Walk like an Egyptian

Egyptian Expats in US Reflect Egypt’s Enduring Popularity
Photo shows part of the event which was held at the American University in Cairo this week. Credit: Maryam Raafat
Photo shows part of the event which was held at the American University in Cairo this week. Credit: Maryam Raafat
Photo shows part of the event which was held at the American University in Cairo this week. Credit: Maryam Raafat

All the old paintings on the tombs

They do the sand dance don't you know?

If they move too quick

They're falling down like a domino.....

 

All the bazaar men by the Nile

They got the money on a bet

Gold crocodiles

They snap their teeth on your cigarette....

 

Foreign types with the hookah pipes say

Walk like an Egyptian....

The above lines are an extract from the 1986 song by the Bangles, "Walk like an Egyptian," shedding light on how the  Egyptians were taking life easy and yet achieving great things.

Taking the same title as the Bangles' song, The Cultural Center of the American University in Cairo launched an event on Tuesday, 26th of July, entitled “Walk like an Egyptian: Media and Myth in Contemporary US Representations.”

Representations of Egypt in the United States and elsewhere in the world reflect its enduring popularity. In this unique event, cultural producers explore opportunities and challenges for more nuanced and authentic visions of Egypt in the global imagination. Speakers include Rhonda Ragab, who worked on the new Marvel series Moon Knight, as well as the Egyptian-American comedian behind the popular Tiktok account Mai’s Vault, and others.

The event hosted the speakers Mai Abdelal aka Mai’s Vault, Amin El Gamal, Malaka Gharib, Denmo Ibrahim, Rhonda Ragab, Ramy Romany.

Speakers attended virtually and they told stories about their experiences of the way in which they represent their culture as Egyptians through their different kinds of works.

EGYPT ON SCREEN

The event were organized into three panel discussions. The first one was entitled "Egypt on Screen," where Mai Abdelal aka Mai’s Vault represented Egypt onscreen in obvious and intentional ways that have become the new face of Egypt for millions of viewers.

Mai Abdelal aka Mai’s Vault is a first-generation Egyptian-American, who dreaded the routine of getting up in the morning for her 9-5 job.

As a millennial, Mai showed an overwhelming interest in social media and always enjoyed making others laugh at her day-to-day struggles. She feels her calling is to shed light on her struggles and reach out to others with similar experiences.

Aware of negative stereotypes associated with being Arab in America, she decided to set up a blog to counter such negative views and portray them in a positive manner through comedy.

In order to do so, she involves her mother who undoubtedly adds a fiery flair to the blog. By presenting this duo on social media streaming platforms (Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube), Mai hopes that humor will help enlighten others on her background and create content that will encourage women to follow their dreams and become influential for generations to come.

WRITING NEW MEDIA 

The second panel was entitled "Writing New Media" and hosted both Malaka Gharib and Denmo Ibrahim.

These young Egyptian-Americans are making waves in new media such as graphic novels, immersive theater and Audible series - representing Egypt in literally new and exciting ways.

Denmo Ibrahim is an American playwright, children’s book author, and actor of Egyptian descent. Her plays include “Kal & Dija Save the World” (Civilians’ R&D Group), the hybrid experience “Brilliant Mind” (Marin Theatre Company), “BABA” (Alter Theatre), “Ecstasy / a Waterfable” (Golden Thread), and “The Day Naguib Mahfouz Was Stabbed in the Neck and Almost Died a.k.a. The Selkie Play” (Finalist: Sundance Theatre Lab, Finalist: NNPN’s Showcase of New Plays).

Her work is currently under development with The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (“The Dream Fugue of May Ziyadeh”), and Audible for a new ten-part historical drama on the life of Hatshepsut. Her recently released audio-immersive book “Zaynab’s Night of Destiny” (Fons Vitae, Commonwealth Theatre Center) has engaged thousands of elementary and middle school students from 25 public schools in Louisville, KY in 2022.

Denmo holds an MFA in Lecoq-based Actor Created Physical Theater from Naropa University, and a BFA in Acting from Boston University.

Malaka Gharib is a journalist, cartoonist and graphic novelist. She is the author of “I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir,” winner of the 2020 Arab American Book Award. Her new graphic memoir, “It Won’t Always Be like This,” is coming out in September 2022. By day, she works on the National Public Radio’s (NPR) science desk, reporting on global health and development topics such as humanitarian aid as well as gender and income inequality.

She also writes for NPR on her experience as the child of immigrants, from talking to her Filipino mom about mental health to hosting an Eid feast for her Muslim father.

Her comics, zines and writing have been published in Catapult, The Seventh Wave Magazine, The Nib, Saveur Magazine, It's Nice That, Lucky Peach, The Washington City Paper, Nashville Scene, The Believer Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Times Style Magazine and The New Yorker.

MAKING MOON KNIGHT

The third panel was entitled "Making Moon Knight" and hosted Rhonda Ragab and Ramy Romany.

These consultants have been at the forefront of work behind the scenes to ensure Moon Knight continues to break new ground by introducing audiences to more authentic Egypt - both ancient and contemporary.

Ramy Romany is a world-renowned Egyptologist, bestselling author and an Emmy Award winning DGA director. He was born into a family of documentarians in Egypt, in fact, before the age of twenty he filmed, produced, directed and was featured in over a hundred documentaries about ancient Egypt.

He has won nine Emmy Awards, hosted multiple archaeological based shows on the Discovery channel, travel and history channels, and directed commercials and major shows for a variety of networks such as ABC, FOX, HBO, Netflix and Amazon. Many fans remember him from serving as a knowledgeable guide to Scottish acting-great Ewan McGregor as they toured the great pyramids of Giza on the epic adventure series “Long Way Down” for National Geographic. He also appeared in Joanna Lumley’s “Dragoman” about her Nile Journey for BBC, and Destination Truth “Egypt’s Heart throb” for SyFy.

Rhonda Ragab is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of SILA Consulting, an entertainment cultural consulting firm that provides strategic thought partnership to help the best storytellers in the world tell authentic stories.

Through SILA, Rhonda acts as an in-house expert that helps production groups understand and navigate the nuances of cultural representation.

Rhonda has provided cultural and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) expertise for numerous major productions and projects such as Disney’s Live-Action ALADDIN, Disney Junior's “Mira, Royal Detective,” Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight & Ms. Marvel, Netflix’s “The Sea Beast,” EA’s “The Sims 4,” and Epic Games “Fortnite.”

The talks were moderated by visiting Fulbright US scholar Thomas Simsarian Dolan, PhD.


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