Interview of Arig Wageeh Elhamouly Transcript


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Interview of Arig Wageeh Elhamouly Transcript
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Arig Wageeh Elhamouly interview
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Revealing Florida’s Arab Immigrants Phase II: The Arab Business Community
Barbara Jardee
Arig Wageeh Elhamouly
Jardee Transcription

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University of Florida
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Arig Wageeh Elhamouli Sunday December 2, 2012 Marks Street Community Ce nter in Orlando, Florida Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Also present, Richard Saltzburg Alhadi: Thank you, Sister Arig. May peace be upon you. Elhamouli: And you too. Alhadi: My name is Esam Alhadi. I am a profes sor at the University of Florida Department of Arabic Language. We are happy to be here wi th you. Today is Sunday, December 2, 2012. It is now 3:20 PM. This interview takes place at Ma rks Street Community Center in Orlando. One more time, I welcome you to this interview, Si ster Arig, and we would like to begin by asking you to give us some personal details about your place of birth and education. You may talk in Colloquial Egyptian Arabic. Elhamouli: I was born in Egypt and came here when I was four years old. I came with my father who used to work for the National Research Ce nter and he came here on a grant to do some research projects in the field of schistosomiasi s in 1984. He did his research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. The entire fa mily came with him. We lived in New York between 1984 and 1987, and then returned to Egypt af ter my father’s grant expired. We lived in Egypt for a while and my father obtained another gr ant to do research in the field of cancer. We returned to the same university in New York and lived there for four years. We returned to Egypt one more time when I was twelve or thirte en years old, and continued to live there until I entered college. I started my college education at Cairo University in the department of administration I studied foreign commerce. At that time I came to know the man who later became my husband. He was a student at Florida State University, but he was on a grant at the


time at the American University in Cairo to st udy Arabic and Islamic studies. We knew each other, got married, and came to live in Washi ngton DC. I obtained my college degree from Johns Hopkins University and my husband was at Howard University School of Law. After we both finished our study, we moved to Florida because my husband was originally born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida. Alhadi: Is he Egyptian? Elhamouli: No, he is American. We have b een here in Orlando since 2005. We have three children named Youssef, Mariam, and Ryan. Afte r I finished my college education at Johns Hopkins, I worked for an international charity organization that worked in the field of development in the developing countries. We di d some work in Latin America and Asia. My work was in the area of economic and educationa l development. After moving to Florida, it wasn’t easy for me to find a job. I got a job wi th an Islamic school called Leaders Preparatory School in Goldenrod. I taught fifth grade for two years. I also worked as a volunteer with a number of organizations. I currently work w ith a charity organization called United Way. I work locally, not at the internati onal level. I also work as a pa rt-time teacher of Arabic language at Rollins University. I teach one class a wee k. I started my business in the Zumba exercise field. This started when I decided to join a Zumba class to help me loose the weight that I gained after giving birth to my third chil d. I liked the class very much and decided to obtain a certificate in this field. I became a certified Zumba instructor two years ago. Alhadi: We will get back to this business. No w, I want to know if you are still maintaining a relationship with Egypt. Elhamouli: I was there this past summer. A lthough my father, mother, nor brothers live in Egypt at this time, still, I went there to visit my relatives and to spend Ramadan there. My


grandmother, aunts and uncles are still there in many places in Cairo. I was brought up in the Maadi and Haram areas. Alhadi: Do you have re latives outside Cairo? Elhamouli: My Mother’s uncle was the commissi oner of the Minya Province and he lived there. However, most of my re latives live in Cairo. Alhadi: Can you tell us about your field of study at Cairo University? Elhamouli: I studied foreign trading at the Eng lish Department of Commerce. I moved to this country before graduation, and had to finish my college education here at Johns Hopkins. Alhadi: Since this interview is intended to focus more on the business area, we would like to hear more about your business and how long you have been doing it. Elhamouli: I started my business a short while ago. I obtained my license in June 2011 and started my business in December 2011. I thought it was going to be a small thing with only one class where two or three of my friends would join me for a short exercise. However, the number of Arab participants kept on growing. Those ar e the people who always wa nted to start physical exercise but they were looking fo r a place that is not publicly ope n such as the YMCA and other gyms. I rented a private studio for ladies to pr actice. I agreed with the manager that this exercise should be closed and no outsiders are allowed in. Particip ants were not all Muslims, but they all loved to have privacy. Business st arted very well and the number of members soon climbed up to forty or fifty. The classes are offe red two times a week for five dollars a session. Alhadi: How long did it take you to fini sh your training and to become certified? Elhamouli: It took me about one year to finish the course. After that I had to start the certification process which also requires special tr aining. I did the traini ng in a place close to Miami. That is how I became a certified Zumba instructor.


