One day, I was reading some news on my phone on the way back home on the bus. I was about to finish an article when the guy sitting right next to me literally asked me to wait a couple of minutes as he "didn't finish reading the article yet." Not only did he give himself the right to invade my privacy, but he also took no shame in expressing it out loud. Did you guess what I am going to talk about? That’s right, I'll talk about the daily invasion of privacy that happens to most of us in Egypt.
Privacy in the Public
Did you ever wonder why people are always overly touchy? We're talking about absolute strangers here. Whether it is in public transportation, some governmental institution, or a crowded street, people are always overly touchy and never respect your physical personal space. There is always someone touching a body part of yours and all you're left with is praying to God that it is an appropriate body part!
What is also amazing is that you can never have a "private" conversation in a public street in Cairo. Believe me, that "private" conversation is being eavesdropped on by at least a dozen passersby who are probably giving out their own opinions about the matter at hand.
If you just have your hair dyed or are dressed like it’s the 70s; you know you're going to get stared at a lot in the streets. I once went out with some friends in weird outfits and I got dressed as Angus Young, the AC/DC guitarist; people stared and laughed at me everywhere I went. It went as far as two guys running behind me and taking a picture with me then running away laughing. Keep in mind that when you stare at a person or give them extra unwanted attention; you are definitely not respecting their privacy.
It's Not Only the Public
Unfortunately, it's not only strangers who do not respect your personal space or privacy; a lot of us have to deal with the issue among our family members. It's nice and cool to be friends with your son/daughter. However; it's never nice to check their phones behind their backs, open chat histories, phone-book or Messenger! How many of us have gotten into fights with our parents just because we love closing the door of our room? For some reason, if you close the door, you ought to be doing something wrong. Up until today, I unconsciously feel guilty for closing the door; it always feels like I am doing something wrong.
I once got into an argument about personal space with some older people and it seems they are convinced that "a family isn't a family if you don't know everything about each member of it." This concept deconstructs the idea of personal space among family; it's not so nice to get too nosy, especially when you know your family members wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about a certain subject.
Friends can also invade your personal space; both physically and emotionally. Many of us have a friend who is always overly touchy in a very uncomfortable way or a friend who feels jealous or upset because we don't share every detail of our lives with them. You might even have one of those friends who can never keep your secrets to themselves. For me, the worst are the ones who feel like they have the right to bring whomever they want when we’re going out without even giving me a heads up.
Romantic Relationships Didn't Survive It
Sadly, in romantic relationships, personal space isn’t often respected. Many times, we hear about a relationship turning abusive/toxic because one partner never respects the other's personal space. It's very common to learn that a partner never respects the other's physical space and wants to touch him/her whenever they want, that a partner is always nagging and pressing their lover for their secrets, or that a partner is fighting with their significant other because they want to spend some time with their friends and not them.
The Art of Respecting Personal Space
After all, one question remains: What should be done? Respecting people's personal space and privacy is the obvious answer.
If you're walking in the street keep to yourself; don't unnecessarily stare at someone or eavesdrop on a conversation. If you're in public transport try to keep some space between you and the person next to you, especially if she’s a lady, be nice! If you're withdrawing money from an ATM don't look at anyone else's pin code or check how much money they're withdrawing. If your son/daughter/friend does not want to talk about something, then respect that and tell them that whenever they want to talk about it, you will be there to listen. If someone is uncomfortable touching people, don’t touch them. Finally, if you're in a relationship, personal space/privacy is one of the most important things you can give to your partner!
So, What If You’re the Victim?
Your friends or romantic partner should be your comfort zone, so make sure you never let it slide when one of them invades your personal space. However; you have to be more delicate when it comes to family members or strangers. If you’re going to point it out, make sure you do so in the most diplomatic and respectable manner.
That concludes it, Contras! Don't hesitate to share your thoughts and comments on personal space in Cairo. Until next time, keep on reading!