THE MAN ON THE HORSE

My name is Ragaa. I was born in Egypt, Cairo. My mom came from a French background, but she was born in Egypt. My dad was Egyptian. 

Every year during the school vacation, the summer, we have three months, my father would go and rent a chalet on the water for us, and then go back to Egypt and leave me and my sister and my brother, or my sister and my brother and me, and mommy in Alexandria. And he would come back on his vacation, which is the last month of ours, and he would be with us, until we go back all together to Cairo. 

I had two swimming costumes, so I was very happy to go every day with the family to the beach. My father was not minding that, and my family, we all together go always in the water without so many thoughts or anything. 

But when I got married, I asked my husband, “I have two swimming costumes, what do I do with them?” 

He said, “Take them with you, because the girls have swimming pools in the school. It’s an English school, and you can go with the girls. My two sisters will be able to have you.” 

I said, “Oh, great, wonderful.” But none of that happened. 

I went to the Sudan and they never asked me to go with them. And I was very angry that I wasn’t able to go with them. But they came to ask me if they can borrow my swimming costumes, so that they can go. Although I felt shy and I couldn’t say no. 

I said, “Why not?” I gave them the swimming costumes. They went and they did whatever they did, and they came back and they washed them and put them on the line in the backyard.

So my father-in-law was walking and he came across them on the line in the backyard. He asked them, “What are these?” 

They said, “They belong to Ragaa.” 

He came to me in the room. He always wanted his respect, so he came and stood next to me and he said, “George is talking: stand up!”

So out of respect, I stood up. Ok. He said, “What are these things on the line?” 

I said, “What things?” 

He said, “These two things,” and he pointed with his cane at the line. 

I said, “Oh, these are my swimming costumes.” 

“What are they doing here?” 

I said, “I was cleaning the closet and I found them dusty, so I said I’ll wash them and put them on the line to dry.” I did not get his two daughters involved, so they will not be in trouble.

So he said, “Oh, did you have this to wear? What are these exactly? Who do they belong to?” 

I said, “This is when you go to swim, it’s called swimming costumes. You wear them and go in the water.” 

He said, “You wore these two rags?!” 

And I said, “Yes!”

He said, “Where?” 

I said, “To swim.” 

He said, “And the whole beach looked at you?” 

I said, “No, not the whole beach. We used to go from eight o’clock to ten o’clock, because from eight to ten the beach is left for women and girls only, females. And then after ten o’clock everybody can swim.” 

He said, “And who made this rule?” 

I said, “The government got a guy on a horse, and he told the whole beach going back and forth: ‘No man is to walk on the beach until these females go out.’”

He said, “Oh my God.” 

I said, “What?” 

He said, “You want to tell me that the man on the horse saw you wearing this thing???” 

I said, “Yes, well, I don’t know.” 

He said, “If I ever knew that before you got married, I’ll never ever let my son marry you!” 

How could his son marry somebody who wore these rags on the beach and the whole beach saw me – no not the whole beach, just the man on the horse, that is enough! Hahaha!  

Here you have all the freedom, all the freedom, you do what you want and nobody tells you anything. 

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