On our 2016 visit to Egypt, we often went to Orman Park to jog. It was a unique view into Egyptian culture, since we often interacted with locals when we went there (paying a small admission fee, asking for pictures, high fives, etc). One day while we were jogging, a Muslim girl started jogging with us.
Nearly every day of the two months we spent in Egypt began with a jog at Orman Park. Cairo is a big city of ugly concrete slabs, so the park was a nice escape. It was in the park when we did our jogging that the Arabic line-in-the-sand between men and women was most starkly highlighted. John and I jogged together. Lydian went along too, sometimes jogging at her own pace, sometimes keeping pace with us. Groups of teenage girls would take up residence in one area of the park. Groups of teenage boys would congregate in another area. According to our female Arabic instructor, these two groups weren’t allowed to mix organically without their family’s blessings.
Every now and then, a girl in one of the girl-groups would break away and jog with us. Our Arabic instructor told us that this was probably something she’d wanted to do for some time. She may have wanted to just RUN for years, but didn’t feel like it was appropriate behavior for a woman. Seeing other women running gave her the courage to try it. Sometimes boys would run with us too, but often, they’d race with us. The boys were allowed to run. When Lydi and I walked or ran through the park alone, without John, the boys would surround us, curious about women, particularly foreign women (who are rumored to be very “loose” apparently). They’d want pictures with us, taking turns one-by-one. In Egypt these transactions were friendly and interesting overall. Some changes are happening in terms of the relationship between men and women in this country, but it’s slow-going. In this video at Orman Garden, you can see the process of change in action.