Crossing the Globe


Japan and Globaligration

Into the Hill Tribes of Vietnam

Ali and Me

Return To Sender

Yo Estoy Aqui

There and Back

Open Letter

Ali and Me

Julian Bailey

My reflections of migration in Egypt come from a personal experience with a man named Mohammed Ali. During my independent travels in Egypt, I hired a taxi driver to take me to Giza to see the Great Pyramids. To my surprise, Mohammed is a 53 year accountant who has been working at the Cairo Museum for 23 years. It was interesting to see a man with a secure job having to drive a taxi in order supplement his living. He explained it is necessary in order to support his family and for the rest of the day thoroughly guided me through his city, his people, and his life.

Mr. Ali was more than willing to answer the questions I had about his family, employment, religion, and living situation. The topic of migration arose when he expressed his desire to live outside of the city. “I dream of moving to Upper Egypt one day, but the government makes it impossible to do so”. He expressed a widespread belief among Cairo residents that the government is responsible for the lack of job opportunity outside the city. “’If there was more opportunity outside the city, I could support my family and live a healthy lifestyle”. He explained to me that over two million workers are forced to migrate into the city everyday from low income housing developments outside of the city. Mohammed is one of those people with no choice but to endure the commute and the city’s pollution in order to support his family. 

After 23 years of commuting into the city, Mohammed explained how he can identify pedestrians and their geographical home based on the way they dress. He can tell whether they were from Upper/Lower Egypt, a wealthy suburb or a housing development on the outskirts Cairo. To the foreign eye, it is near impossible to tell because many of them work similar jobs regardless of their class. To the local eye however, it is easy to identify where local migrants have come from. This was particularly interesting because on any given day in the streets of Cairo, Mohammed can identify who has migrated to the city for work.
As noted in Farha Ghannam’s article The Middle East and Beyond, “Egyptian working-class families between 1979 and 1981, were removed from central Cairo and relocated to public housing in two low-income neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city.” Ghannam explains this was due to President Sadat’s attempts to promote his open door policy and to construct a ‘modern’ capital that would meet the demands of tourists and transnational business.” The result of this policy forced many workers to relocate to affordable housing on the outskirts of Cairo and make it near impossible for people like Mohammed to live downtown. Many people are reliant on the tourism industry in Egypt, and given the location of the popular sites, it is difficult to avoid a rigorous commute to work.

Meeting Mohammed was a very enlightening experience to the way many people in Cairo live. He taught me a lot about his way of life, and his desires to migrate from the city to the more peaceful lifestyle, outside of the city. I hope one day that Mohammed will be able to fulfill his dream by retiring in the countryside, however he is still faced with a daily struggle to make ends meet.


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