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But it wasn't until I could finally shed my own cultural preconceptions about prostitution fundamentally being tied up with money and sex that I finally understood what my Egyptian friends meant.When 'Sex' Tourism Doesn't Necessarily Involve Sex I didn't come to Egypt intending to study prostitution.I was studying tourism and the way people interact across cultures.To that end, I had decided to compare Western tourism and Gulf Arab tourism in Egypt (the countries considered part of the Arab Gulf include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates).
After she'd been introduced around to the group of friends -- dancers, actresses, businessmen, and me, an American anthropologist -- that met every Thursday night for drinks and dinner, Malak looked her up and down skeptically, and then she said to me in a low voice, "She's a prostitute.Look, obviously that vulgar man thinks so too, because he wouldn't dare put his hands all over her like that unless he was sure she was a prostitute."I shrugged."You know, Malak, my dear, under the broad definition of 'prostitute' used in Egypt, all of the women here are prostitutes, including you and me." Malak smiled wryly.It took me a long time to understand what Egyptians meant when they said "prostitute," and during the first year of my anthropological fieldwork, I was plenty confused.Every time the word "prostitute" came up in conversation, I listened carefully to try to understand the context and how it was being used.