the lady of the nile |  trans libano


Nazli Hanem was living in Cairo when, on May 11, 2001, the police raided the Queen Boat, a floating night club on the Nile River, arresting 53 men. I would like to present her version of the story, and what she went through since that horrible night that will always be a mark in the history of the Egyptian gay movement, which is still in its infancy.

I met Nazli Hanem (or Lady Nazli) on-line in summer 1999. After an exchange of a couple of e-mails, we called each other almost every night. The cyber-bridge we have built was strong enough to sustain a special friendship. We have not arranged for a face to face encounter, though, as she has never travelled outside Egypt, and I never went back to any Arab country after I had moved from Lebanon to the town of Victor in Corsica in 1983. Nazli and I bonded immediately not only due to our common struggles for being Arab women (to be more specific, we are pre-operational male-to-female transgendered people) but also due to her sense of humor that she has gained from the hard experiences of her life instead of developing bitterness towards other people.

Nazli Hanem told me that she named herself as such after Her Majesty Queen Nazli Sabry, first wife of King Fuad I, and mother of King Farouk I and the four crown princesses (Fawzia, Faiza, Faikah, and Fathia). Queen Nazli died in 1978, at the age of 84, the year my friend Nazli Hanem was born. Twenty years later, my friend was looking for a name that suits her new lifestyle. As no one in her Cairo neighborhood liked her, she chose the name of the most loved twentieth century royal figure of Egypt. My friend has wanted to build a bridge with the modern history of Egypt. She told me that, even after the 1952 revolution had ended by sending King Farouk I to exile with 21 cannon shots, the Egyptians kept a special place of respect in their hearts to the Queen Mother, Nazli, who stayed in Egypt. Another reason for choosing the name Nazli was some common passion between the two women for all kind of names or words starting with the letter "F". Her Majesty married an F-king and chose F-names for her five children, whereas the 21st century Nazli Hanem is specialized in all kind of F-word positions -- in bed, car, alley, bathroom,... you name it, she can do it!

In May 2001, I heard about the police raid of the floating night club on the Nile, the Queen Boat, arresting 52 Egyptian men and a teenager, presuming they are gay, and letting all tourists - Arab and international men - and Egyptian women go free. I called Nazli Hanem immediately as I know she frequents the Queen Boat. I followed my unanswered calls by e-mails. Days went by, and I became more worried about her as all my attempts to reach her have failed.

In November 2001, I received a letter by mail sent from New Jersey. It was thick enough to make me concerned, especially after all what I have been hearing on "TF1" or reading in "Le Monde" about the cases of toxic Anthrax powder sent from New Jersey's Arab neighborhoods. (Back then, in autumn 2001, the media was portraying the Arabs as responsible of the Anthrax threat. Even I believed it. After few months, no one is talking about it anymore. Could it be that the CIA or FBI found who is the responsible party, therefore, decided to cool it down?!) I was thinking: "Could it be a sexist, homophobic, transphobic Arab man who sent this envelope to kill me? He must have gotten my address from one of the queer mailing lists that he has infiltrated." Then I decided to calm down. I put a pair of latex gloves on (I have many of them!), took the letter outside the house, and cautiously opened the envelope to find a letter paper signed by Nazli Hanem and a bunch of Kleenex tissues. I cheered up!

Nazli's words brought tears to my eyes, as they awakened in me my nostalgia to Lebanon, the country with which I destroyed all kind of bridges because its people do not want me. Her words also reminded me of my false belonging to Corsica, the island that has been housing me for almost 20 years. Till now, I am not sure what she meant by including the tissues. Did she want to play an Anthrax joke on me? She succeeded in this case. Were the tissues meant for me to wipe my tears? I certainly needed them. Or did she mean to tell me that she has been crying non-stop since she was uprooted like a palm tree from the Nile's flood plain? Read her letter to find out.

Monday, the 5th of November, 2001

Dear Trans Libano,

I apologize for the delay in replying to your e-mails. I destroyed my computer after the raid on the Queen Boat, then I left my apartment and stayed with a friend until I was able to get a visa and move to the United States in July. I stayed in hostels in New York City for awhile, then recently I moved to the apartment of a gay Arab man in New Jersey. Yesterday, I checked my e-mail account on his computer and retrieved all your messages.

The last few months were traumatic for me: witnessing the raid on the Queen Boat; crossing the bridge from the false safety of the boat to the reality of the police car; leaving Egypt and everything behind; living as a refugee out of my suitcases; seeing the skyline of New York City changing within one hour; and feeling unwelcome in the United States for being an Arab. It is too much for one person to handle emotionally in five or six months. However, as you know, I have endured much hate from society during my life such that I try to see the bright side of the picture. For instance, the buildings around the Twin Tours are now getting more sunshine hours. Also Manhattan's skyline without the towers seems more beautiful to me. At least, one can notice so many other skyscrapers that are more like phallic symbols than the World Trade Center. Why do men like to build high, big structures? Is it to show their power? I think it is all about their small dicks; don't you?

I cannot comprehend why persecution is my destiny in life. I left Cairo because a "weird" transvestite like me is not welcome by the Egyptian society and the government that is trying to look as conservative. I felt that I was kicked out of my country like a butcher drags a goat by its horns to face its destiny by his knife. I assumed last Spring that New York will be a good refuge for a queer person. But I was not told that, from one day to another, Arab people will not be welcome anymore.

