At a Christmas party last night,* I met an Egyptian woman. That is, she was born in Egypt but had emigrated to the US forty years ago as a youth. She returns to Cairo frequently to visit family. Over the years she has been struck by the cultural changes: the increasing Islamification of Egypt. More women are wearing traditional Islamic dress and observing strict religious behavior. Cairo is no longer a safe city for a woman alone. She attributed these changes to the 1979 Iranian revolution, spreading Islamism throughout the region.
The pictures of graduating class at Cairo University from 1959 through 2004 tell a similar tale:
As you can see, the female graduates in 1959 and 1978 had bare arms, wore short sleeved blouses, dresses, or pants, and were both bare-faced and bare-headed. By 1995, we see a smattering of headscarves—and by 2004 we see a plurality of female university graduates in serious hijab: Tight, and draping the shoulders.
While this fits in with my image of Iran or Saudi Arabia, it’s not what comes to mind for Egypt. Presumably, it applies to all of north Africa, from Egypt to Morocco. It’s worse than I thought.
*Yes, I know it’s weeks from Christmas.