How Taymour and Shafika Portrayed the Reality of Egyptian Relationships 11 Years Ago

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One of my favorite things about re-watching movies is the fact that I always notice new details and messages that I had previously missed. I sometimes even discover that I was missing like half the plot.

This happened to me recently while watching the movie Taymour and Shafika, but on a grand scale. The last time I watched this movie I discovered that one of my favorite fictional comedies as a teenager is actually a real life nightmare. With every single fight Taymour had with Shafika I found myself growing more and more irritated; not only because I hated the character’s authoritarian personality and backward thinking, but also because he sadly portrays the better half of Egyptian men perfectly.

There are so many messages and ideas in this movie worth a very heated discussion and trust me, I will get to every single one of them, but let’s just first try to agree that Taymour can’t be considered any independent woman’s dream boy. Why? Because no independent woman could ever get used to someone constantly telling her what to do or limiting her in any way. She’s never going to love the idea of someone making all her decisions for her or undermining her capabilities and defining her horizons. Most importantly, she’s never going to give up on her dreams just so that her man could feel “man enough.”

So what exactly bugged me about this 2007 film?

The ominous signs in all of Taymour and Shafika’s fights and the subliminal messages they sent to the audience made the movie unbearable to watch. So let’s take a deeper look at what these disagreements really meant and find out how they reinforced an ideology that women around the world are struggling to fight until today.

Fight #1 Her Circle of Friends

In the first few minutes of the movie, Taymour fights with Shafika because he sees her hanging out with her girlfriends and a guy when he goes to pick her up from college. He argues that he doesn’t want her talking to any guys; something that most Egyptian men demand from their partners in real life. Apart from the fact that it should be normal to have friends from the opposite sex, I don’t get how he expects her to cut off all communication with guys, seeing as she’s bound to work with them whether on school projects or in her job. During this same fight, Shafika calls him out for starting a fight and ending it according to his mood, something he justifies by saying: “Of course, aren’t I the man or what?” And then they say “el setat nekadeya.”

Fight #2 Her Circle of Friends - Part 2

When the couple goes to a friend’s birthday party and Taymour is having a heated discussion with Shafika’s colleague from college, he asks him (while giving Shafika death stares): “Does Shafika even engage in discussions with you?” You could instantly notice how she shifts uncomfortably; knowing that he can easily consider this a reason for a huge argument. Once again, she’s living in the constant fear of him snapping for absolutely no reason.

Fight #3 The Job Opportunity

Later on, the couple argue once again but this time it’s because he doesn’t “give her permission” to take a UN-related job opportunity while she’s in college, as he doesn’t want to have to worry about her male coworkers laying eyes on her. Shafika stands her ground, saying that if he truly loved her he would not try to limit her but on the contrary would support her career. She also adds that she’s more than able to take care of herself. And although he “agrees” to let her take that job, it’s a very draining process to have to go through in the first place. Why should she have to explain to him all the reasons she should take the job when he totally ignores her potential and simply chooses to focus on the chances of her talking to her male coworkers?

Fight #4 The Weekend Getaway

The next fight is the one that causes their breakup. Taymour is ordered to cancel his vacation because of important work commitments and therefore he automatically denies Shafika the right to travel or go out with her girlfriends while he’s away, leaving her with the option of only inviting her friends over to her house. Shafika’s misery and distress start to show as she feels very left out and unable to live her life the way her friends do. Those were the feelings that drove her to travel with her friends behind his back in order to just relax for three days. But even after she went, her guilt over lying to Taymour kept her on edge.

I’m not trying to justify the fact that she lied, but at the same time I can’t come up with any reasonable explanation as to why she should be on lockdown whenever he’s not around. Why should Taymour, the person who claims to love her the most, be the one who takes her freedom away from her? Why does he bluntly ignore the fact that she too is a human being who needs to go out and have fun from time to time? Or to phrase it more accurately, why is she only allowed to have fun when he’s around? For a person who claims to care about her happiness, he sure does an amazing job at making her miserable.

The Breakup

Even when Taymour finds out about her trip and they discuss the problem, he refuses to understand the reasons behind her decision to keep it from him. He doesn’t appreciate how much she has given up, including her ideal lifestyle, to keep him happy. He also fails to understand that even if he was making sacrifices of his own, she still had unfulfilled needs and desires. In the end, he chooses to break up with her instead of trying to find a middle ground that could satisfy them both. From his point of view, she had to accept him the way he was or it was never going to work. My question here is, what about her? What about her beliefs, thoughts, and dreams? Don’t they play any role in that relationship?

The Proposal Breakup

He does the exact same thing again towards the end of the movie, when he asks her to marry him on the condition that she would leave her position as a minister. I could go on for days on how selfish and self-absorbed this request is but I’ll try to keep it short. When they were broken up, Shafika continued to work hard and thrived until she became the youngest female Minister of Environment in the country. She’s actually doing a job that benefits her country and is obviously succeeding in it. Now he wants her to easily diminish all of that because his ego can’t allow him to marry her while she’s a minister and he’s just a security guard. When she refuses to give up her job, he drops the proposal.

To summarize this whole thing, I’m not trying to portray Egyptian men as evil human beings; Taymour may be the perfect husband for many women and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, I simply think it’s completely unfair of someone with Taymour’s mentality and outlook on life to expect an independent woman like Shafika to give up everything that truly defines her as a person only to be with him, even if he loved her more than anything in the world.

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