The following is a transcript between a female stranger and me in Egypt
Female Egyptian Stranger: (after I spoke to her in Arabic, in my Lebanese accent): You’re not Egyptian, right?
Me: Correct, I’m not.
Her: Are you Moroccan?
Me: No, I’m Lebanese.
Her: But you don’t look Lebanese.
Me: Well, I am Lebanese, and I do look like other women in my family.
Her: Well, you’re not from Beirut.
Me: Actually, I live there. But, let me ask you: why do you say I don’t look Lebanese. I have been told that I don’t look Lebanese for months now in Egypt.
Her: Well, you don’t look like you’ve had plastic surgery.
Me: Yes, I haven’t made my nose smaller or my lips bigger.
Her: I have. I had a nose operation
[next: i have to figure out why I’m commonly thought of as being from Morocco]
For accuracy: I have gotten the same comment on a weekly basis in Lebanon for years. Conversations there are like this one, which happened in Hamra (Beirut), and note that these conversations are in Arabic – both of us speaking in a Lebanese accent, with my accent arguably stronger:
female stranger: You’re not Lebanese. [said in a statement, not a question]
me: Yes, I am Lebanese
female stranger: Really? Both your mom and dad are Lebanese?
me: Yes, both my parents are Lebanese, and I can trace my family back 700 years to this region. Yes, I am Lebanese. Would you like to see my family tree? my ID?
female stranger: well, you don’t look Lebanese.
— Those comments I only get in Beirut – whether in Hamra or Achrafieh – and never elsewhere in Lebanon where the image of what a Lebanese looks like is not so narrow: i.e. not defined by plastic surgery, straightened hair, heavy make-up, or who knows what