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Home Away From Home in Egypt

By Julia Hursh

    I expected Cairo to be a large city more modernized than much of what we had been seeing in other countries. I did not however, expect to see so many signs of home in an area so far away from home! I was walking down the street one morning with my friend Adele, when we came across a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf café. That is both mine and Adele’s favorite coffee shop back home so we immediately went inside. I felt like I walked off the street of Cairo into a café in California. Everything inside looked exactly the same including the tables, chairs, menus and magazine section. It was shocking to us both to be at that coffee shop in Egypt. The Coffee Bean chain is actually quite small as Adele pointed out; she goes to school in northern California and there are no Coffee Bean stores up there. The chain is mainly only found in southern California. What was one doing in Egypt, we wondered? It was even stranger to walk outside and see Jeeps driving on all the streets. I drive a Jeep back home and had not seen that American brand of vehicle in any other country up to that point. It was then that I realized how much western influence, especially Amerianis in Cairo, Egypt.

    I looked for signs of human migration rather than just products or corporate outlets and did not find many signs of migrants moving in and out of the country. I did meet many people that had migrated to Cairo from other parts of the country however. I went with a few friends on a tour of Cairo and Giza with a guide who had migrated from Upper Egypt. (We later realized this meant southern Egypt, but is referred to as upper because the Nile River flows north and the area people migrate from is around the Nile.) The guide took us all over the city and taught us about its history. The guide said that many people migrate to Cairo because it is the largest city in Egypt and they migrate there hoping to find work. He said it can be hard to find work in other parts of Egypt unless you have land to farm, become a fisherman or do some other type of agricultural job. With Cairo having a population of about 17 million people though work can actually be competitive and hard to find there as well. Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller’s textbook titled The Age of Migration discusses migration issues from Egypt. The authors mention that Egypt is the Arab nation that is most populous and most affected by labor migration. The text goes on to state, “By 2002, Egypt needed to create 500,000 jobs per year to employ population cohorts entering the job market” (p.133).  This shows that there are not enough jobs for all of the people migrating north to Cairo thus the migration outside of Egypt.

    It might seem that bringing American companies into Egypt may take away from their culture by adding too much western influence, but it may be a positive thing as well. If more companies from around the world migrate into Egypt and open up stores then maybe more jobs in the city will be a positive result. The textbook said that 70% of all migrants from Egypt went to Saudi Arabia because they could find jobs and make more money there. If more jobs were created in Cairo then people would not have to leave their home.

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