Monday, February 28th, 2011

Burqas, Miniskirts and Sex: My Childhood in Saudi and Egypt

Eriche -

I remember my early childhood, growing up in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), as disturbing. Forced to cover my body in black from head to toe in the morning to go to school and then changing into a miniskirt to go out in the evenings was the source of much confusion for an eight-year-old girl. It was not at all easy for an Egyptian, moderate Muslim family to cope with the restrictions imposed in Saudi Arabia. As a Muslim, I believe in prudency; however, imposing a black cloak on women is extreme.


At the age of ten, after seven years in KSA, my parents decided to return to Egypt. I was eager to discover the world when we arrived but I was not very well prepared for the open society in which I was re-entering. From the restrictions in KSA to casual conversations in Egypt about boys, puberty and sex, the world shifted dramatically for me. Even though KSA and Egypt share the teachings of Islam, including prudency and restraint, each society practices Islam in its own way, contradicting the other. Navigating these contradictions from an early age made me think a lot about women’s roles with regard to sex and education.


I was raised with the idea that speaking about sex is a taboo. I was also taught through religion that virginity is a must and that personal discussions about sex are not allowed between friends. Sex is too private and personal to talk about. I therefore believe that virginity is a form of chastity that is necessary in our lives. Most women in Egypt preserve their virginity until married so there is no space to even ask a woman if she is a virgin. From my own humble, religious perspective, this is positive. However, maintaining virginity was mistakenly linked to barring sex education for girls. Egypt is a country that gags the correct information, giving license to misguided gossip.


I can remember how this gossip shaped itself into our lives. Egyptian girls talk a lot about the phantom of the wedding night. Speculation among 12-year-old girls over what happens on that night is a huge source of inaccurate and exaggerated sex information. As we got older and became brides-to-be, the gossip only grew worse. The main problem is that every married Egyptian woman thinks she is a marriage advisor and should shoulder the responsibility of giving brides-to-be sex advice. Accordingly, she tries to educate brides from her own very personal experience on what they will encounter on their wedding night and beyond. These silly “advisors” fuel gossip and ignorance because even if they want to be encouraging, they only increase brides’ apprehension and anxiety.


I was fortunate to have two open-minded parents who provided me with an education on sex-related issues, which helped me through the contradictions I noticed when I was young. My religion and my parents shaped my views on sex as an adult, elder sister and now mother.


As an elder sister, I took care that my younger siblings would not be subject to misinformation. However, I knew that with the easy access of the internet and the widespread accessibility of flagrant movies and video clips, information might be acquired even earlier. I anticipated the gossip, which usually starts around age ten, and tried to educate my sister on the upcoming phases she might encounter by providing guidance and encouraging her to avoid girls’ sex-related gossip. With my younger brother, it was harder to give advice. However, when he entered puberty, I intended to be frank with him. I first gave him online articles about puberty and masturbation. I then initiated an indirect conversation to let him know that masturbation is not an outlet for desire. My urologist dad and my general practitioner elder brother helped make my mission with my younger brother even easier.


As a mother, I intend to introduce sex education gradually to my kids. Sex, as an important part of human life, should not be left to ignorance. Merging the scientific facts of procreation with religious precepts provides the best approach, leaving no place for embarrassment. For children, the introduction to sex starts with the simple biological description of the male versus female organs. With the onset of puberty, the desire element should be introduced together with a practical overview of what should and should not be done. This is the time when topics such as masturbation and gossip should be dealt with. I know it is easier said than done, but it is crucial to let kids know that sex is something vital and good. However, it is also to be kept private and is not a subject to discuss among friends.


As my kids grow older, I know my mission will be more challenging. But I would love my kids to have open minds and embrace the science of the West as well as the bashfulness of the East.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

9 Things You Should Never Say to Adoptive Parents

Have you made any of these mistakes?

