are others that will make it a huge issue. My cousin would run to the car grab a stick and beat the man with it. You need to think about what you are doing, and why. It saves a lot of heartache.
The women at La Femme have to deal with fatherly love also. This relationship can be just as overwhelming as a romantic one. Fathers may smother their daughters with too much love, and gheerah, making it difficult for her to blossom socially and in her career.
“My father wants to own me, said Dana Abbasy, 23, an employee at La Femme. “When I am working he isn’t convinced that I might be busy, and can’t answer his calls. He tells me that he wants me to be married, but he doesn’t know how to let me go.
Shereen is 16, and feels that sometimes her father’s jealousy is unfounded. She wants to go out and have fun with her friends, and he wants her to spend time with him. While she enjoys spending time with her father, his jealousy of her friends and social circle is straining their relationship.
“It makes me feel like he doesn’t trust me, she said. “This bothers me. I tell him everything, so he should trust me. Jealousy has a hint of suspicion and I can’t handle that. Psychaitrist Dr Nasser Loza warns against the dangers of jealousy. The hint of suspicion can turn into something far more dangerous.
“At the end of the day I have this feeling that my partner is being unfaithful, said Loza. “I may go and accuse my partner and be violent with her, or I go and aggress someone else.
He sites the Othello syndrome, named after Shakespeare’s famous play. This syndrome stems from jealousy but turns into recurring delusions of infidelity. Eventually, someone suffering from the syndrome may act out violently against the accused. He may search for evidence, repeatedly interrogate his partner, test his partner’s fidelity, and sometimes stalk her at all hours. Eventually this can lead to aggression, homicide, and even suicide. The syndrome is found mostly in men, but also impacts women.
“There is nothing positive about jealousy, nothing at all, not that I would support, said Loza. “I think that people who are secure within themselves, and love each other will feel that, and jealousy should not be an issue.