EGYPT THROUGH THE EYES OF A UGANDAN STUDENT

I happened to attend  a Pentecostal church in Uganda before I went to Egypt for my studies In my Ugandan church the preacher would use the word ‘Misri’ (Arabic for Egypt) to refer to our lives before Christ’s salvation.

This created a wrong image of Egypt (Misr) for me: I thought of it as the early Hebrews saw it; a land of captivity.

One year ago, I was accepted as a student at one of Africa’s academically elite universities, Egypt’s own Cairo University, in the faculty of commerce. And when I landed, I had a conflict in me that lasted for a couple of days, concerning the Misri my pastor often talked of and the Misr in which I had landed.

I wondered how it could ever be possible for a desert nation (as most of Egypt is) to have so many fresh fruits –.even more than those in downtown Kampala markets back home. Quantity aside, I also wondered how these fresh fruits and vegetables could go for as low as two pounds a kilo, beating the Ugandan prices by far, and these fruits are available almost all year round, apart from grapes.

The Nile is another fascination! I am a Ugandan by birth and I spent almost my entire life in Kampala, about 70 miles from the source of this Nile river, but had visited it only once, and I am among the few Ugandans who have done so, yet here I am crossing bridges on the Nile in almost all the directions I take from college.

This reminds me of my history lesson about Egypt wanting to colonize Uganda – strategically because of the Nile. It was a thing to which I had attached no meaning until now. I now realize the Nile is the blood flowing through Egypt, and anything wrong with it could send it into ‘cardiac arrest.’ In Uganda however, we have fresh water lakes and rivers in all parts of the country, and several untapped sources of underground mineral water, yet some people starve to death in Uganda. Because we have rains almost entirely all year round, irrigation is not used, but when the rains don’t come we witness poor yields which in turn can result in starvation.

I have a number of Egyptian friends, male and female. I did not expect to obtain female friends when I first arrived here. I believed that you can be only friends with males and that all Egyptian girls would be a ‘no-go’ zone; not even shaking hands with them. This was the worst myth I believed in, as all female friends of mine told me that it is not the case. They are good people, I actually find them to be more honest with me than some of my female Ugandan friends back home. They usually ask me about my home country as they share about theirs, and although our cultures are different, we can still work together.

I am proud to live in the same nation in which strong men of the Bible came to seek refuge; Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, Moses and the founder and cornerstone of my faith, Jesus Christ. Of all places, God chose Egypt for the child Jesus to escape the wrath of Herod.

Egypt has a different variety of food than my home, but I have developed a craving for some of them: the sandwiches are tastier here for instance, and the rice prepared in the restaurants can never be tastier than elsewhere.

As a Christian, I appreciate many things from the Arab culture, one of which is the decency in dressing. Thumbs up to you my Arab sisters in particular.

The language is also fascinating. Egypt uses Arabic as its official language. Arabic is an interesting language, from the way it is spoken to the way it is written; one of the few languages written cursively from right to left. I have attended an Arabic language class and I have picked up a few lines ranging from salutations to asking for help, to thank you and sorry, and writing too, although I have a long way to go.

Egypt offers a lifetime experience and I thank God who destined it to be this way that I may live here. I believe I have a lot else to see; for example there are no evening tea-bars in Kampala, no such seasons as winter, summer fall and spring, it is always summer in Uganda and always rainy.

I have therefore learnt that Egypt, just like all other parts of the world, is a mirror: what you give is what you get. Some of us might have had bad experiences here but tell me, where on this earth is it 100% perfect. My advice would be to try to live as positively as possible, for only then shall you enjoy Egypt fully. 

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