What does women dancing in public tell us about the pulse of the citizenry during Egypt’s constitutional referendum?

Participation, Power and Social Change Research at IDS

Mariz TadrosMariz_Tadros200

An unusual phenomenon was observed on the streets of Egypt on the first day of the constitutional referendum (14 January 2013): perfectly respectable looking Egyptian women were dancing in public in full daylight. It was spontaneous, clearly not planned nor a staged spectacle, nor could these women be shunned as agents of a ‘decadent’ West. In fact they were all veiled women, many in abayyas [long black robes worn over clothes as a sign of modesty]. These women came from across all classes – from the visibly wealthy upper class to the petit bourgeoisie and working class (whom made up the majority). None of the men on the street that stopped to watch sought to harass, condemn or rebuke these women, in fact some joined in. It was contagious, by the second day of the referendum, the dancing amidst the ululation and jeering was observed outside…

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