I stand atop a fourteen foot platform beneath layers of scorching stage lights as my heart beats along with the intensifying music that will culminate in my cue. Everything is still; my back is turned, yet I can still feel the audience watching me. Suddenly, my cue arrives. I face the audience, take off my enormous robe and headdress, and reveal that beneath the layers of ancient Egyptian garb, I am Elvis impersonating a pharaoh—a role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Ironically this role—with its combination of Egyptian and American icons—mirrors my life.
Defining a culture is not an easy task and it is not one that is possible for me to do easily. I consider myself to be both Egyptian and American. I was born in Egypt and I was raised in America. I speak Arabic at home and I speak English at school as well as with my friends. I indulge in the succulent rich flavors of homemade warah enab when I am at home, and delight myself to an occasional Pinkberry when I am out. In other words, I live a dual life—a life that is fractured by the barriers of culture.
Living the life of the Egyptian-American is not easy; but I have mastered overcoming the obstacles that are associated with being Middle-Eastern today. It is not easy to hear that people are afraid to go to Egypt because they fear for their lives; it is not easy to go to Egypt and be called a foreigner just because I live in America, and it is also not easy for me to go to the airport and watch my father be stripped and searched because of his last name.
At times I feel unwelcome in both locations. In America I am the Egyptian and in Egypt I am the American. I am fractured-- separated by two very different cultures at a time when both cultures wish to have nothing to do with the other. I sometimes wish to shake those who are prejudiced in this country. America is the gathering place of immigrants: legal and illegal. Have we...