The Cairo Metro: Protecting The Booty

Sometimes a common objective is what brings a family closer together. While in the crowded Cairo Metro during rush hour, that shared goal brought us much, much closer together. The common objective in this case: protecting the derrière of our 12-year old daughter. We squeezed into the crowded subway car, three of us forming a protective triangle around my daughter. Thinking strategically, I took the aft, positioning myself at the area that was most vulnerable while my son and wife formed the other two points of the triangle. We moved through the sea of men wearing grey, beige and black clothing until we found a spot in the corner of the car. We giggled about the absurdity of our mission and I made a few wisecracks about looking out for “pirates seeking booty.” After four stops we exited the subway car and successfully made it up and to the street without incident. Mission accomplished: we had successfully protected the booty.

The reason for all this fuss about my daughter’s hindquarters was a direct result of what happened to her the previous day. We had gathered into a car at rush hour and all grabbed hold of the vertical pole running from the floor to ceiling of the car. There were about 3 dozen hands holding the pole for stability and the male riders who were pressed together either avoided eye contact or gave polite and impassive smiles of acknowledgment. A middle-aged man smiled at us and I greeted him with salaam aleikum and a nod. After a few more stops we got off with no incident…or so I thought.

As we were exiting the Metro station, my daughter whispered something to my wife who said, “What?” My daughter had just experienced a first: her butt had been improperly caressed on the subway car. “Why didn’t you say something?” asked my wife. My daughter, clearly embarrassed by the whole situation said only, “I didn’t know.” Apparently it was the smiling man next to us who had done it. In hindsight, I guess it had to happen. A very attractive, blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl on the verge of womanhood in the middle of a subway car jam-packed with men. Throw in some middle-eastern, Hollywood-spawned stereotypes about the loose virtues of western women and you have a situation ripe for culture clash. And clash we did on the Cairo Metro.

The Cairo Metro is the only full-fledged metro system in Africa. The system consist of two operational lines, which carry around 700 million passengers a year and on average 2 million people per day. On all Cairo trains, the middle two cars (the 4th and 5th) of each train are reserved for women. We learned this after the successful ‘protecting of the booty’ episode described above and the women-only car became our modus operandi going forward; my son and I headed into the mass of people in the mixed car and my wife and daughter going in the slightly less crowded women-only car.

With the booty successfully protected, riding the subways became a more pleasant experience. Looking back on this episode always gives us a laugh and my wife never fails to point out, in mock indignation: “How come no one was after my middle-aged booty?”


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about this... I know it's no proper solution, but you might want to have your daughter and wife take the women's car, and meet them at after exiting... Again, so sorry to hear about that....

  2. No worries was actually a fun adventure and we did have the girls take the ladies car from then on.