Nine Egyptian American Women Tell About Life, Family & Egypt

Saturday July 15, 2017

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Egyptian American women are active members of the society. Professionally, they work in every field. You find them as judges, politicians, doctors, lawyers, accountants, university professors, teachers, academics, heads of corporations, entrepreneurs, babysitters, supermarket workers, waitresses in restaurants and owners of private businesses. They are proud of both their heritage and of their adoptive country where they chose to live and raise their families. And while they are all living the American dream, they are always nostalgic to the heartwarming memories of their earlier lives.

Randa Allam

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Randa Allam graduated from the American University in Cairo with a degree in Mass Communication, Public Relations and Journalism. She moved to America with her husband and eldest daughter in 1993. Her second daughter was born in America. Randa works as a Compliance Auditor at U.S. Pharmaceutical Group, LLC.  She also worked as the weekend school coordinator of Alazhar School in Florida for 10 years. She stays informed with the events in Egypt by watching selective shows on Youtube. She loves to cook Egyptian food to both their American and Egyptian friends.

Randa and her family celebrate both Egyptian and American holidays. “Since we first moved to the U.S., we maintained a balance between the American and Egyptian cultures. Our daughters enjoyed the advanced curriculum of American schools and went to Arabic weekend school to study the language, Quran and Islamic studies.”

Randa and husband always have discussions at dinner, where important family issues are discussed. “Usually, my husband and I tell stories about our lives in Egypt, which trigger a lot of questions and curiosity from the girls to know more.”

Randa is very proud of Egypt, “I can’t help my tears whenever, there are documentaries on Discovery Channel or any other about Egypt. Thank God, we apparently made a good impression on all our neighbors and American friends as representatives of Egypt.”

Hala Askar

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Hala Askar was born in Alexandria, Egypt and lives in Dallas, Texas. She received her BA in English literature from Alexandria University and her MA from University of Texas in Dallas in Interdisciplinary studies. She has been living in America for thirty-one years. She works as the Director of Catering and Sales at Park City Club. She is responsible for booking events, social and corporate, budgeting, marketing and developing menus along with our culinary staff. Hala has a daughter and a son, both are in college.

One of the biggest challenges she faced was juggling between her job with its long hours and being a good parent involved in her kid’s sports, music lessons and their volunteer work. “It was harder because even though I was married at the time, I did most of it alone as their dad was less involved.” Hala explained.

Hala is very proud of her heritage and culture. “We observe holidays and gather with friends to celebrate. We listen to Egyptian music. We cook most of the favorite dishes, but I have to admit my kids are not so fond of some of them! Even though I was not married to an Egyptian (my ex-husband was Ethiopian), my kids identify more with the Egyptian culture.”

Hala speaks to her kids in Arabic, but because they grew up with parents who are from different cultures, they spoke English at home. Her kids understand more Arabic than they speak it, and “she regrets that she did not pursue that harder.”

Maram Eleleimy

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Maram Eleleimy has been in the US for two years. She has a degree in media studies and she is also a yoga instructor. She is currently studying for a PhD in occupational therapy. She watches Egyptian drama and movies from time to time, but avoids watching talk shows. If she ever has kids, she would insist on teaching them Arabic and “will make them read and write it too. Not only because I’m Egyptian, but because the Arabic language is a beautiful rich language that is worth learning.”

The major cultural traits she believes Egyptians have over Americans are hospitality and generosity, and that she would always maintain. “I grew up in a house where everyone was welcomed, and it was like a feast whenever someone visited us. And that’s something I want to hold on to. Teaching my kids to be a little conservative and chase is another thing I’ll proudly hold on to.”

When Mariam sees the Egyptian flag, or hear the anthem or a song, she gets excited because she lives in a mostly American community and “it’s always nice to see an Arab/Egyptian or hear a song that reminds me of Egypt”.

