Egyptian Woman Spends 43 Years Disguised as a Man to Be Able to Earn a Living

For over four decades, Egyptian woman Sisa Abu Daooh was the sole breadwinner in her family, which is highly unusual for the patriarchal society she lives in. What’s more unusual is the way she did it – by dressing herself like a man! Now 64, Abu Daooh is being honored as the ‘ideal mother’ by the Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor.

Sisa lost her husband when she 21 and pregnant. After the birth of her daughter, she was left with no money and no source of income, either. Since the local culture did not permit women at the workplace, she had no option but to dress like a man. Her disguise consisted of a  ‘jilbab’ – a loose, full-length robe with wide sleeves – along with a white turban, or a men’s hat called ‘Taqiyah’, and black shoes.


Photo: Al Arabiya

Dressed in this manner, Sisa spent several years working as a laborer. Eventually, she was able to get her daughter married to a man who later fell ill and couldn’t work. So Abu continued to work under disguise to support her grandchildren as well.

“I prefered working in hard labor like lifting bricks and cement bags and cleaning shoes, to begging in the streets in order to earn a living for myself and my daughter and her children,” she proudly declared.


Photo: Al Arabiya

“So as to protect myself from men and the harshness of their looks and being targeted by them due to traditions, I decided to be a man … and dressed in their clothes and worked alongside them in other villages where no one knows me.” Even though her secret is out, due to media exposure, Sisa Abu Daooh continues to polish shoes, which earns her a ‘decent living’.

“My mom is the one who still provides for the family,” said Sisa’s daughter, Houda. “She wakes up every day at 6 a.m. to start polishing shoes at the station in Luxor. I carry the work kits for her as she is now advanced in age.”


Sisa Abu Daooh’s efforts have earned her the the “woman breadwinner” award, from the Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor. Unfortunately, that doesn’t put food on her table.

Source: Al Arabiya

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