An Egyptian friend of ours, Moustafa, was hanging out wiht us as he often does. We all decided to go back to our hotel to relax before bed. Unfortunately, not all of us made it. It is illegal for an Egyptian to be in a hotel where he is not staying. This was shocking because he had been allowed in before, during the day. We were told that under no circumstances could he come in with us at night, the expectation being that he was there to harm us, in one way or another, and that would be bad for business.
We’ve been warned that in a dicey situation, our American passports will save us, but not our friends. We can speak and dress freely, because we are seen as silly Americans who don’t know any better, but are a cash cow. This means that at western-style clubs our EGyptian friends are turned away, and at the Arab Women’s Organization conference our Arab friends have a whole separate set of rules. They cannot swim if we swim, they have a curfew of 12:30, they may not drink and they may not be affectionate with us in any way. Some of these rules seem silly or arbitrary, but they do bother us. They may not hang out with us because we spend our time in our hotel rooms, and they may not go into the room of the opposite gender, especially an American.
We have no such rules.
I asked, indignant, why no one told us about the rules.
“You are Americans,” he said. “There are things in your culture that we cannot do. Just be yourselves, and we will be responsible to step away”