Children in Modern Egypt
By Catherine C. Harris
Children in Egypt have much in common with children in the United States. They are required to go to school, they must observe family rules, they enjoy popular foods, and they recognize fashion trends. However, if one takes a closer look at the children in Egypt, they will find unique facts that make Egyptian children interesting in their own right.
What do Egyptian children watch on television? During Ramadan, watching television is an especially popular activity. During that time, special programming runs 24-hours a day. Popular programs include Candid Camera - where funny pranks are shown. Egyptian children love comedy. There aer also many soap operas, catered to families.
A very popular sport in Egypt, soccer matches are watched with rapt interest. For those children with access to cable television, a popular channel is the English/American ShowTime channel. The feature television program, 3rd Rock from the Sun is popular among the young people in Egypt.
What music do Egyptian children most enjoy? Egyptian children like a variety of music, but the current trend shows that Arabic music is losing its popularity among teens, and it is hardly ever played anymore at social events. Trance-Teckno music is heard everywhere. A very popular example of this music can be found in the soundtrack for the American movie, "Shordfish."
Egyptian children have access to many of the restaurants that are popular among American children. However, they have their own unique tastes, as well. One popular meal is called Shwwarma. It is a long hotdog style bun with thinly sliced beef with spices. The meat is cooked on a vertical spit over open fire/flame. As the outside of the piece cooks it is very thinly sliced off and put into the bread for a good sandwich. It's a popular Egyptian version of the fast food hamburger in the United States.
Kufta is a hamburger made into long, sausage-shaped servings (or sometimes into meatball shapes). There are several recipes for this. Bring the taste of Egypt to your home by making the following recipe and sharing with friends.
Kuftat ras al-'asfur - Minced meat with ground rice.
1 kg. Beef
1/2 cup ground rice
2 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar cooking oil salt & pepper
Mince beef and one onion, twice. Add ground rice and seasoning and knead thoroughly. With wet hands, shape into small round balls (ras al-'asfur means 'head of sparrow,' indicating the size of the meatballs). Fry; and then remove onto absorbent paper. Chop the second onion very finely and fry in the same oil. Dissolve vinegar and sugar in tomato juice, pour over fried onions and cook for 10-15 minutes. Return meatballs to pot and cook for 10 minutes longer, gently shaking pot to keep the meatballs from sticking to the bottom.
Grape Leafs is made with rice, meat and tomato sauce, and it is also a favorite. Kushari is a lentils, rice and macaroni mixture. This is a very popular dish, enjoyed especially during meatless days. Colorful carts pulled by the sellers of Kushari are found in the heavily populated residential areas of Cairo.
The recipe for: Kushari.
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup rice
1/8 kg. macaroni
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups tomato sauce
hot chili (optional)
Cook lentils in salted water until tender. Strain. Cook rice in salted water until tender. Strain. Cook macaroni, preferably the small, round variety, strain, rinse and strain again. Place these three ingredients in a cooking pot. Fry onions to a rich brown, then remove the onions onto absorbent paper, and strain the oil into lentil mixture. Return the pot to the flame and cook for 7-10 minutes, tossing often to prevent sticking. Serve by topping each individual plate with tomato sauce and fried onions. Sprinkle with hot chili.
Now we know what Egyptian children eat, watch of television, and listen to for music, but what about their clothes? The Egyptian public schools require a uniform. Boys wear trousers with white shirts and tie. In the winter this is supplemented with a matching jacket. The girls wear the same, except for a skirt instead of trousers. If they attend an American school system, no uniform is required. In that case, the favored dress for most boys is blue jeans, polo shirts and sneakers. Most girls wear blue jeans, smart tees, and a variety of shoes.
Both boys and girls are required to cover their shoulders, and in the case of girls the skirts must be knee-length, due to religious customs. Girls may opt to wear long (to the floor) skirts. This is much cooler than jeans during the hot months. However, if they go clubbing on the weekends things are different.
They can dress very 'out on the town' western, but generally wear a jacket to cover up the snazzy outfit until they get inside the club. Wearing such dress on the street would be considered offensive to the public at large.
The Egyptian public schools are based on the British system. One way that it differs from the American system is that the students stay in the same classroom all day, and the teachers rotate around to the classrooms instead of the students breaking for a new class period. Some students say that this is boring, to stay in the same classroom all day, but the positive outcome is that the students become better and closer friends within that class.
The existence of 'cliques' is non-existent, which is very different than what kids experience in America. Everyone just hangs out together as a big group, and there are no small groups that form their own private clique.
School starts mid to late September and ends in June. The majority of students desire little help from parents in preparation for exams. Rather, they prefer to take independent responsibility for their schoolwork. There are many opportunities for extra-curricular involvement, such as sports. The most popular school sport is soccer.
What do Egyptian children do for fun, as a family and with friends? They like to go out to eat with family and friends, and they love to travel. Every year, if possible, a family trip outside of Egypt is planned. Outside of family outings and on big holidays, such as the "6th of October", kids go with other kids to have fun at the popular resort of Sharm El Sheik, at the tip of the Sinai.
They caravan with family members and sometimes other families, or they fly Egypt Air to get there. Once there, they check in during the day and evening, but parents rarely see them. They are busy walking the board walk at Naama Bay, out in the water on banana boats, parasailing over the Red Sea, hanging with friends, eating, or clubbing at the many discos along the boardwalk and on the main drag in Sharm. Deep sea diving and snorkeling in the Red Sea is also very popular, and some young people like to scavenger hunt for odds and ends left on the desert floor.
McDonald Introduces McFalafel, Just for Egypt
Normally, kids will go for coffee or visit McDonalds as a break after school. Those who are involved in extra curricular activities meet either after school or on weekends at the school. Soccer practice, tennis, swim team, and softball are all popular activities.
Dinner is usually eaten at home. On the weekends, social situations and curfews differ according to age and parents discretion. Juniors and seniors in high school usually have curfews 'around' 12:00 p.m., unless they are going into Cairo for a special evening out, such as Prom or a group night out on the town.
Children and teens in Egypt don't hold down part-time jobs like American kids. Instead, they 'help' their family. This might take the form of watching younger siblings while the parents go out. If a parent owns his/her business, small tasks are sometimes assigned to the son or daughter. Some various forms of reward are forthcoming. However, it's not usual that kids will hold outside jobs in the marketplace.
Families who are fortunate to own a building will dwell on different floors within that building. This makes the close proximity of extended family, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, something that is different from Western culture.
American children cant wait to get behind the wheel of a car, but at what age do Egyptian children get this privilege? At 16 years of age, a child who has a national ID can obtain a drivers license. This license allows them to drive 'only' within the city, never on the highway, and another fully licensed driver must accompany them. At the age of 18, they may obtain a regular license, and at that time are allowed all usual privileges. Sometimes, kids will pick up their fathers from work and drive them home- to give Dad a break from a hard day at work. Girls are allowed to drive in Egypt.
The drinking age is 21 in Egypt and is strictly enforced by the authorities. Underage drinking is forbidden by religious custom, as well as by Egyptian law. Alcohol is strictly regulated, and the law authorities are always on the look out for underage drinking.
Egyptian children have much in common with their friends across the sea. Its interesting to learn about the differences in each culture. Most importantly, as we explore the differences, we are able to learn about the common ground shared by children all over the world. We arent so different, after all.
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Last Updated: August 21st, 2011