Wed, 10/21/2009 - 14:04
For the first time in recent history, the Egyptian women have spoken with a clear message. “7alawtek Ya Fifi” has opened near Attaba square and promises a new, revolutionary movement for women in Egypt and the Arab world. The women-only ahwa is the first of its kind and is an apparent reaction to the male-dominated traditional cafés that have been around since the revolution.
In an interview with EKT, ahwa-owner Fardous “Fifi” Hassouna has expressed her ecstatic joy at the success of the business proposal she had been working tirelessly on. “I would like to congratulate all of the Egyptian women”, she commented, “but let me tell you, my son, my heart’s love, it wasn’t like a hair in dough."
Fifi has had to serve 3 years in prison after being accused of promoting prostitution, as her lifelong dream of an ahwa strictly for women was not shared by many at the high constitutional court. Nevertheless, Fifi has refused to surrender and came back strong to implement what is now the place to be for married and single women all over town.
Aside from the fact that it is socially unacceptable for men to have a cup of tea at 7alawtek Ya Fifi, there are other aspects that make it even more unique. Fifi and her staff clean the ahwa continuously to ensure the highest level of hygiene. Added to that, there are framed portraits of some of the most influential women in Egyptian history: Om Kolthoum, Leila Morad, and Fifi Abdo – a life-long idol and inspiration for Fifi and her sister/right-arm Foffa.
Along with the usual backgammon, dominoes and shisha, customers can enjoy larger TV screens with the latest from the soap-opera world and access to a land-line where they can make cheap calls. It is prohibited to talk about football, and there is a Turkish bathroom that shockingly has running water and continuous supply of toilet-paper.
The downside, however, are some of the habits that accompany such an ambience. Observing from afar, the EKT staff has witnessed sexual harassment and verbal abuse towards younger males roaming the streets, but Fifi seems to be believe that it’s only natural. “It’s only normal for women to express their appreciation for the beauty that God has created for us,” she explains, “and when I see a kid like honey swaying his way across, and in revealing outfit, I have to let him know that he should have some respect for himself and his honor and dignity.”
Another issue that Fifi will have to tackle is the reaction of many men whose wives are regular customers. Her husband, Mohamed “Shakshouka” Abdel-Motteleb, is said to have received many hard-toned phone calls, and has insisted he is supporting his wife and entrepreneur. In fact, Shakshouka has boycotted his ahwa and vowed to stay at home and take on cooking and cleaning.
Perhaps the time has come for men to realize that they are not the only gender operating in the Egyptian society, and it takes courageous, hard-hearted women like Fifi and Foffa to send the message loud and clear. It seems like we have now embarked on a journey with a new destination that has both men and women on board, and only time will tell how liberal societies, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, will join the new movement.