Alhadi: You also mentioned that you worked with some NGOs. Elhamouli: True, and I still work with some of them. Alhadi: That means you are working in two different fields of work at this time. Elhamouli: Correct. Alhadi: Which one of the two fields do you feel you belong to more than the other? Elhamouli: I feel I belong to the two areas. I love teaching and I am currently working on an M.A. in education. I have been doing different things throughout my life. However, they all relate to the teaching area. I have always been teaching either in a school, university, or in my Zumba classes. This shows that I love teaching and to be of benefit to the people around me. Although people might think having a family of th ree children is more than enough to keep me busy at home, I feel I can s till do better when I get the chance to help others. Alhadi: Do you think that a business field such as offering Zumba classes would succeed in Egypt? Elhamouli: I think it would. It is already there and it is very successful. I am in touch with many friends there and I know that many of them go to Zumba classes. One of my friends who went back to Egypt proposed to me that we shoul d have a business similar to this one in Egypt. I found it hard to do, since I have established my life here, and by being married to an American. Alhadi: Is it the same here and there in Egypt or are there some differ ences in the way classes are delivered.? Elhamouli: It depends on the instructor. Each one has a different style. Zumba is generally known to adapt the Latin music but peopl e can use music from other places. Alhadi: Do you use Latin music more? Do you in clude Arabic music? We know that modern Arabic music style has become mo re of a light dancing music.


Elhamouli: I use different types of music, in cluding Arabic. I also like Turkish music and Indian Music. Alhadi: Can you tell us specifically some of the Arabic music that you usually use? Elhamouli: I play songs by Amr Diyab and Mohamed Fuad. Alhadi: That is good. I believe using Arabic music may teach the participants some Arabic words. Elhamouli: I know they like it ve ry much. I also offer a mont hly class at the United Way Organization. All participants are Westerners and they like the Arabic music very much. Alhadi: You mentioned that you had the opportunity to travel to many countries. Can you tell us a little about your experien ce with travelling abroad? Wh ich countries did you have the opportunity to visit? Elhamouli: Here in the States, I lived in Albany, in upstate New York State. I also lived in Cairo, Egypt, and in Libya when my father was a teacher at Gar Younis University. That was back in the 1990s. We didn’ t like it there, and for that reason we didn’t stay for too long. I went to other countries, but these were only for the purpose of short visits. I visited my brother who lives in Ireland. Alhadi: I want to know about your experience in teaching the Arabic language. You told me earlier that you are also involve d in Arabic language teaching. Elhamouli: I am part of a network that is calle d U.S. Distant Arabic Learning Network, based in Montana State University. This network offers classes through video c onference technology. I believe this network is providing a good opportunity to teach Arabic at small universities where the enrollment in languages classes is not big enough to offer a separa te class and to hire a fulltime professor. This distant learning works by attending a class of two sessions every week


through a video conference offered by a professor at Montana State University. I act as assistant to the professor and help the studen ts who are enrolled in the class. I help them while the class is in session, but I also see them another two times every week for conversation practice. Alhadi: Do you offer Standard Arabic or is it Egyptian Colloquial Arabic? Elhamouli: It is a Standard Arabic class. Alhadi: This is a very good experience. How long have you been in the Arabic teaching work? Elhamouli: This is my first year. There are many universities who are members in this network. I know there is a university from North Dakota and another one from Pennsylvania and many others. Alhadi: Can you tell us a little bit about your three children and how old they are? Elhamouli: My son Youssef is nine years old, Mariam is five, and Ryan is three. They are still young. Alhadi: We are happy to have been with you [toda y]. We don’t want to make you late for your class. We wish you all the best. We also hope to always hear good things about you. Elhamouli: Thank you, and I will be happy to help whenever help is needed. [END OF INTERVIEW]