She doesn’t think there is something specific that makes her proud of her heritage. The fact that she is Egyptian in itself is a source of her pride. “And people here are always excited to meet an Egyptian.”

Abeer El-Gharbawy

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Abeer El-Gharabawy was raised in the US before her parents moved back to Egypt in 1973. She returned back 1993 and has been living in America since then. She received her Master’s in geology and a PhD in pharmacy from the University of Ohio. As an adjunct professor, she teaches anatomy, physiology, microbiology and pathophysiology. She has a 19-years old daughter who attends the Notre Dame Academy for High School. Abeer uses social media to keep close contact with family and friends back home. It is also her source to stay informed with the current events in Egypt. She visits Egypt frequently, celebrates all holidays, watches Egyptian television, and she cooks traditional food. “No matter how far we are, Egyptians have Egypt in their hearts.”  She said.

The biggest challenge she faced raising her daughter in America were the differences in culture and religion. She wanted her daughter to have the best of both worlds.”

Abeer’s main concerns about Egypt are the corruption and the deterioration in the education system. “We see and understand why the USA is so powerful and we see why Egypt is struggling. We all want Egypt to be in a better place.”

Azza Hamdi

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Azza Hamdy moved to Canada fourteen years ago. She works as a curriculum consultant. She coaches elementary teachers in a French school board. Azza shares stories and news about Egypt and “it’s beautiful places” with her kids. They love to keep Ramadan traditions, she cooks the special Egyptian dishes and desserts, and they celebrate the religious holidays. She speaks Arabic to her kids, watches Egyptian television to stay in touch with the current events.  Facebook and other social media also keep her informed about different events in Egypt.

For her kids growing up un Canada, having lots of friends with different cultures and backgrounds was not easy for them.

Seeing the Egyptian flag and hearing the Egyptian national anthem bring back to Azza memories of her days back in Egypt. “The flag started to trigger pride and joy after the revolution Jan 25th 2011.”

Azza feels very proud when people compliment her professionally and ask her where did she learn this or that, and she responds that she learned it in Egypt.

Maha Hammad

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Maha Hammad- Zehery, daughter of the late Admiral Youssef Hammad of the Egyptian Navy, moved to America thirty-five years ago. Maha has a degree in Interior Design from the University of Alexandria and a Master’s in Adult Education and a minor in Social Studies from Ohio State University. She is an outreach liaison for a company that provides services for mental health patients, addicts and the homeless.  

Maha has three kids. Her two daughters moved to America when they were in middle school. Reem Utterback, is a psychiatrist who lives in NC with her husband and 2 boys. Rana Sidahmed, a fashion designer who lives in Manhattan with her husband and 2 kids. Maha’s youngest Omar Zehery was born in America. He is a music engineer and records music as a business. He also had a famous band called Hit the Lights. The band has 3 MTV videos and had made several national and international tours.

Maha loves to cook Egyptian breakfast on weekends. She watches Egyptian television and celebrates the religious holidays. Both of her daughters and their families attend the Eid prayers in the mosque. Maha speaks Arabic to her kids, but her son who was born in America understands Arabic well but mostly answers in English.

Maha recalls how proud she felt when her American friends came to Egypt to attend her daughters’ weddings and how they were generously treated by family and friends, which left them with wonderful memories of Egypt and its people.

Gehan D. Sabry

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Gehan Sabry moved to Canada in 1988. She owns and runs two businesses; a magazine called Cross Cultures and a print shop. Gehan opened an Arabic school, and had an Arabic radio show and a radio show about Islam and faith. She has two daughters and a son. Her daughters are married to Canadians with European backgrounds and her son is engaged to a Canadian with Srilankan/Guyanese origin.  “All three have been completely integrated into Canadian society.” She speaks Arabic to her kids, as per their request, and cooks them Egyptian food which they love.

