This oral history exhibit is the third installment in an ongoing effort to document and showcase the experiences, histories, and memories of diverse migrants from Egypt and their descendants. Relying on a list of open-ended interview questions, Alya Osman explored the motivations, journey, challenges, and settlement of Egypt’s migrants in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. She sought the perspectives of first-generation immigrants from urban centers across Egypt who migrated in the second half of the 20th century. Interviews range in length, from 20 – 50 minutes, and are presented in the format chosen by the interviewee – video, audio, or transcript.
The oral history process, from the interview stage through preservation, use, and access, is guided by respect for narrators and the communities from which they come from. Interviews on display for the exhibit have been modified and edited for clarity and accessibility by Michael Akladios. With the participants’ consent, unedited originals will be preserved at the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections for students and researchers. No copies of the interviews may be made or used in any published form without acknowledgment of the original source.
Special thanks to Alya Osman, undergraduate student in Film & New Media and Social Research & Public Policy at NYU Abu Dhabi. Born in Cairo and raised in Kuwait, Alya is an aspiring cinematographer and occasional writer. Her work explores themes of aspiration, women’s issues in the MENA, and the sense of placelessness associated with living in the GCC as a non-citizen. Alya joined Egypt Migrations as a summer intern in June 2021 and all interviews were complete by August 2021.
Thank you to York University’s Clara Thomas Archives and the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at UC Santa Barbara for their partnership and generous support.
If you would like to participate and be a part of the exhibit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Egypt Migrations, 2021.
37-year-old Sherine was born in Saudi Arabia, returning to Egypt at the age of 10 before migrating to Oman to work as a teacher at the age of 31. Sherine discusses the challenges of living abroad as a single woman, the importance of financial independence, and why parents shouldn’t hesitate to let their daughters live abroad.
77-year-old Mohsen was born in Egypt, taking the leap to migrate to Kuwait in 1966 and living there until 2015. Mohsen discusses early life in Kuwait, building a family abroad, and the impact of the 1991 Iraqi invasion on Kuwaiti society.
27-year-old Ziad was born in Egypt, migrated with his family to Saudi Arabia at the age of five then to Oman at the age of 12, and now lives in the UAE. Ziad discusses memories of trips home to Port Said, anti-Egyptian racism in the Gulf, and the transformative experience of re-connecting with Egypt during his mandatory military service.
44-year-old Mai was born in Kuwait, returning to Egypt at the age of seven. Mai discusses growing up around family in Kuwait, returning to Kuwait at 29 for her husband’s job, and life as a homemaker vs a working mother.
22-year-old Touqa was born in Egypt before moving immediately with her family to the UAE. Touqa discusses her early memory of life in Sharjah, the challenges of ‘blending in’ on trips back to Egypt, and why Dubai will always be home.
19-year-old Mawadah was born in Egypt, moving with her family briefly to the U.S. and Canada before settling in Saudi Arabia. Mawadah compares living in Medina vs Jeddah, coming-of-age as a woman in Saudi Arabia, and finding home in Egypt.
21-year-old Andrew was born in Egypt, moved with his family to Jordan, and returned to Egypt just to move to Dubai on a whim following the 2011 revolution. Andrew discusses the challenges of assimilation, redefining his relationship with Copticity, and reclaiming Egyptianness.
21-year-old Alya was born in Egypt, moved to Kuwait for at six years old, then returned to Egypt for university. Alya discusses her love-hate relationship with Kuwait, living in Cairo vs Alexandria, and coming home after years abroad.
55-year-old Hassan was born in the Philippines, and his parents’ diplomatic career moved him between Egypt, Afghanistan, and the U.K. Hassan discusses his experiences of migrating straight out of university to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain, nepotism in the workforce in the GCC, and maintaining roots at home.
A 48-year-old man who was born in Kuwait discusses his childhood memories, returning to Kuwait for work at the age of 33, and why Egyptians over time have migrated to the Gulf.
A 22-year-old man who was born in Egypt, raised in Kuwait, studied in the U.S., and currently resides in Canada, discusses differences between the countries and how migration has shaped his vision for the future.
A 21-year-old woman, who was born in Lesotho and moved to Egypt at the age of eight, discusses culture shock, finding community in Cairo, and the difference between racism in Egypt vs the GCC.