Where are you from?

Cairo, Egypt

What was it like growing up?

It was ok until the time came to go to college. I was different than my female peers in med school, always wearing khakis, cursing out loud, hanging with the dudes, I couldn’t make any female friends. I was one of the bros, but the bros still talked about me behind my back because I was “weird”… not wife material, if you will.

What brought you to Cleveland?

When I turned 25, I dropped my faith entirely, I was born a muslim. I also finally discovered what my sexuality and orientation were. It has been a process ever since, to unlearn social norms and discover my true nature and preferences. My identity is Queer, my sexuality is lesbian, I am also ethically non-monogamous, what is more commonly known as poly-amorous. I came to the USA seeking asylum for fear of persecution. The majority of the country believe in the death penalty for “infidels/heretics”, or simply those who leave their faith. Choosing Cleveland was not premeditated, mostly. I came here with my husband, boy friend at the time, also an atheist, who always had plans to move out of Egypt. We met in the school of Medicine, he’s a class older. I proposed to his hand in marriage (that’s unusual), I wanted to leave too. We are still in a relationship, you could say, we are life partners. He’s my best friend and the only family I’ve got here, well, besides my 5 months old puppy.

What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States of America? Did those change?

My idea of the USA definitely has changed dramatically after moving here. I had this notion that it was very progressive, liberal, and.. that it looked just like in the movies, lol. The north was pretty much New York or Chicago, and that the south was California. Cleveland was a bit surprising. I didn’t like it in the beginning. It was cold, we were alone, and coming from a city that never sleeps (Cairo), it was a disappointment. Today, I love this city. It’s affordable, cozy and peaceful. I made friends, I make good money, spend less than most other states to lead a decent life, and that proved to be an excellent quality for immigrants like myself.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Public transportation sucked! In particular spots, like university circle, you have to depend on super markets for grocery shopping like Constantino’s, and it’s ridiculously expensive, but it’s the only one within walking distance..

What is your occupation?

I’m a clinical researcher in the university hospitals, case medical center, in the department of radiology.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I’m very fluent in English, you can barely notice an accent, which was sometimes problematic. Initially, when I worked at a bakery before I found the position I hold now, co-workers used to forget I’m an expat, and wouldn’t explain their jokes or comments, or they would expect me to be aware of the entire American Slang vocabulary, it’s still annoying to be honest. Then, I always felt alienated because I never got the cultural references. It took me 3.5 years to finally catch up with those references, thank God for netflix, and now I’m finally making friends with confidence.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I belly dance, I play the hand drums, I cook Egyptian food, I attend middle eastern live music performances. Other than that, I’m very conscious of “traditions” and “customs” … they remind me of oppression I faced when I was in Egypt.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I can be free here, I can be me here. I used to get cat called, and made fun of for my peculiar taste in fashion (here in cleveland!), but I no longer give a damn. I didnt’ cross oceans to hold back now, you know.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Because diversity is beautiful. It makes humans recognize how similar they are, and develop compassion as they do. And more importantly, realize their privilege… The American passport is a privilege that most Americans I’ve met are not aware of.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

A) Because you can! oh my god! I still can’t wrap my head around people who can go anywhere because of their strong citizenship and currency power, yet choose not to navigate this globe…for real…why?? I haven’t been able to see my family in 4 years because they have been consistently getting rejected a USA visa. Why? They were just born in the wrong place, at the wrong time…that’s all.

B) Food! Try new cuisines.

C) Landscapes 😀

D) It has been proven to make you more intelligent. So, pack up, and just go my American friends, just do it.