Lecture: gay Arabic language in Cairo - Taalhuis Amsterdam

Lecture: gay Arabic language in Cairo

When travelling to Egypt, people might tell travellers that homosexuality isn’t a thing there. But who opens dating apps like Grindr, Tinder, and the like, will find that this underground culture is definitely an integral part of Egyptian culture. It’s taboo, however, and the government has repeatedly hunted down members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as in the Queen Boat case in 2001, and, more recently, in 2017 when rainbow flags were raised at a Mashrou Laila concert. So, in order to not be arrested, gay (and other marginalized) people have used several ways to express themselves, yet in a low-key fashion.

In this lecture, you might have guessed it, the not-so secret parts of the secret language of the (male) gay community of Cairo will be discussed. The starting point will be roughly from the beginning of the 19th century, when the first male dancers, or khawalaat are mentioned. These khawalaat (notice the picture above) had interactions with other marginalized communities, which greatly influenced the language. The origins of several words may be surprising and by times hilarious.

The other part of this lecture will be about the present-day language, in which modern words, pronunciation, and non-verbal communication in gay culture will be discussed. Lexical creativity in the gay language is not an exception. We all might be able to guess what a fahl, or ‘stallion’ should mean, don’t we? Then how about a 3arabiyya m2afela 3adad, ‘a car that has driven so far, that the odometer went back to 0’? Perhaps one hint: think about the word ‘to ride’. One might need a suggestive (read dirty) mind for this one.

Aside from language insides, the gay male culture proves to be influenced by women of the working class, mainly through films and series with iconic scenes and one-liners that haven’t lost their popularity for generations. This will be illustrated through social media like Instagram, which provides a colourful insight in what exactly inspires modern male Egyptian gay language and culture.

All listeners (speakers and non-speakers of Arabic) will be very much welcomed!

This event takes approximately two hours, with one break between the two parts of the lecture. Location: Tweede Schinkelstraat 26.

More Arabic:

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