10 Ridiculous Questions that Egyptian American High School Students are Asked
By: Mario Habashy/Arab America Contributing Writer
1. Can you read hieroglyphs?
Yes, we know that Egyptians were once notorious for their use of hieroglyphics. However, believe it or not, our practices have evolved from 2000 years ago! We don’t write on walls anymore and we use a completely different script now, the Arabic script.
2. Can I feel your hair?
Our Arab heritage has endowed us with hair that exhibits a natural foreign feeling. When people ask to touch our hair they don’t know what to expect. “Will their hair be smooth? Will it be rough?” I guess the only way they will find out is to feel our hair…
3. Are you Hispanic/Indian/Italian/African American?
Arab Americans have very diverse looks. There is no iconic aesthetic feature that will immediately signify that an Arab American is in fact Arab. This leads many of our high school peers to throw out guesses as to “what we are.” When they finally give up and we say “Arab”, they always say that they would never have guessed…
4. Did they have cities where you came from or was it just sand everywhere?
Alright, seriously? Yes, some parts of Egypt are indeed deserts. However, we have grass, trees, rivers, and many other natural features. Besides that, we do have cities… just like the cities in America. Our shoes are not always filled with sand either…
5. Is Egypt in Africa?
This is by far, one of the most often asked questions. “No way, you can’t be from Africa!” Yes, yes we can. “Well, I thought Egypt was its own thing.” No, Egypt is not its own entity drifting senseless in the midst of the Mediterranean. We are not sure who is more annoyed at this question – us Egyptians or these students’ geography teachers.
6. Do you “walk like an Egyptian?”
Yes? Egyptians walk like everyone else walks. “No, I mean like with your arm at 90 degrees and facing opposite directions while your hands are pointing forward.” No, where have you seen that? “Oh, well it’s in the movies all the time.”
7. Do you worship the pyramids?
We don’t know where this came from. Ancient Egyptians didn’t even worship the pyramids! The pyramids were a place to house the bodies of pharaohs, not to kneel to and pray.
8. Does everyone use a camel to get to places?
At one point they did, but it’s 2017 for crying out loud! The Egyptian streets are filled with cars just like the streets in America are.
9. Wow, you know Arabic! Can you read this for me? [proceeds to hand us Farsi script]…
Just like English, Arabic is written in a script that many other languages use. Often times, we are asked to read something that looks like Arabic to “test” our abilities. The dilemma is that most of the time, what is handed to us is not even Arabic.
10. Have you ever used a spoon or a fork?
We are no foreigners to utensils. We just don’t hesitate to use our resources effectively. For instance, when there are no utensils around, we don’t shy away from using our fingers, but when utensils are present we don’t dismiss them either. However, some people enjoy eating certain foods using their fingers. Some of the Arab people trust the hygiene of their fingers more than utensils they don’t know who washed them.