“While very proud of our heritage, the challenges were not between us [the parents and the kids], they were and still face racism and bigotry. My oldest was told at school why don’t you go back where you came from. My son who was 8-years at the time of Sept 11, was told “you are a terrorist”. My middle daughter who is a physician at a hospital where the population is majority ethnic is facing reverse discrimination, since she is not a visible minority and is the product of the Canadian education system.” Gehan said when asked about the challenges she faced raising her kids in Canada.

She gets very emotional when she sees the Egyptian flag. “I even get all choked up the minute I set foot on Egyptian soil. I have a huge collection of Egyptian music from my days on the radio, and I listen to Egyptian music of my generation.”

Salma Sammakia

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Salma Sammakia graduated from Alexandria University with a psychology major. She immigrated to America 29 years ago. She works as a medical interpreter and a medical coach (instructor). She trains students and prepare them to pass the exams for The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters,  to become certified medical interpreters. Salma has a son and a daughter.

The greatest challenges she faced with her children were mostly cultural differences. Sleepover birthday parties were one of the biggest challenges that caused many arguments with her children, especially her daughter. “She didn’t understand why her friends were allowed to sleep over while she had to go home at the end of the party, no matter how many times I tried to explain it to her. Another challenge was curfew time. All her friends either had no curfew or it was midnight. Accepting having a boyfriend at an early age was also a big battle. While all the kids are allowed to have a boy/girlfriend, how do you explain it to your kids that it is not acceptable. Reasoning and convincing was a continuous battle.”

When asked about how she feels when she sees the Egyptian flag or hear the Egyptian anthem she said, “It brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps. It reminds me of the good old days when I was living there, and speech days at school. It makes me very proud.”

Azza Zomoza

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Azza Zomoza moved to Los Angeles from Egypt fifteen  years ago. She is a dental hygienist and has two daughters. Her daughters were 10 and 12 when they moved to America. Other than the usual challenges of moving to a new country, settling in the system and living away from family and friends, Azza faced no challenges raising her daughters up. “Once we got used to life here everything went smoothly.”

Azza believes it is important to maintain one’s identity as its part of their characters. “Our heritage is imbedded in us, and comes out in the form of a nice meal my daughter, who’s a chef, prepares at her work or as a special design by my other daughter who’s a fashion designer. As I always say we are a tree with Egyptian roots and American branches.”

Azza doesn’t watch Egyptian or Arabic television and doesn’t really celebrate Egyptian holidays. She speaks Arabic with her daughters though and cook Egyptian food.

She feels nostalgic when she sees the Egyptian flag or hears the national anthem, “Seeing the flag brings a lot of memories. I feel like someone from my family is visiting the US when an official or the president is here and they play the national anthem.”

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7 comments

  1. I am so pleased to read about Maha Hammad and Salma Sammakia , I was in school with her sisters.
    All the articles are very intersting, specially that I am living in Paris since 46 years and understand their feelings.

    Like

    • I am so pleased to read about Maha Hammad and Salma Sammakia , I was in school with her sisters.
      All the articles are very intersting, specially that I am living in Paris since 46 years and understand their feelings.

      Like

      • Thank you dear Azza
        Family are friends ever since we were kids then we are also related by Both Dayna ( RIP) and Alaa
        😍

        Like

  2. Brilliant article! Enjoyed reading about every single remarkable Egyptian lady who made it in the US and still cherishes her roots and upbringing.
    Maha and Salma, proud to call you my friends 💕

    Like

  3. Very nice to see the stories of accomplished Egyptian ladies with their challenges and successes. I personally know Maha Hammad and her family and I still learned new things about her family.
    I was also interested to read all the other 8 profiles of the Egyptian-American ladies. I liked Azza Zomoza’s expression of “We are a tree with Egyptian roots and American branches”, so well described. Great job for the “Women of Egypt” magazine, Kudos.

    Like

  4. Very Interesting and very proud to see all the accomplishments of my dearest sister Salma and my best childhood friend Maha. Of course, the same goes to all the other well defined Egyptian ladies’ accomplishments. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

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