Interviewing Egypt's Relationships Expert
By Rafik Adly
Marwa Rakha is quite the challenging woman. She started as a blogger, and her enlightening ideas lead to the book "The Poison Tree Planted and Grown in Egypt", which included a lot of stuff acknowledged as taboos. My way of getting in contact with her was so straightforward; I simply called the Radio Nile F.M. as she is on air every Monday night answering people's questions on relationships. I was surprised how down to earth she is. Some call her the Relationships Experts, some call her a Feminist, after this interview, I call her a friend.
Marwa Rakha with Rafik Adly,Expats Guide G.M
Me : Marwa, first thanks for giving The Expats' Guide this time.
Marwa : It's a pleasure.
Me : Allow us to know some things about you, like your birth date.
Marwa : 4th of October 1974.
Me : Marital Status?
Marwa : Single.
Me : Kids?
Marwa : Two Cats!
Me : Your favorite music?
Marwa : I'm a music potato … pretty much all kinds of good music.
Me : Your favorite authors?
Marwa : Daniel Steel, I love her description and hopeless romantic novels. Ayn Rand, she
is the capitalist me. Galal Ameen.
Me : Now let's go deep.
Marwa (Smilingly ready): Shoot.
Me : Marwa, on page 32 (The Poison Tree Book) you say: "Egyptian women today
have well paid jobs, leading positions …. Know nothing about being wives and
are materialistic, demanding and manipulators and they nag, nag, nag." How can
you make such judgment?
Marwa : It wasn't me saying that. This is what men complain of. A lot of men when they
read my book, they thought that I'm anti-men. When you look at it from a
different perspective, I did men a favor. I voiced their opinion. I'm trying to make
women become better; better wives, better girlfriends, better mothers, better
anything, and lying, cheating, manipulating, nagging is not gonna get them there.
Me : Let me go a bit deeper. What do you think a woman who's been married for 10
years and treated as a slave can do today?
Marwa : She could say: "Enough".
Me : I think after something like 10 years "enough" would lead to either more
violence, as the man would be trying to keep this woman under his control, or this
might lead to divorce…. So do you think "enough" is practical?
Marwa : Yes it is. Sometimes a woman is better off divorced than being treated as a slave.
If that master in the dungeon does not want to change and keep her as a partner
then I think she's better off without him.
Me : What if this "enough" would lead to more violence?
Marwa : Then there has to be a stronger "enough" and she has to leave…. Here's the
thing. I know a lot of women who have been abused and abused here is not just
physical. There is the mental abuse, emotional abuse and verbal abuse. Now if
you accept that and you want to change it, then you have to change how you deal
with yourself. If the man with you or the abuser does not accept that, you leave
him. Most of the time an abuser will always be an abuser. So options are: do you
stay in an abusive relationship or you leave? You leave.
Me : O.K You really sound so strong and I just want to know you as an Egyptian
woman what are your fears?
Marwa : Failure, I fear failure.
Me : Even though you are that successful?
Marwa : Yes, success is very hard to maintain. One little mistake here or there and it all
falls apart and I'm afraid of making that mistake.
Me : Well we are all looking up to you so don't.
Marwa : (laughing) Trying not to.
Me : What do you think are the reasons of the insecurity a lot of the Egyptian girls
and women are feeling today?
Marwa : The homes. All comes from home. For a person to feel secure she has to feel
comfortable in her own skin. But what our culture does is… you have a baby girl and this baby girl is taught: "Don't speak up, don't criticize, don't argue, don't ask why and be submissive. Be submissive to your father, your brother, your male teacher, be submissive to your fianc? or your husband.
Me : You mean be submissive to the man.
Marwa : Exactly. So she's taught to be submissive to be accepted. This is where the
insecurity comes from. She is not safe and has no trust in herself. She feels that
she's unable to keep a man in her life without lying… She has to lie to him to
keep him. She has to flatter him to keep him. She has to fake things to keep him
and that is the attitude of someone who is insecure. If you're not comfortable in
being you, why would anyone feel comfortable in dealing with you?
