El Bawab, he’s either a sturdily built or a thin man wearing a “galabeya” and has the eyes of an eagle and the ears of a bat. His job is to guard your building, run errands varying from buying bread, distributing the newspapers to calling the plumber and electrician when needed. His primary job, however, has become to document your every move. 

Our society has initiated this socially misconstructed concept that tells girls not to be late, to dress conservatively and to not let guys drive them home at night, because “El Bawab” will see them and will label them as bad products that are doomed to sit on shelves and never be bought aka “hay3aneso”. Obviously, someone woke up one morning and decided to make it his/her (but I highly think it was a he) life’s mission to turn “El Bawab hay2ool eh law shafek rag3a met2akhar, labsa keda w walad beywasalek” into a valid statement.

Who gives el Bawab the right to extend his business into the most personal aspects of a girl’s’ life? Does the Bawab have an archive on every girl that lives in his building and documents the dates of all the nights she showed up home at midnight in a car with, God forbid, a creature of the other gender? Is he saving his archives for the day one of those girls are to be married so he can give it to her groom’s family and warn them that their intended daughter in law hasn’t kept herself in pristine condition? And what if the family moves away, will the Bawab track down her new Bawab so he can hand down his archive to him and let him carry the torch?

The fact that an entire society has created and garnered meaning and truth to this “Bawab” entity that imposes on girls to behave well so they wouldn’t be seen as promiscuous tells a lot about the Egyptian society. Instead of telling them to follow rules because this is how THEY will respect themselves, they are telling them that they need the validation of “El Bawab” w “El Geran” because other people’s perception of them is more important than their own validation of themselves. We don’t need someone to tell us what to do, because we’re fully aware of what we’re doing. El Bawab’s input is a mute point. Why would a society entitle El Bawab or El Geran with the authority to label, scorn or judge us? Whether I choose to live as an orthodox Arab or live a life fueled by sex, drugs and alcohol, no one has the right to police my life or tell me what to do, especially if it’s because El Bawab might think “bad” of me.

However, this sexist and backward Bawab ideology is but a symptom of the oppressive social norms plague that’s overshadowing this country. Gender stereotypes are imposed on girls early on and the result is that they get messed up psychologically and become afraid to live in their own skin. I don’t even know who to place blame on; is it the women before us who allowed this to happen? Is it the men who imposed these rules on them? Is it society? Is it fake culture? Is it fake history? Or is it all of these elements combined?
Girls everywhere, beware of the Bawabin, the know-it-alls at the gate and the pseudo Santa Clauses, who will decide if you were naughty or good this year and prewarn your potential husband of your wild and unforgivable youth.