The day before going to Upper Egypt, we met Yasmine in an impressive modern mall in Cairo. She used to be a student of teacher Nagui, now working and finishing an MBA. Yasmine is an open minded woman with strong willing, still Muslim but in a liberal way and kind of feminist, at least fighting for women’s rights. We had very interesting discussions about the past, current and hoping future situation of the Egyptian society. Walking through the streets in Cairo, you see a lot of woman partially or fully covered (chador), and more now than before the revolution. This movement is however pretty new in Egypt and comes from Saudi Arabia in the 70’s and 80’s: Egyptians used to work in SA and bring their habits there back to Egypt. In which direction this 30 years old change is going? What will be the consequence of the recent presidential election with the victory of Morsi supported by the Muslim Brotherhood? I hope for the Egyptians they will not get the ridiculous restrictions the Iranians have!
Currently, Islam is very important in the Egyptian society: many are practicing Muslims, praying 5 times a day, like Adel, the guide in Aswan who left him time to pray between or in the middle of a visit!
I had the opportunity to visit some Mosques. You have there a clear separation between men and women. Only men are allowed to go inside, the women stay outside: only men are responsible for the dialog with God.
I read a small book comparing the women position in the Koran (Muslim) with the Bible (Christian) and Torah (Jews). Short summary: the older books are much worse with the women than the Koran. IMHO, it is however not about what the holy books describe, but much more how it is used in the society: I do respect all religions and beliefs, but IMHO, the holy texts need to be understood within the current society, and maybe not take each detail granted as it is written!