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Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. Log In Sign Up. The eleven-year-old pioneer worker Fikri al-Khuli headed to this red light district in his first weekend in the town in along with three adult co-workers and two of his boyhood friends. Despite their moral upbringing that condemned adulterous women to death, they felt deeply sorry for a woman who made her living selling her body to as many men as possible every night, and then had to give the greater share of her earnings to her madam.
Her story about a deceptive ex-lover, and her subsequent flight from her village, hushed up their condemnation. Contrary to the unlicensed prostitution outside it, al-Khubiza did not generate strong rejec- tion among the townsfolk and brought individuals from all social statuses to one place. Al-Khubiza was the meeting point of Christians and Muslims, the rich and the poor, the notables and the rabble, outlaws and law-enforcers. This article traces prostitution in al-Mahalla in the first half of the 20th cen- tury as a regulated urban practice until the trade was outlawed in Egypt in This period witnessed the establishment of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in al-Mahalla in until it reached its maximum expansion during the interwar period at which time it employed 27, workers.
The creation of that Company turned al-Mahalla into a battlefield between the rising nationalist capitalists and European economic-political domination and dragged what had been an interior provincial town into a central position in the national discourse. Meanwhile, the Company attracted immigration into the town, causing the pop- ulation to increase triple-fold in less than three decades.
Prostitution was practiced in al-Mahalla long before it was regulated in Egypt in and before a particular neighborhood, based on these regulations, was designated for that trade in al-Mahalla itself in While regulations were meant to signify state control over the society, those regulations, I argue, created a sphere for a power contest between the colonial state and the local community, between nationalist discourse and the local way of life, and between public morality and private space.
The prostitution district in al-Mahalla continually negotiated rules for its own benefit and survival. Prostitutes in al-Mahalla continued making a living with their bod- ies. Those who had the inclination for using the service continued to be custom- ers. The rest of the community dealt with illicit sexuality case-by-case regardless of the nationalist discourse about one virtuous Egyptian nation.