Gihan moved to Ezbet Khairallah not long ago. Escaping from an abusive marriage, she bravely left home in upper Egypt with her three kids — two boys and a teenage girl — with faith she would find in Cairo her chance of a new beginning. A friend of a friend mentioned that a catering kitchen was looking for cooks, and Gihan didn’t think twice. She took the job and rented a flat just a few steps from work. This proximity protects her and her children from too much exposure in an Islamic community where a divorced newcomer, especially a female one, is quite unusual.
She found a vacant unit in a family-owned building, a common setup at the al-ashwaiat. The two bedroom flat would be enough. For the moment she shares one room with the boys while her teenage daughter, soon to be engaged, sleeps in the other. Their pet turtle stays in the living room. After painting every wall in bright pink and covering every inch of the floor with carpets, Gihan could start a home on her own terms.