How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law

A whole year of arguing in the making

The African Guide to Co-sleeping

10 must-read tips on co-sleeping from Africa


Although she has lived in two Gulf countries, Imane is an Egyptian girl to the core. She received her B.A. in the English language from Al-Alsun (Languages College). Translation, writing and reading as well as her family compose the ingredients of her happy life. She currently lives with her husband and twins in Bahrain. She believes strongly that words have magic and can be found blogging at

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsBurqas, Miniskirts and Sex: My Childhood in Saudi and Egypt « Express it 2 live it   |  Tuesday, 01 March 2011 at 2:27 pm

    […] This article was originally written for the In Culture Parent site: […]

  2. CommentsTina Der Bedrossian   |  Thursday, 03 March 2011 at 9:22 am

    Great article Imane! I too am pretty open minded about these issues. At the same time, I can’t fathom the idea of speaking to my children when they are a little older….it’s going to be difficult but I know it’s something I MUST do. Thanks for sharing!

  3. CommentsImane   |  Wednesday, 09 March 2011 at 7:28 am

    Thank you Tina 🙂

  4. Commentslala   |  Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 11:14 am

    OMG Mastrubation is not an outlet for his desires?? Like the poor boy is going to follow that up mastrubation is normal get over it geez.

  5. CommentsJane   |  Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 1:30 pm

    “I then initiated an indirect conversation to let him know that masturbation is not an outlet for desire.”

    I don’t understand how telling an adolescent boy he shouldn’t masturbate is a good idea. If he does it in private and no one can see him, I see it *reducing* his overall desire… It can be a good way for him to control himself and his desires, so that they don’t get out of hand. (I truly did not mean that pun. Sorry).

  6. CommentsImane   |  Friday, 22 April 2011 at 10:11 am

    I did not say that masturbation is an outlet for desire, on the contrary, I totally reject the act. The idea is to try some indirect conversations with adolescents about such embarrasing issues so that they know what is right and what is wrong.

  7. CommentsInCultureParent | Our Top 10 Articles in 2011   |  Saturday, 09 February 2013 at 11:01 pm

    […] Child’s Room 6. Diwali Craft: Make a Lantern 7. Mothers to Be: Pregnancy around the World 8. Burqas, Miniskirts and Sex: My Childhood in Egypt and Saudi 9. Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs? 10. A Few Drops Outside the Tribe Happy […]

  8. CommentsKam Keeberg   |  Sunday, 01 June 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I think Jane’s opinion is that it should be an outlet so it doesn’t get pent-up inside him. Considering the movie 678 it might be a good idea to promote this.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!

A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
[…] in their homes even if the US is an anomaly. Here are two articles on co-sleeping (click here and here) and one “Dear Abby” (click […...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
Hi...I am an Asian who was adopted and raised by Caucasian American missionaries in South America. I have two kids-my daughter is 16 and my son is 11. When I had my first baby I too was indoctrinate...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
This Karina, the Karina from the article. I'm now 13. It took this article was written 3 years ago and barely coming across it right now. I was originally trying to look for my folkloric pictures fo...
From How This Single Working Mom Raised a Trilingual Kid
Nice recipe, thank for shari...
From Vaisakhi Recipe: Sarson Ka Sag
I've been in Germany Ten years now, Lived in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, specifically Leonberg. In Frankfurt I was shocked by how unfriendly the People were, how aggressive their Drivers, but in Leonbe...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
At DreamAfrica, we are a streaming app for animations and films from around the world. We celebrate cultural representation in digital media and invite you to download and share our DreamAfrica appp...
From What We Are Not About
Imagine those people who work at your typical IT Department, yeah those weirdos with low EQ, no manners, no social skills; indeed those who kiss the bosses' ass when it's convenient, but get offend...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I contacted the editor of this magazine (Stephanie) and she told me she'd inform Jan about this article. I have since changed my mind about going to Germany because of Merkel's policies, and this i...
From Are Germans Really Rude?

More Tradition and Parenting