Couples meet on Qasr El Nil Bridge, one of Cairo's "lovers bridges" at sunset. Photographer: Victoria Hazou for the National *** Local Caption ***  MarriageEgypt (4).jpg MarriageEgypt (4).jpg
Couples meet on Qasr el-Nil bridge in Cairo. More Egyptian women are prioritising work, sometimes missing out on marriage.

Egypt's spinsters turn to suicide

CAIRO // A university professor committed suicide last month in 6th October City on the outskirts of Cairo because she reached 40 without being married, local media reported. Her death came at the same time the movie Two Girls From Egypt, about the problems of being "aness", or a spinster, was released.

In the film, two middle-class cousins in their early 30s are desperate to get married. Hanan, played by the Egyptian actress Zeina, goes to a business that arranges marriages and fills out an application detailing what she wants in a husband: a man not older than 36, who has a flat and is willing to contribute to its upkeep. As time passes and she does not hear about any prospects, she starts calling the office every month to lower her already simple demands, saying the man could be older and did not need to have his own apartment.

Hanan's cousin, Dalia, played by the Jordanian actress Seba Mubarak, is a physician who is willing to give up her profession to marry a suitor arranged by the marriage office who lives a simple life in the desert. The plan falls through because he flees the country after failing to pay the mortgage on land he was trying to reclaim. The two-hour film ends with Hanan and Dalia waiting at the airport, along with two other women, for an Egyptian man working in Qatar who will stop in transit to choose a bride, in 45 minutes. "The film addresses an issue and feelings I'm familiar with of being not married after 30," Omnia Talal, an editor, wrote in the leftist opposition weekly Al Ahaly on Wednesday. "But I don't understand what's the aim of portraying such a black picture and life without a man as hell, which leaves us with no option after watching the movie, but to rush to marry any groom to escape this fate or to head to Qasr el-Nil bridge to jump into the Nile.

"Having said that, it doesn't mean that reality is much better than the movie ... But life could go on OK, even without marriage," she added. This month, Egypt's National Centre for Toxins issued a report saying that about 2,700 Egyptian females tried to commit suicide last year because of spinsterhood. Azza Korayem, a professor at the National Center for Sociological and Criminological Research, said there was a growing trend among Egyptian women to achieve financial independence, which means that work becomes a priority and sometimes results in their missing out on marriaige.

Traditionally men looking for a wife prefer women under 30 who are not so independent, she said. Abeer Soliman, 33, who is single, addressed the issue on her blog, Diary of a Spinster. She turned the writings into a book of the same name and its first edition, which was issued in March, sold out. A second edition is expected to be released in two months. "It's a diary of a free woman from the view of my generation," she wrote in the book's introduction. "The aim of this diary is not to bemoan our luck as single women, but to open a window for our generation to change the social concept, especially the language used by our society to describe those who surpassed the official age for marriage, as there is no longer such a thing; besides, most of us are enjoying life."

Soliman, a columnist for several websites and newspapers, did not deny that she is yearning to have children. "But if this doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world," she said in an interview. "I will never consider committing suicide if I don't get married, but many of my friends around me are committing suicide by the kind of marriages they throw themselves in," she said. "One of them, married a drug addict, just hoping to have a baby and then get divorced," she added.

Christopher Robin
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