They say that clothes maketh the man…

And the woman, too. A widower who disguised herself as a man for 43 years to support her family has been awarded Egypt’s “woman breadwinner” accolade. Sisa Abu Daooh has been named the “ideal mother” after going to such lengths to make ends meet.

Sounds Shakespearean…

Abu Daooh, who comes from Luxor, has experienced more than her fair share of tragedy. While she was pregnant in the early 1970s, her husband died suddenly; aged 20, she was left penniless and illiterate with her daughter and mother to support.

What did she do?

Local culture opposed women in the workplace so Abu Daooh, now 64, shaved her head and found a job on a construction site. “It was the only way to make money,” she said. A lifetime spent lugging around hundreds of bricks every day has made her “as strong as 10 men”, she added.

Surely it would be impossible?

The resourceful widow said she has been living as a man for so long that most of her village are unaware she is really a woman. “Even my daughter thought I was the dad for years,” she joked.

Does she miss her old identity?

The grandmother of six insists that presenting herself as a man has freed her from the threat of sexual harassment rampant in parts of Egypt.

Will she dress as a woman again?

No. She has elected to continue dressing as a man. “I have decided to die in these clothes,” she said. “I’ve got used to it now.”

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