The Stigma of Being “Samra”

Tuesday March 27, 2018      By: Menerva Hammad


Samra is the term used to define a dark-skinned girl or woman in Arabic. We Egyptian girls, no matter where we grow up, we will learn that a fair skinned woman is beautiful and a samra is not. We will learn, that our naturally curly hair needs to be straightened, because otherwise it looks too messy, and girls with messy hair are not beautiful. We will be brainwashed that our dark eyes are less attractive, because blue, green and hazel eyes mesmerize people, but dark eyes simply don’t.

And we will believe it all.

We will believe it because it comes from relatives, friends and an entire society, that wants us to look like an American blond. And it´s kind of weird, because many songs have been written about the beauty of the samra girls, their dark eyes and their curly hair fluttering in the wind. So how come we know these songs by heart, but don´t actually think about the meaning and the message behind them?

We lighten and straighten our hair till we smell it burn, change the colors of our eyes with contact lenses, which kind of looks attractive, but is obviously fake. We even buy creams to lighten our skin color, while people with fair skin go on vacations to tropical beaches to get a tan. But if we decide to get a tan, ourselves, our relatives will mock us, especially if we get one before a special occasion, like a wedding for example.
How dare we expose our darker skin in public, as if it is it a badge of shame?

Since it has been drilled in our minds since childhood that we are not pretty the way we look, not white enough, we try to change this image. And because we seek love an acceptance, from society and especially from our loved ones, we alter our natural beauty to fit in the mold they defined for us.

Thinking over

For ages, Egyptian women and girls have been modifying their appearance to look more westernized, because this was the only beauty that counted in the eyes of society. But nowadays the younger generation is reevaluating these beauty standards, and defying them.

We don’t need to change our colors or try to look like women from other cultures. We can carry our curls with pride. We are becoming more comfortable in our own skin, no matter what shade it is.

Once we learn to embrace and accept ourselves as we are, we will discover that there is no such thing as “ugly.” People invented this term to make us feel less worthy and we aren´t. No one is.

27048802_2262041537155465_153262927_oMenerva Hammad is an Egyptian Austrian journalist and blogger. She writes about women rights and muslims in Europe.  Her blog “Hotel Mama,” is  about Motherhood, feminism, female sexuality and bad hijab days.


Check Menerva Hammad’s blog Hotel Mama and Facebook page here

Photos by: Hibat U. Kelifi

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One comment

  1. Beautifully expressing the reality of the pressure endured by women in Egypt and I suppose in many other places when their looks do not conform to the norms established by stronger Caucasian societies

    Liked by 1 person

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