BBC journalist stopped at Egyptian airport after security do not know what her tampons were
A journalist has told how her tampons were seized and scanned as she went through airport security in Egypt s capital city Cairo. BBC news producer Claire Read was questioned at airport screening barriers and forced to explain what a tampon was after a security officer found the sanitary product tucked in her pocket. Menstruation in Egypt is often known as ma ib which translates as shameful. Girls and women are not typically offered tampons because of fears they could break the hymen, which is often seen as a sign of virginity.
Travellers: Passengers walk outside the arrivals hall at Cairo airport. (AFP/Getty Images)
After explaining what the tampon was, Ms Read said: I asked the female guard if she’d like to see the instructions from the box of tampons I had in my suitcase, and she looked askance, saying You’ve got more?! We’ll have to put them through the scanner by themselves. She added: This encounter is in fact typical of many Egyptian women’s reactions to being presented with a tampon, or the idea of one.
I had previously had a similar exchange with a colleague caught short at the office who turned down my offer of a tampon after she understood what it was. After the sanitary products were put through the suitcase scanner and cleared security, the airport worker asked if she could buy them in Egypt.
Ms Read wrote: I told her with delight that indeed you can, and suggested she keep the instructions. She did, and I wish I had given her some of the tampons.
But I’m minded now always to keep a tampon in my pocket at airport security to bring more women into the fold.
According to British-Egyptian journalist and women s rights advocate Shereen El Feki, who has written Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, there are traditional beliefs about menstrual blood being impure and an unwillingness to use tampons because of blood staying in the body.