The Queen of Coum-BoohaEgypt’s only female mayor is too busy taking charge and solving crises to worry about what people have to say about her
By Ali El-Bahnasawy
Asked for directions to Coum-Booha village in Assiut governorate, an old man wearing a gray galabeyya and a traditional brown hat responds in a heavy Upper Egypt accent, “the village whose mayor is mara?”
Mara is a condescending Arabic word to describe a woman. He says it in a disgusted tone, points out directions and leaves in a hurry.
The village of Coum-Booha welcomes visitors with a fairly standard sight: a few small coffee shops scattered about the village’s main entrance.
This is also where men spend their evenings smoking shisha and chatting about politics and women, their favorite subjects.
This sunny January morning, they are discussing both at the same time. More specifically, they’re discussing Eva Habeil Kirollous, the new mayor of Coum-Booha and the first female mayor in the nation.
The community won’t hold her back from her chance to help the people simply because she’s a woman, he says, adding that before her election she was the village lawyer who helped people for years even when they couldn’t pay.
Magdy’s uncle Gamal interjects, “We know her father too, and her grandfather. Both were mayors for Coum-Booha. We liked them because they were honest, down-to-earth people. We don’t want a mayor from outside this family.”
As the men offer their opinions, the mayor swiftly becomes the hot topic in the coffee shop, and all agree that a female mayor might be as good as a male one. Nevertheless, everyone wants his say on the matter. After staying silent a long time, the oldest man in the room nods his wrinkled head and proclaims, “I don’t mind having a female mayor, only if she is working like a man.”