This oral history exhibit is the first installment in a series intended to showcase the experiences, histories, and memories of diverse migrants from Egypt and their descendants. Relying on a list of open-ended interview questions, student volunteers from York University explored the motivations, journey, challenges, and settlement of individuals and groups in Ontario, Canada. They sought the perspectives of first- and second-generation immigrants from Cairo and Alexandria. Interviews range in length, up to 20 minutes, and are presented in the format chosen by the interviewee – video, audio, or textual 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 our interviewers, Karen Abdelsaid and Sarah Al Naqeeb, student placements from York University. You can read their reflections on collecting the oral histories here.
Thank you to York University’s Glendon and Keele History Departments, the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, 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.
23 year old Ahmed Ghaly was born in Cairo and immigrated to Mississauga, Canada in 2008 because his parents sought improved job prospects and education. Ahmed recounts memories of school, friends, and sports before and after emigration. Surrounded by Egyptian or Arab friends, he enjoys Arabic music and frequently visits Egypt. He wishes to move back one day.
22 year old Lobna Hassan was born in Cairo and moved to Toronto, Canada with her sister in 2011. Lobna speaks about how the instability of Egypt’s revolution drove her parents to decide that she continue her education in Canada. Nostalgic for home when she first arrived, Lobna confides how she has slowly adjusted to life between Cairo and Toronto.
26 year old Ramla Hussein was born in Toronto, Canada and lived in Egypt for seven years prior to her return in 2011. Ramla confides her experiences adjusting to Egypt, especially at school and in social circles. Ramla frequently visits Egypt and hopes that she can one day take her son with her so that he can have his own experiences of Egypt.
21 year old Erika Melek was born in Mississauga, Canada to Egyptian immigrant parents. Erika speaks about why her parents chose Canada, how they met, and the relationship between her Egyptian and Canadian identities in navigating society and community.
23 year old Monica Shafik was born in Sudan, lived in Egypt briefly, and moved to Mississauga, Canada with her family. Monica describes why her family chose Canada, her reflections on Coptic persecution in Egypt, and the importance of a Church community in settling and adapting to a new country.
35 year old Marcus Zacharia left Egypt for Washington, DC and then moved to Ottawa, Canada. A professional migrant, Marcus recounts the challenges he faced and his views on Canadian multiculturalism and diversity. He currently works to help new immigrants settle and is invested in inter-ethnic relations.
21 year old Stephanie Alexander was born in Alexandria, Egypt. She immigrated to Canada with her family when she was 8 years old. Stephanie describes her family’s migration, why they chose Toronto, and the role kin networks and the Coptic church played during the process of settlement and adaptation in Canada.
64 year old Nelly Fanous from Jaffa immigrated to Toronto in 1980. In Palestine, she married into a well-known Coptic family. Her husband’s grandfather was a scribe for the Coptic Church sent to Palestine in the nineteenth century. Nelly talks about the family’s reasons for immigrating to Canada, her continued connections with Palestine and Israel, the process of settlement, and the role of the Coptic Church in Canada.
24 year old Hussein Fathalla was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He grew up in Dubai and moved to Canada immediately prior to the Egyptian revolution in 2011. Hussein details his connections with Egypt and Dubai, and the complexities of adapting to Canadian culture.
A 23 year old woman residing in Mississauga details the benefits of obtaining a degree in Canada, meeting new friends while settling, and her family’s efforts to maintain Egyptian culture in daily life.
A 28 year old woman who was born in Egypt, raised in Kuwait, and moved to Canada in 2008 speaks about her experience living in several countries and the importance her parents placed on their children’s education.