90 Day Fiance: The Other Way fans have cried out in alarm during Nicole Sherbiny and Mahmoud Elsherbiny’s ugly fights.
On Season 4, Episode 8, things even turned physical. He chased her, she pushed him, and he grabbed her wrist.
Viewers are by no means united on what to make of these two — except that most think that the
But a lot of social media commenters are completely missing the mark when it comes to which of them is the villain.
There are so, so many issues with Nicole Sherbiny and Mahmoud Elsherbiny.
The good news is that they both clearly know it, even if they don’t view these issues the same way.
That is certainly better than the 90 Day Fiance cast members over the years who seem to think that things are fine, or that their toxic and even abusive relationship is normal. But … there are huge problems.
Certainly, their biggest issue — on the surface, anyway — is clothing. It’s what’s on the literal surface.
While Mahmoud’s clothing plays a role (only in that he himself does not follow restrictions that he places upon Nicole), it’s about how Nicole dresses. Or, rather, how Mahmoud has Nicole dress.
The burkini is the most extreme example, as it seems to fill Nicole with the most dread — and the most envy of others in Egypt who wear normal swimwear.
Now, Mahmoud asks Nicole politely — most of the time — to dress in certain ways.
But sometimes, his exact rules are difficult for viewers, or Nicole, to predict. Nicole arrived after a long flight with her arms covered, her legs covered, even her neck covered, all under multiple layers.
She dressed like an aristocratic vampire who was once a nun. It still wasn’t enough, with Mahmoud asking her to cover up more within minutes of her arrival … even though he knew that it would cause problems.
Of course, sometimes, Mahmoud is considerably less polite.
Whether he is visibly irritable or has simply chosen a rude way to communicate, it doesn’t make the message any easier.
And a grown adult receiving orders on how to wear is already in an awkward position. Hostility makes it much worse.
Another major obstacle for these two, one that takes a backburner to clothing, is where they will live.
This is, first and foremost, a practical concern. They are a young married couple, living in one bedroom in Mahmoud’s mom’s house.
The bathroom situation is a nightmare that very few Americans could have imagined. For many of us, even sharing a bathroom is something that we try to avoid when looking for a home. Sharing one bathroom among several people, especially such a (to Americans) unusual bathroom where the shower stall and toilet overlap and requires a squeegee, is enough to make anyone want to move.
The question of their housing is not just the common sense “I am a grown adult and I would like my own space” issue. Though, yes, Nicole would love to do her morning routine without feeling like she’s monopolizing the home’s only bathroom.
Nicole finds living with Mahmoud’s family to be extremely overwhelming.
They’re nice to her. But there are children in and out of the place all of the time. And the same goes for adults. It is overstimulating, we have all watched Nicole feel overwhelmed by the noise.
This is something that could easily happen with Americans who are dating other Americans.
Some families are extremely loud, or large. Others are smaller or more reserved. It happens.
Nicole does not enjoy the stimulation. It’s not a case of people being mean to her, it’s just a matter of sensory input. We get it.
Also? Nicole and Mahmoud argue a lot. That is bad on its own.
It is even worse when Mahmoud’s mom is sitting in the background, sometimes in the same frame for the camera, listening.
We don’t know how much of their conversation she catches, but it clearly makes her sad. And knowing that Mahmoud’s mom is listening and hurting over this bothers Nicole. (That said, “hey we fight a lot” is not a good reason to move into a home together.)
Nicole is also just very lonely in Egypt. She has Mahmoud and she sort of has his family, but that is it.
This is very common for people who move to live with a partner to not initially have friends in the area.
However, cultural expectations — and, more immediately, Mahmoud and his family’s particular way of doing things — means that Nicole doesn’t have a chance to go out and make friends. In fact, even hanging out with Mahmoud’s friends felt kind of weird. But … things get much worse than awkwardness.
On Season 4, Episode 8, Mahmoud made a passive aggressive “like you care” comment. It was a breaking point for Nicole.
She walked away. He chased her. She asked him to leave her alone and let her go. He refused, and continued to touch her, demanding that she return home with him.
Nicole pushed him as she walked away. Mahmoud’s response, grabbing her arm (multiple times) and displaying open anger, set off a lot of alarm bells for a lot of viewers.
Even after this frightening incident, many 90 Day Fiance fans have remained divided.
In fact, a number blame Nicole for all of these problems — saying that she should never have come to Egypt, never gotten involved with Mahmoud, never converted to Islam without more research.
Some pointed to Avery Mills as an example of a Muslim convert who understands her faith and embraces it.
Meanwhile, critics have accused Nicole of being an “entitled white American woman” who is trying to “change Mahmoud” and all of Egypt while she’s at it.
Is that the case?
Well … let’s look at the facts.
Nicole stated repeatedly that she does not want to go back to Egypt. Even while packing her bags to do so, she was dreading it.
She returned there for Mahmoud. But … it’s not really Egypt that has her miserable.
In fact, Nicole seemed to enjoy her first trip there, which was a spiritual trip on which she met Mahmoud. It sounds like she only grew to dread being in Egypt after she married him.
Nicole also converted to Islam. She said that Mahmoud did not require her to do this, but she fell in love with the religion upon seeing how fulfilled Muslims she met were with their faith.
We have heard Nicole express second thoughts about her conversion.
But it doesn’t really seem like being a Muslim is what makes her unhappy. It sounds more like her conflict with Mahmoud over what it means for her to be his Muslim wife is what causes problems.
Egypt does not require that Nicole button her jacket when she’s already fully dressed. Plenty of people wear one-pieces and bikinis in Egypt, although usually at the beach. Nicole wore a burkini because of Mahmoud.
Whether to wear a hijab, and how much skin to expose, is a matter of personal religious preference for Muslims. Sometimes, culture, family tradition, and even local law comes into play. So Islam is not policing Nicole’s clothing — Mahmoud is.
And when it comes to heading out and meeting people, even Mahmoud acknowledged that there are Egyptian couples who go out together. But not him or his buddies, who grew up in the same neighborhood. Egypt isn’t holding back Nicole from meeting people — Mahmoud is.
At every turn, it seems like Mahmoud is standing in the way of Nicole’s happiness.
Nicole could be very happy as a Muslim woman and living in Egypt, one imagines. But it doesn’t look like she has any hope of that while Mahmoud is her husband.
Unless he changes pretty dramatically — by no longer seeking to change Nicole — then they’re headed to divorce or to a lifetime of misery. Possibly, to both.
But with all of that having played out very clearly on screen, why are some (very vocal) viewers still blaming Nicole?
It’s probably the same thing that had people blaming Brittany for her conflict with Yazan, blaming Ariela for her conflict with Biniyam, and blaming Deavan for her clashes with Jihoon.
In other words, it’s 90 Day Fiance fans’ infamous misogyny problem. For this fandom, misogyny outweighs racism or xenophobia almost every time.
Now, we have absolutely seen real instances of the “white American goes to another country and demands that people change” trope. We have seen it on this show.
But Nicole is not doing that. Her closest efforts to “change” Mahmoud have been talking about finding their own place to live, and wanting to meet his friends. Those are changes … but also things that do happen in Egypt, and fairly normal things for partners.
We haven’t seen any signs of Nicole wanting to “change” Egypt, or Mahmoud’s family. She has just set boundaries for how much she wants them to change her. Not really the same thing … especially since, again, her conflict isn’t with a country or a culture. It’s with her husband.