Since I was the first to go into Philosophy and Religion, I was usually labeled as different, liberal, often controversial, and sometimes idealistic. That certainly affected my faith and spiritual life in Orthodoxy. I began to gravitate toward the friendly environment of free inquiry and understanding of faith in the academic context of theological education.
Bahjura has a sizeable Christian population. For Copts - as for many Egyptians - emigration out of the village is an economic necessity. Yet, the descendants of Coptic land-owning families continue to share stories of their families' former prestige in Egyptian religious, social, and political life. A discussion of recent encounters I have had in the field will weave a rich tapestry of land, migration, and memory in this upper Egyptian village.
Then, rather unexpectedly, my advisor suggested I commit the next few years of my life thinking, engaging with, and writing about the Copts. He was asking me to return home: to theorize and assemble data out of my community, family, and friends. I stared at him wide-eyed.
My family and I immigrated to Toronto, Ontario in September 1994. I was two-months shy of my sixth birthday when we left our second-floor apartment in Alexandria and drove south to Cairo International Airport. I vaguely remember growing up on Roushdy Street, playing with friends in the alley between our neighboring buildings, and being able to glimpse the Mediterranean ocean from our balcony on a clear morning.