Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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The meaning of it all

Sir- I have just returned from a month-long trip to the US, where I had been invited by the US Embassy to attend an International Visitors' Programme on TV broadcasting. I not only got a better understanding of the US media but, more importantly, I got to know more about the American people and their way of life. I was rather amused to find that Americans too have their own vocabulary. For instance, on our first day in Washington the programme officer invited us over to his house for a welcome party where we could meet our escorts and other participants in the programme. The companion of one of the escorts introduced herself as his "main squeeze", which apparently meant she was his regular girlfriend. The next day I switched on the telly to watch the news and got a warning from the anchor that it was "bad hair day" that day because of the rain and high humidity. That same day our lecturer, forgetting what she was about to say, apologised to the group saying she was having "a senior moment". Later on in the week, we were invited to see a musical on Broadway and our hostess informed us that she'd tried to find seats in "the sweet spot of the theatre". Getting to the theatre I realised she hadn't meant seats next to the concession booth, but rather the best seats.

We in Egypt too have our own terminology -- words like mashi, which have somehow found their way into our vocabulary and have come to be used often, especially by the younger generation.

The recent controversy surrounding the cause of the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 and in what context the copilot used the words tawakkalt 'al Allah makes us all realise that there is still a huge cultural gap between Arabs and Westerners that needs to be bridged.

Shahira Amin
TV broadcaster, Maspero, Cairo

No common ground

Sir- I read with great interest Gamil Mattar's insightful article "The globalisation brigade marches on" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 18-24 November). Though the spirit of pessimism prevails throughout the article, I can't help but agree with the writer's prognosis that the future of globalisation looks bleak. I do not believe that globalisation will, in the long run, foment more conflicts and dissension throughout the world and will finally bring about utter devastation. But the idea that people with different identities, cultures, religions and ideologies can live together in harmony and unity is equally irrational.

Even within the US itself, the so-called melting pot could never become a reality. There has always been something boiling underneath.

Those optimists who are still dreaming of one united perfect world have got to reconsider their stand. Globalisation, as Mattar asserts in his excellent article, will only yield a new form of totalitarianism, which will preclude any possibility of common welfare. That might seem like the end of the world.

Essam Hanna Wahba

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