Egyptian women have always been known for breaking taboos and revolting against inherited traditions, which usually aggrieve females. Creatively taking over jobs that are embedded with “men only” in closed conservative societies has become a step that most women no longer fear, and “Jaziah” is the latest proof.
Jaziah is the first female photography team in Upper Egypt. At one of the districts of Qena, a city north of Luxor, 22-year-old Meriett Amin and 24-year-old Samar Shoman decided to break the taboo of male dominance of the city and follow their photography passion regardless of the community’s unfamiliarity with female photographers.
Both Amin and Shoman work as journalists for one of the local media portals covering the news of their districts. However, they are driven by their passion for photography just as they are by their passion for journalism.
For three years, the two young reporters have been the voice of their cities to the masses all across the country.
Through their work, they noticed that most people’s image of Upper Egypt is disturbed with what they see through TV channels and read over the news. This image usually displays Upper Egypt as an underdeveloped society with closed-minded people who blindly stick to traditions that usually support men over women.
That image is further amplified through TV series, films, and newspapers, which commonly publish stories of emotionally and physically abused women—to the extent of being killed if caught with a secret lover.
“People still portray Upper Egypt districts as savage, basic places where women have a limited access to education until they get married so they are forced to stay at home with no hobbies, passions, or dreams to raise their children, while the circle of life keeps going forward with men dominating women’s life aspects and destinations,” said Amin.
Their main aim with Jaziah is to portray that the strict, closed society of Upper has changed and women currently have equal opportunities to men and they compete with every single job that was once known for males only.
The team started as a Facebook event, where Shoman and Amin stated that they will capture images of whoever interested at the Nile Corniche, without knowing if anyone would attend, “but within hours tens of girls expressed their interest and support to the project and more than 50 women assured their attendance,” Amin added.
“The support we received was quite surprising. Even male photographers, who are supposedly our competitors, stand with us and tell people about Jaziah in order to publicise the idea of females breaking taboos,” Amin expained.
For three months, since the beginning of the team, tens of requests have been showering Amin and Shoman for couples and women who have been looking for female photographers to capture their happy events, including pre-wedding photo sessions—or just friends gathering.
On another level, Jaziah’s publicity increased duo to women who have been desperately seeking a female photographer to capture the intimate, happy moments of their Henna’s (bachelorette parties).
“I knew a lot of women would feel more comfortable knowing that one of them is taking their pictures, but what was surprising that even men felt more relieved for a woman to take their pictures with their spouses,” Amin clarified.
There was a man who once told me that what made him agree on the photo shoot is that “a woman is capturing my moments with my fiancée,” Amin added.
The team is currently expanding seeking to add other members after requests extended to different cities of Upper Egypt, reaching Luxor.
Shoman and Amin named their team after Jaziah, a well known princess of Banu Hilal Tribes of the Arabian Gulf. Unlike her peers, Princess Jaziah was a commander of her tribe, and her opinion was considered before taking any decision.
She was known for her courage, fabulous beauty, long hair, and sharp intelligence in a male-dominant society, where women used to be hidden in tents and disgraced. History states that Jaziah’s opinion was taken in most critical political issues like wars.
From their point of view, Jaziah presents the honour, pride, and strength every woman should fight to have even in an unjust society like Arab tribes. Both Shoman and Amin walk the same path Jaziah once carved with her prints, which is invading male-dominant communities.