Cairo: Passers-by in an Egyptian Delta province this week were struck by a banner, proclaiming an anonymous man’s love for a girl whose first name was mentioned inside a painted heart.
The banner hung near Menuf province’s engineering school was the latest in a series of banners and billboards recently springing up in several areas of Egypt, challenging the largely conservative society’s traditions that frown upon showing love emotions in public. In rural areas, a public love affair between a man and a woman can trigger a sharp dispute between their families
At angry locals’ request, municipal authorities usually remove the love-proclaiming banners.
While the contested pronouncements are believed to be commissioned mostly by youngsters, there were some cases involving husbands using the tool to make it up to their estranged wives and asking for their forgiveness.
The love-stricken men behind them have rarely been identified. However, their tactic is proving divisive.
“I think men who act like this are rash and showy,” said a commerce school student, who gave her name only as Tahani. “The method is exaggerated and is aimed at attracting people’s attention. Even if men’s emotions expressed in these banners are true, they can cause a scandal to the other partner, who is in all cases a girl, or a woman. Love and marital life are so private that they should not be a public issue,” she added.“We aren’t in Europe. We have our own religious and moral values that we should respect,” the 23-year-old student said.
Tamer Hashem, an art student, disagreed.
“Each generation has its own way of expressing emotions. In the past, lovers could spend years exchanging silent looks while passing each other or through home windows,” the 22-year-old man argued. “Our generation is the generation of globalisation that rejects restrictions and social hypocrisy. What’s wrong with a man telling his girl he loves her in the strongest way: in public?” Hashem asked.
“When a man tells the world that he loves a certain girl, his message is that she is the most important girl for him.”
Last year, the provincial state university of Tanta investigated a female student after she was seen hugging her fiancé on the campus at a party held by her colleagues to celebrate their engagement.
A disciplinary board accused her of violating university rules, and punished her by not allowing her to take the examination in one subject.
Some experts believe going public with love in defiance of local traditions reflects the influence of cinema.
“Heroes of some popular Egyptian and foreign films have done this on screen. People, especially teenagers, tend to be influenced by the behaviour of their favourite actors,” said Farid Shukry, a psychologist.
“In male-dominated societies, men have a scope of freedom far wider than that of women, whose behaviour is always under scrutiny from family, friends and the community,” Shukry told Gulf News.
“Feelings of love are supposed to be concealed between the couple. When they become a public affair, they lose their privacy, which is often favoured by females in the Middle Eastern societies.”