21-year-old Egyptian girl Fatima Awad decided to change her lifestyle and switch to a vegetarian diet. In Denmark, where she lives, a plant-based culture is slowly becoming the norm. However, when she returned to her native Egypt, the girl faced misunderstanding and condemnation. Fatima is not the only vegetarian who does not feel comfortable in Egyptian society. During Eid Al-Adha, vegetarians and animal rights activists object to animal sacrifice. During one such event, Nada Helal, a student at the American University in Cairo, made the decision to stop eating meat.
Islamic Sharia law prescribes several rules regarding the slaughter of livestock: a well-sharpened knife must be used to make a quick and deep cut. The anterior part of the throat, carotid artery, trachea and jugular vein are cut in order to cause the least suffering to the animal. Egyptian butchers do not follow the rule specified in Muslim law. Instead, the eyes are often gouged out, the tendons are slashed, and other horrific acts are performed. Helal says. , said Iman Alsharif, a clinical pharmacy student at MTI University.
Currently, vegetarianism, like veganism, is viewed with skepticism in Egypt. Young vegetarians admit that most families treat this choice with disdain. , says Nada Abdo, a recent graduate of Dover American International School. Families, if not forced to return to “normal” food, many of them will regard all this as temporary, transient. Vegetarians in Egypt often avoid azayem (dinner parties), such as family reunions, so as not to bother explaining their choice to all relatives. Generous by nature, the Egyptians feed their guest “to satiety” with dishes that, for the most part, contain meat products. Refusing food is considered disrespectful. , says Hamed Alazzami, a dental student at Misr International University.
Some vegetarians, like designer Bishoy Zakaria, don’t let their eating habits influence their social lives. Many note the support of friends in their choice. Alsharif notes: . Alsharif continues. It is also worth noting that many Egyptians are vegetarians without knowing it. More than a quarter of the country’s population lives below the poverty line; there is no meat in the diet of such people. Zakaria says. Fatima Awad notes.