rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Topless at the Pyramids: Can't a tourist just be a tourist?

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

It wasn't meant to be a day of activism. Honest. Exhausted by a week of intense protesting and meetings, I slept until almost noon and missed a plan for additional actions this morning. Some Canadians at our hotel wanted to  at least catch a glimpse of the Pyramids during their time in Egypt, so we decided to do what the Egyptian government has been asking us to do all along and just be tourists. Thought it was already mid-afternoon, we decided that a little bit of Pyramids was better than none, so five of us jumped in a cab and after what seemed like an eternity in noisy traffic we were there.

No time to see the insides of any of the monuments, so we just got the basic Area tickets. As we went through the security at the entrance, our T-shirts caught the attention of the guards. Now, we've been traveling light (most of our luggage space was dedicated to donations that went to Gaza), most of our clothes are unlaundered and we happen to have a lot of activist T-shirts. So as luck (no planning) would have it, two of us were wearing the catchy black I am Gaza T-shirt which the Canadian delegation had made. Which apparently caught someone`s attention...

We were only a few steps into the Pyramids compound when the tourist police were running after us calling "Stop!" They wanted us to go back and talk to their officer inside, but that wasn't going to happen, so the officer came to us. He read the message on the T-shirts and insisted the T-shirts were "Forbidden!" inside the Pyramids compound. We pointed out that they were the only clothes we'd brought, and that we only wanted to be tourists and visit the Pyramids. More guards kept arriving and insisting that we leave, now, with them. We refused and a small crowd of onlookers began to form.

Finally, to break the impasse, we decided that since the offending image was on the outside of our t-shirts, all we had to do was take the tops off and turn around. Which we did, right there. The sight of a topless woman was of course very shocking -- the guards immediately turned around to avert their eyes (though one seemed to change his mind and turned back catch a glimpse of what he was missing). The three other women there (wearing more inoccuous tops) all cheered for Wendy. Some of the onlookers were traditional Bedouin types who began reprimanding the guards (according to one of our Arabic-speaking friends) for their lack of respect towards a woman. We asked the guards pointedly if this was the image of Egypt's welcome for tourists that they wanted the world to have, and we made it clear that we were going to continue on our way and see what we could of the sites.

They reluctantly let us go, but we were treated to a police escort for the rest of our visit, and the five of us were not permitted to split up or try to leave separately. It seemed like being escorted by the police actually helped reduce the amount of hustling we were subjected to from the assorted souvenir-vendors, camel-jockeys, tour-guides and horse-buggy-drivers who swarm around most tourists. And while we had only a short time to take in the sites, we made a point of looking inside our T-shirts (see photo) each time we took a picture, to have a look at that dangerous image that was too dangerous to be seen inside the Pyramids compound. I was reminded of the great Canadian precedent of Dukhobors who demostrated in the nude (as God made them) for religious freedom.

As we gawked at the enormity of the stone edifices, we couldn't help be struck by the contrast between the clear blue sky over the desert on the outskirst the city, and the thick haze of smog that hung over Cairo -- what we'd been breathing all week.

We left, happy we had managed to at least have a look at one of the Wonders of the World.

Wendy says she just wishes she had worn a bettter bra.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.