By: Amina Abubakar Ali, BA English Literature and Arabic
I am a British-Somali, currently studying Arabic, on my year abroad in Alexandria, Egypt. Before I started my year abroad, my friends and family questioned how I felt, as a Black woman travelling to the Arab world. My experience overall has been a positive one perhaps, as I’m viewed as British before anything else. It is often assumed that I am Egyptian at first, however once my British accent is heard, when talking to friends I’m quickly asked “Inte minayn” “Where are you from?”. This, then, sparks the conversation of why I decided to come to Egypt. A major reason I chose Egypt because I was intrigued by all the cities within Egypt that I could explore and travel to.
I just came back from a music festival in Nuweiba, a coastal town in the eastern part of Sinai, Egypt, located on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. I had the opportunity to watch a Nubian-Egyptian band perform in the middle of the desert, underneath millions of stars. It was a heart-warming experience as the music resonated with the Somali music I grew up listening to; understandably as Nubians have roots in East Africa. My phone died, and I didn’t care unlike other times before, because I was in another world. I was soaking up everything around me. Going on a year abroad has been a chance for me to improve my Arabic, in the most organic way possible, as I have the opportunity to consistently use my language skills and improve by speaking to and interacting with locals, for example, I was surrounded by Bedouin Egyptians and Arabic was the only form of communication. Another thing I love about Egypt, is that wherever you go, you will always find people just open to have a chat. My favourite town thus far is definitely Dahab, where I dove 12.4 meters underwater. It was by far one of the most memorable moments so far. These few examples are what I’ve done in the past two months and my travelling around Egypt continues as I’m off to Siwa next.
Aside from travelling around Egypt, Alexandria is where I study Arabic. Popular activities are walking across the Corniche, a 3km walkway along the harbour, with the view of the beach and several historical sites which I have yet to visit. The opposite side is full of busy coffee shops full with locals having some downtime that includes a lot of shisha. The street stalls selling corn on the cob and my favourite beverage, fresh mango juice that comes down to less than 40p. I’ve also taken up horse-riding lessons, which is something I’ve never experienced before. The biggest culture shock for me was definitely how late everything runs. Growing up in London I’m used to running to appointments, meetings and lectures. However, the culture around time here is far more relaxed and laid back so I try to be at least ten minutes late for everything.
The experiences available are amazing and I hope to tick off all the cities in Egypt before my return.