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Howeida was 15 years old at the time. A man stood in the doorway. He spoke briefly to her father and her step-mother. Then the matter was settled: Howeida would be married to a man from Saudi Arabia for a sum of around euros. The "marriage" lasted a whole 20 days, during which Howeida was repeatedly raped. Then, the man simply departed.
His summer vacation was over. Howeida was a so-called "summer bride" — a romantic name for prostitution. Every year, rich tourists from the Gulf states travel to Egypt and choose a girl for the summer. The dowry was an unimaginably large sum for the family — several annual salaries. My family told me that I would get clothes and presents. I was still so young. In the end I gave my consent," recounts Howeida. Her family bought a refrigerator and a washing machine with the dowry.
The paperwork for such summer marriages is quickly dealt with: marriage contracts can be found in any bookshop. A whole network of intermediaries and lawyers ensure that the marriages take place quickly and discreetly. They are not officially registered. As such, the marriages can be annulled just as quickly as they were concluded.
Howeida is now She has been married 8 times, each time for only a few days. She is ashamed of her past and does not wish to state her real name. She wears a black niqab that only reveals her eyes. Concealed underneath is a pretty woman with fine skin and shoulder-length black hair. When she was married for the first time, she lived with her father, her step-mother and her six half-siblings in three small rooms in a village on the outskirts of Ouseem, some 20 kilometres northwest of Cairo.
Things were not as simple as Howeida imagined it would be at the time. I still believed in love. The first night was just awful. Afterwards, I had psychological problems. This time, it was to a man from Kuwait, yet he only paid around euros, as Howeida was no longer a virgin. Howeida's story is not unusual, explains Ahmed Moselhy. The lawyer advises NGOs in cases of prostitution and human trafficking. And then over and over again, as the money can be addictive," says Moselhy.