Daughter of the Nile

2010-06-26 10:34

When did you first come to South Africa?

I first arrived in 2000 to work on a ­documentary series called

Steps for the Future.

I was professional ­support and worked with young

­film-makers. I moved here in 2006.

How many languages do you speak?

Arabic, English, French and I can manage a little Spanish if

­nobody I know is around. I ­understand Portuguese, Swahili and a bit of


What brought you to SA?

South Africa embodied the fight for freedom and the possibility of

a new equation on the continent.

I was one of only three students who studied

South African politics at the American University in Cairo under Harvard

Professor Gail Gerhardt.

She got me hooked on SA.

What is your favourite place in SA?

Jozi is my town. It’s totally alive and kicking. You feel like you

can do ­anything and that anything can ­happen here.

What have you come to love about SA?

Its potential, and seeing a nation come together.

I can see the

bricks of something being laid day by day.

I’ve come from Europe, the old continent, from stagnation and a

well-worn path.

Here you trace your own path.

What have you come to loathe about SA?

Entitlement. People here feel that they are owed something. ­No one

is owed anything.

How would you describe the business of film-making in SA?

It’s both very exciting and ­stifling.

Having the SABC as the only

outlet has made film-makers too ­dependent.

People think in terms of what will

sell. But this mind-set is breeding ­another underground world that’s breaking

the shackles.

What’s the hardest thing about film-making in SA?

You’re always an insider when they want you to be and an outsider

when they no longer want you.

The minute you ask hard questions, you’re told:

You wouldn’t ­understand, you’re an outsider.

What’s the biggest difference about the film business here compared

with Egypt?

Freedom. I’ll never make another film in Egypt because my family

was punished for the last thing I did there.

The rule of law presides in South


This is not the case in any other African country I’ve worked in.

What lessons have you learnt here as a film-maker?

To surmount obstacles without ­resorting to corruption.

What would you like SA to know about Egypt?

That it is African whether our ­leaders like it or not. Egypt is

40% black and its sense of denial of the African “other” kills me.

If you could take a South African to Egypt, where would you take


Down the Nile because it is the source of life and it’s the line

that connects us all.

What Egyptian food do you miss the most?

Foul. It’s a traditional dish made of horse beans with chopped

­vegetables, onions, olives and ­chilli.

It’s eaten with bread.

What SA food do you just not get?

Moghudu. We have it in Egypt and I have a memory of

everyone ­evacuating the house when it was cooked for
my father.

What are you most proud of about Egypt?

It has stood the test of time and remains Egypt.

It has

been slapped about by anyone and ­everyone, but the core ­of who we

are as Egyptians ­remains.

What gives you the greatest hope for South Africa’s future?

The youth. Look at the music ­industry, where you have 18-year-old

kids in someone’s garage in a ­township producing music that DJs in Chicago are

interested in.

These kids are embracing the world.

Who is your favourite South African?

Desmond Tutu. Even if he’s going to be criticised, he always says

what he truly believes in the moment.

Many foreign nationals say that their friendship circles comprise

mostly other ­foreigners and that South Africans are hard to befriend. Is this

true for you?

Absolutely not! My circle is 90% South Africans of all shades and

it’s very interesting to me how different people relate to me.

I’m always ­mistaken for a ­coloured and people talk to me in

Afrikaans. When I’m with whites, people deal with me as if I’m white. With black

people, I’m simply a ­fellow African. It’s an amazing ­dynamic.

What’s the rudest thing a South African has ever said to you?

‘Go back to your country.’ The ­context was friendly until I was

asked what shocked me the most about SA. I said I was shocked by the way women

expose their breasts and offer themselves for no price.

Have you experienced xenophobia in SA?

Not xenophobia exactly because Egypt isn’t a targeted country. But

I’m constantly reminded that I’m an outsider.

How do you deal with it?

I love it. So what? Aren’t we all ­outsiders? This country has 11

­languages so everyone is somewhat of an outsider anyway.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to Egypt?

I’ve never left Egypt. I go there at least twice a year. My heart

is in Egypt, but I can’t work there. I ­understand Egypt more from the outside

than the inside.

What piece of advice would you give to ­anyone considering moving


Don’t fall into the trap of South ­African psychosis about

practically everything – crime, expectations of infrastructure and

relationships. Just come here and live it.

Many foreign nationals who were asked to be part of this have

declined. Any idea why?

Because South Africans look down on foreigners. I’ve agreed

­because I like being a foreigner and because
I don’t think South

­Africans have the right to look down on foreigners.

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