Me : This leads to my next question. What do you think a twenty-year old girl can do
to change the way she perceives herself after twenty years of false self prophecy
from everyone? So she has been raised to be submissive to the man and to be
quiet and to dress in a certain way and talk in a certain way. How can we change
this viral software controlling her and is it possible for this to be changed ever?
Marwa : We can do nothing about it and the only person who can change this is the girl
herself. It all starts with her saying: "I want this to change". Then it will change.
But you and I can do nothing.
Me : Give me more practical steps. For instance, how could she recognize that she is
controlled by this viral program, this kind of software?
Marwa : She doesn't like it and she wants it to change.
Me : Give us steps like 1,2,3 …
Marwa : First she needs to have the courage to ask why? Why am I supposed to do this
and this and that? She needs to begin questioning the tutoring of this culture. She
needs to begin questioning the beliefs and the taboos that she's been
raised to avoid or to ignore or to fear or to adopt. Once she begins questioning
those things she can make her own moral or ethical code. She will decide for
herself what she wants to wear and how she wants to be perceived and what she
wants to say and she needs to have views for herself.
Me : A lot of people may think that you're so westernized. For instance, if she decides
to dress in a certain way that does not line up with her father's principles, do you
think she would ever go out of the house?
Marwa : O.K. Here's the thing. As long as there is someone, be it her father, be it her
husband, her brother or even her mom, paying for her, then she has to abide to
what they say. She has to have financial independence, she has to be able to
Me : So girls who are unemployed have no hope?
Marwa : No, none whatsoever.
Me : What's that thing, advice, or note that you did not mention in the first and
second edition of "The Poison Tree Planted and Grown in Egypt Book" that you
want to include in the coming edition?
Marwa : That I was wrong in some of my opinions.
Me : Could you tell us where do you think you were wrong?
Marwa : I was wrong to generalize. Like "All men are jerks", such generalization is not
fair. Generalizing takes away from my work. It does not add to it. That was a
mistake I made.
Me : (jokingly) O.K. you ruined five questions by saying this !!
Marwa : (laughing out loud)
Me : Kindly give us some of the most special feedbacks that you got after the book
Marwa : Good ones or bad ones?
Me : Special.
Marwa : O.K. This is a funny story. I had a book signing at El Sheikh Zayed City in a compound called Tara. The lady who organized this book signing asked me to come over to check the venue and make sure everything is right two days before the book signing. So I went there and needed to go to the bathroom, so I went to the bathroom and on my way out it was a beautiful sunny day and I was walking relieved and happy and the sun was right in my face. I couldn't see anything and there was this voice: "Marwa… is that you? Are you Marwa Rakha?" And I was trying to look through the sun and there was this woman, a beautiful woman, very tall, very womanly figure, very nice long hair wearing sunglasses. She looked like a vision, then she said: "Let me poke you to make sure you're real". And she did poke me and then said: "I just finished your book yesterday and asked my husband for divorce ." And I stood there: "O.K. so you read
my book and asked your husband for divorce. I'm not sure if this is a good thing." And she said: "Your book is so liberating and I realized that I don't have to live like that. I can have a life on my own." And that was very moving. It was just out of nowhere.
Me : O.K. Marwa on page 84 you say: "I packed him along with my feelings in one dark black bag. I put the bag in the box and I threw it in that forgotten place in my heart." How can you just forget? I mean a lot of girls today have a lot of breakups everyday and it sounded to me so theoretical than practical that you have just put the whole experience in a dark black bag and threw it in that forgotten place in your heart. So if you can just show us how we can find that forgotten place in our heart. I'm sure millions of people want to do the same but they don't know how.
