Living in the Pyramids

By Mina Shafik | 9/11/13 8:54pm

I still remember my first day coming to the great USA, even though it was a year ago. I remember the passport check in line— that I had to wait in it for two and a half hours. I also remember my orientation here in GVSU; it was incredible, but I also remember the questions that I was asked, that my international friends dealt with, too. The first question I always get when I tell someone I am from Egypt is whether I live in or near the pyramids. Few people realize that pyramids are built as tombs, so it would not make sense to live in one. The second question I always get: do I get to school on my camel, or on chariot driven by camels? When I am home in Egypt, I drive a Mercedes (not bragging about anything)— a bit different from a camel. Unfortunately many people in the United States get their information from Hollywood, and, speaking from personal experience, Hollywood is not a good source. Egypt is often depicted in movies as pyramids, desert and camels, so when people think of Egypt that is often the first picture that comes to mind. This stereotype is not only in Egypt, but many other countries too. Africa is often seen as being the poor people in the jungle, Latin America as people dancing salsa and selling drugs, etc. I have to admit, I had some stereotypes about America too, but who doesn’t? I expected everyone to be either models or obese, no in-between. I expected that in America, you would be free to do whatever you want; I assumed that you could drink in the streets and that wherever you go, you would find a celebrity. Funny isn’t it? But not all stereotypes are correct, especially the negative ones. Even if you think a certain stereotype is true. I had the negative assumption that Americans would see me as a terrorist, just because I am an Arab. Fortunately, I was mistaken, and the proof is the questions I got. We cannot prevent stereotypes; we try, but it is not possible. We will always have a first impression, we will always have a stereotype, and we will always judge the book from its cover. But here what we can do is to ignore this first impression or stereotype, and swim deeply in this knowledge to know more, rather than judging the person or culture, and leave it like this. It is not stupid to ask to know more about a certain culture, but it is unwise to judge them or describe them while you don’t have any clue about them. We have this saying in my country: “knowledge is light and ignorance is darkness”. So, dear reader, let’s light this country up.

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