Commentary: Living within in two contrasting cultures

Gazette/ staff photo

Gazette/ staff photo Lina Esalwaf

Lina Elsawaf, staff writer

  In my experience, people can be ignorant when it comes to cultures that are not their own. Oftentimes, those people are only exposed to one culture.

  Both of my parents are Egyptian and were raised in Cairo which is why my family visits Egypt every summer.

  We mainly go to see family and friends but also to take a break from the bubble.

    The transportation in Egypt is a lot different than in Granite Bay. When I am in Cairo, my parents never drive us around. We have a driver whose job is to drive us wherever we need to go.

  This is very rare to see in Granite Bay where everyone is used to driving themselves and we do not have personal chauffeurs. The reason why there are hired drivers in Egypt is because jobs are difficult to get since the economy is so bad.

  I’d be walking down the streets in Cairo and there will be families out trying to sell whatever they can to get money for the day. I have walked by a child as young as six years old helping his family. It broke my heart, because I know this kid will only struggle for the rest of his life.

  This experience was an eye-opener because I have observed that people in Granite Bay tend to take things for granted when, as I know, there are places in this world where it is very common to struggle and never have a chance at a successful life and career.

  In the Egyptian culture, it is normal to have your middle name be your father’s first name. My middle name is Tarek. I used to be ashamed of this, especially when I was in elementary school. I felt as if I was an outcast. I never wanted anyone to know my middle name because I was afraid of the the other kids making fun of me for being different.

  Now, however, I feel no shame when it comes to this. I actually get excited when someone asks me what my middle name is because it means I get to tell them about my culture and how it is in Egypt.

  All of my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents live in Egypt and other parts of the middle east. One of the traditions they follow is on one day every week, say Friday, they all gather at one of the houses and eat dinner (called lunch there) together. This is something I miss out on because I do not live in Cairo with the rest of them, but when I visit my family participates in this.

My middle name is Tarek. I used to be ashamed of this, especially when I was in elementary school.

— Lina Esalwaf

  The energy of all of my family members together is heartwarming to me because it is a visual reminder that these people will always be there for each other no matter what. I envy the fact that they all have this special bond that I miss out on.

  It is so different in Granite Bay because I do not know a lot of families who have all their cousins and grandparents in such a close vicinity where they share a meal together once a week. I believe that alone makes a family so much closer and that if people here in Granite Bay tried it, they would enjoy it. Oftentimes, the families here only gather on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

  On May 6, the holy month of Ramadan started for everyone who practices Islam. I participate in this which requires me to fast during the daytime hours, which means no food or drink.

  I know a few people at Granite Bay who fast as well, and it is nice to have people that can relate to the struggle of not being able to eat. The majority of people, however, do not understand how hard it is. They still respect our decisions to fast and do not make fun of us, which is good because it shows that they are not xenophobic.

  According to, nearly everyone in Egypt adapts for the month by not working for as long. Many businesses close at earlier hours, or even stop business for the month.

  In Granite Bay, we, as a society, do not adapt for Ramadan. This, in my opinion, makes it virtually harder to fast in Granite Bay than to fast in Cairo or anywhere else where the majority of people are fasting as well.

  As I get older, more of these differences in culture become apparent, and it makes me think about how different these two places are. I am extremely lucky to be living in a place as wonderful as Granite Bay, but I honestly do miss the feeling of being in Egypt at times.