Marwa : O.K. it is very simple. People have moral obligations towards pain. When there is a breakup they feel that there is a moral obligation to suffer. They feel that there is a moral obligation to fall apart. They feel that if they didn't do so then the experience was not real. Now they need to ask themselves one question: "Do I love myself?" If the answer is: "Yes" they go to the next question: "Do I love myself more than I love him?" If the answer is: "Yes" they go to the next question: "Do I love myself enough to end this suffering?" If the answer is: "Yes"
they ask:" Do I love myself enough to have a life and move on and be happy again?" If the answer is: "Yes" then you are ready to put your experience in this dark black bag and put it into that box and throw it away. As long as you don't love yourself you feel that you have to suffer more and that's your problem. There is nothing I can do for you but you decide that you've had enough and want to have a life and you don't want to waste another beautiful morning feeling down and depressed. You put an end to it…. I've been there and thought: "Do I deserve this? Do I deserve to be treated like this? No, so good bye and go away."
Me : On page 93 you stated something that really got on my nerves and I think you already said that you were wrong. You said: "There might be a Santa but there is no different man. They are all the same. Their names change, their faces change, their voices change, their bodies change, their geographic locations change and their hunting styles change, but their hallow words and their void promises and their bitter after taste are the same. I'm at a point in my life now where I can safely assume that all men are the same, they are all evil." And let me repeat this: "They are ALL evil." So don't you think you are over generalizing a whole gender. You're judging mankind and I felt reading the book that you were an inch away from judging humankind !! As I read that I thought like I'm glad she stopped there !! (Marwa laughing out loud) So don't you think you are over generalizing mankind as a feminist?
Marwa : No I'm not a feminist. Women hate me and men hate me and I'm stuck in
Me : But you're generalizing mankind by saying they are all evil. I don't think I'm
evil by the way.
Marwa : No you're not. And let me answer your question in two ways. First of all this
book is me discovering who I am and what I want, it's like a self help book. It's
me saying I've been there, I've done that and I'm going to evolve out of this
experience a better bigger person.
Me : By the way, I know a lot of women who have been happily married for years and
they wouldn't agree that all men are evil. For instance, my wife wouldn't agree
that I'm evil.
Marwa : Of course she wouldn't.
Alright… The first part that I was talking about that this is a self help book trying
to help me find the truth. At that point in my life when I wrote that article,
actually it was December 2006, so I've come a long way from that and as I told
you that I want to review some of my opinions because some of them were very
Me : You're not as stubborn as you present yourself in your book.
Marwa : It was a phase. The book was a phase. I was growing up. Now what I have
learned was a new word that I want women to learn and that is accountability. If
you put yourself in a wrong relationship then you have yourself to blame. If you
allow yourself to be abused, that's your fault. There are bad guys, there are evil
guys and if you're not smart enough or accountable enough to say: "enough" then
blame nobody but yourself.
Me : Give us tips on how to exhale accumulated anger.
Marwa : Anger is a very negative emotion. Anger hurts, and guess what? Anger doesn't
hurt the person you're angry with. It hurts you. Anger makes you a negative
unhappy person. So first of all to get over anger you need to realize that anger is
destructive, anger doesn't push you forward it pulls you still like a hook. It keeps
you where you are and doesn't allow you to move, or to grow, or to develop. So
the first step you realize what anger is. Anger is your enemy. So the first thing to
get it out is to acknowledge it for what it is. Second step is to get it out. Write
about it. You don't have to be a writer. You can just write a whole page. Just let it
out. Write an angry letter to those people who hurt you expressing how you feel.
Get a tape or recorder and record your anger, release it by saying whatever you
want to say and then listen to it. Then start to find faults with yourself. What did
you do wrong to let the other person hurt you? People who hurt you do so because
you gave them a window or an opportunity to hurt you. Then they keep having
that power over you when you refuse to let go. Another extreme of seeing the
angry "you" is to video shoot yourself and you can send that tape to the person
who hurt you. You're not waiting for a reaction from the other person. You send
it and that's it or you can just decide that now it's all out: "I want to have a new
start, a fresh start, a happy start."
Me : What was the Egyptian society's reaction towards your book which includes a
lot against your traditions?
Mawa : I've had two extreme reactions and nothing in between. One of the reactions was
like we love, we thank you, the book is so liberating. The other extreme was damn
you. You are a woman from hell.