There are women-only beaches in Egypt where women can unwind themselves without men ogling them. In such exclusive zones, Muslim women find themselves free and comfortable in, bikinis, swimsuits, all under Islamic tenets of purdah
Indulging the ever-growing community of wealthy upper class veiled women, these women-only beaches, are part of a growing industry.
Its founder Walid Mustafa has said, "At the end of the day we belong to a conservative society. We cannot forget that. We need to respond to the needs of the community." The first ’women only’ beach, Yashmak was opened in 2004, which was an instant hit. Subsequently, another beach, La Femme was opened and this has become a rage. More such beaches are being planned. These beaches stretch along the north coast of Egypt, about 150 miles north of Cairo on the Mediterranean.
La Femme, the tremendously popular beach is screened off by towering, 20-foot palm-reed with female gatekeepers to keep out men and cameras. The sign on the entrance is emphatic: ’No men allowed’. This beach is equipped with everything from bright women staff, stunning belly dancers, DJ’s, chef, bouncers who guard the door and security guards pace the high fences. Certainly, they are all only women!
Once inside the imposing gate of the beach, the women start shedding their clothes, right from the head coverings and the long-sleeved shirts to floor-length skirts and get into their skimpy, latest and fashionable bikinis, two-piece swimwear or tight shorts and dive into the water. Some rub tanning oil and lie on the soft sand. Some abandon themselves to the blaring Arabic rock music, swaying to the rhythmic beats. They lounge on beach chairs, or sip iced cappuccino at the cafe. It allows them to have fun, look chic while preserving their modesty.
On the beach complex is an all-pink beauty centre, offering massages and hair styling. There are shops selling jewellery, swimsuits and sandals. To attract more visitors, there are also free cooking demonstrations, yoga and belly-dancing classes, even beauty competitions where women compete for the title of Miss La Femme (best all-round), Miss Congeniality and Miss Elegance. Women at La Femme beach say that they are simply having fun in a way that doesn’t contradict Islam.
Most women prefer women-only beaches to mixed-sex beaches saying that men go to the beaches to watch the swimsuits, whereas here they are able to enjoy the privacy that these beaches offer, away from the prying eyes of men. They even have women life guards. Apart from the feeling of freedom, shyness is another reason for these women, to prefer these kinds of beaches as lying down on the beach, reading a book and not worrying about men’s opinions is what the beach offers.
For the women who have no problem with mixed beaches they have to wear a full-body Islamic swimsuit called the Burqini (as in burqa plus bikini) which is, somewhat like an underwater diving suit. The demure suits, pioneered by two Muslim women, have become very popular since it hit the international market not only for devout Muslims but also for other women who are self-conscience about their flabby figures. Burqini offers a comfortable alternative to skimpy two-piece bikinis and one-piece swimsuit.
There are hardly any recreation centres apart from these religiously correct beaches that the women can visit, so that they can unwind themselves and let their hair down for a few hours of fun and relaxation. In recent times, though, women-only hotel floors and even an all-female hotel in Saudi Arabia have sprouted.
As usual, there are some critics for these women’s haven too and they are – of course men!