I bet you want to know how was the sky of the Nile the night of the raid on the club. Or more specifically, in which state of mind (and body) I was. Okay, my friend, Trans Libano, here is my story.

On the night of May 11, I put on my panties, bra, stockings, make-up, wig, black and silver dress, high-heel-shoes, and jewelry, and I left my apartment heading towards the Queen Boat. While walking on the streets of Cairo, I got the usual comments from pedestrians and drivers: "Whore," "Bitch," "You will go to hell," "Suck my dick," and "taalali ya asal! habsitak ya gamil!" (that is, "Come to me,honey! I will please you, beautiful!").

Upon my arrival to the Queen Boat, I ordered a cocktail at the bar. A man sat next to me and offered me a cigarette. He introduced himself as Amjad. Most likely Amjad is not his real name, like Nazli is not my real one either. Amjad is the kind of guy who does not have a problem chatting with a "cross-dresser" like me but he would not go to bed with a "man" dressed as a woman. He is like many other homosexual and bisexual men in Egypt who want to be with a "real" man not an effeminate one, as they say: "ana awez ragel ragel, mosh ragel labessitt, ya dalaadi." He started to pour questions on me about how hard it is for me to live like that. That night, I felt I want to open up to some extent. I replied to his questions, saying:

"My childhood in Cairo was the only rosy part of my life. My early teen years were hard and full of harassment by the boys at school as I was an effeminate kid. But nothing compares with what was yet to come. I started to dress as a woman in public at the age of 19. Almost everyone made fun of me on the streets of our neighborhood. Those who offered me their dicks at night are the same men who gave me the hardest time during the day. Once, one of them was mocking me in front of his friends. I stood up for myself and replied to him loudly: 'Your cum of last night didn't dry in my mouth yet.' His friends started to laugh at him. He couldn't find anything to say. I felt so good and proud of myself. But after awhile, he jumped on me and started to beat me up, and all his buddies joined in, kicking me with their shoes. It is not until recently that I became more immune to harassment. It does not affect me psychologically as much as it used to."

Hours of chating with Amjad went by so quickly. Around three o'clock in the morning, I noticed that the number of dancing people on stage has shrunk significantly. Amjad and I decided to step out of the club to find out what is going on. We saw several jeeps outside and many policemen. One of the cops asked Amjad for his identification papers, then he took him towards a jeep. Another policeman asked me for my I.D. I told him that I do not carry one in my purse. He called his boss, Mohamed Bey, to find out what to do with me. Mohamed Bey told him: "Put 'el horma' in my car, just to protect her from the guys." It was the first time that someone acknowledges that I am a "horma" (a derogatory term for a woman in Egyptian dialect). It really felt good. Even I got a special treatment for being a woman by sitting in Mohamed Bey's car! While waiting, I noticed that the "real" women were not being arrested by the cops as they were leaving the club but, still, the kind gesture of Mohamed Bey made my night.

We were all taken to the police station. I got to sit in Mohamed Bey's office. He told me that I can go home if I cooperate with him. He asked me about the list of names of men to whom I have given blow-jobs. I explained to him that they are usually very discreet: "Believe me, Mohamed Bey, we just do it in the car. They never talk to me or give me their names." "You cannot leave my office without names," he said. "At least give me one juicy name of an important person, so I will get to whip his butt, then clean the floor with it." I decided to cowardly save myself. But what made my decision easier is that the man whose name I was going to reveal is the most hypocrite one I have ever met (or blown). I gave Mohamed Bey the name of the colonel who supervises the police station we are in.

Mohamed Bey's face changed for few seconds as he was surprised by the name, then a big smile shone out of it. "el-Basha el kibbir?" (The big boss?), he asked. "aywa, bi lahmou w admou ya Bey" (Yes, it is him, with his full flesh and bones), I replied. Mohamed Bey then told me: "You are now free to go but you better not return to your home where we can find you. Never repeat to anyone what you have just said to me... Never! do you understand?" And he pointed his big gun into myface. "You should disappear from my life. Never show me your ugly face again. Leave Egypt! Leave..." I stood up. He stopped me by a sign from his gun and said: "estanni, estanni! mish bil sahli kida!" (Wait, wait! It is not that simple!) "Before you go, you have to service me on your knees." A bitter smile appeared on my face.

Mohamed Bey is a handsome, strong man in his early thirties. He is someone I would love to touch or blow. But being forced to suck his dick is a different story. A transgendered person has some pride, too, you know! I had no choice. I went down on my knees, unzipped his pants, and revealed a small penis. I started to stroke it with my hands. I used both hands to give Mohamed Bey and myself the impression and satisfaction of a big, fat cock. Then I went down on his penis with my lips and tongue. I thought for a moment about biting his dick, choppingoff its head, leaving Mohamed Bey in agony, in shock, bleeding, screaming... but then his soldiers will beat me up and shoot me with their real, big guns... so I smiled to the idea of a headless penis and kept on sucking on his small power tool. With every stroke from my hand, Mohamed Bey was getting a step closer to orgasm, and I was advancing another step on the bridge of freedom.

Truly yours,

Nazli Hanem

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