Practical Parenting Ideas: A Family Cultural Night in Egypt

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Family Cultural Night in Egypt

*Guest post by Author Alyssa Craig*

Summer is a popular time for families to take their summer vacations and explore new cities, experiences and bond together.  As much as we would all love to take trips abroad, this is not always possible. Luckily, this is not the only way to teach our children about different cultures. Consider planning fun culture nights as a family and take a trip anywhere in the world, right from your own home. First stop: Egypt!

Language and Greetings
The 15th most populated country in the world, Egypt, is home to one of the oldest civilizations and has a rich and beautiful culture. The official language is Arabic, but due to rule from foreign countries, particularly Britain, English and French are also widely understood. As you begin your Egyptian cultural night, start with teaching your family proper Egyptian greetings. The most common greeting is “salaam aleikum”, done with a gentle bow of the head, and is responded with “waaleikum us salam”. It may be fun to learn other words and phrases in Arabic to use throughout the night as you continue with activities and dinner.

To help your children get a real feel for a night in Egypt, help them to dress in proper attire. With a majority of the population practicing Islam, there is a large emphasis on modesty. Females should be completely covered, except for their hands and face. Head scarves are used to cover the ears and hair and are secured just under the chin. Males are also covered in loose clothing. The idea is to disguise the body.

If you want to focus more on ancient Egypt, help your children dress like Cleopatra with a robe, sandals, and jewelry. Don’t forget to put makeup on everyone - boys and girls - since the ancient Egyptians believed makeup had magical powers, so both genders wore it.

The Egyptian diet is mainly composed of bread, legumes, and meat. Due to its heavy Muslim influence, Egyptians do not eat pork, as it is considered unclean, so as you plan your meal be sure to leave it out. The main national breakfast dish is foul, a dish of fava beans, seasoned with salt, lemon, cumin and oil. Tamiyya (falafel) is made from crushed fava beans mixed with leeks and onions. It is then fried in oil. You might also try koshari, which is a mixture of macaroni, black lentils, and rice. It is then covered in tomato sauce and garnished with fried onions.

In villages and less wealthy areas, meals are served with everyone sitting on a carpet and the dishes are put in the center of a round, wooden table. Everyone has their own spoon and eat directly from the serving dishes, rather than serving onto their own plates. In more urban areas, meals are more “Western”, as everyone sits at a table and have their own plates and utensils.

Topics of Conversation
As you go through the evening, you will want to have things to talk about with your family to help them learn more about the ancient and modern culture of Egypt. Talk about how ancient Egypt was ruled by pharaohs and that the 130 discovered pyramids were largely used as their tombs. If your family is not familiar with the Muslim religion, teach them about the belief in the prophet Muhammad, the study of the Koran, religious holidays such as Ramadan and the fact that Friday is the main day of congregational prayer. Here are some other fun facts you can use to wow and educate:
     The bandages used to wrap mummies could stretch nearly 1 mile.
     Ancient Egyptians worshipped 2,000 forms of deity.
     Egyptians have their own currency - the Egyptian pound.
     The Pyramid of Giza is one of the seven wonders of the world.
     Egyptians are credited for inventing paper, pens, locks, keys and toothpaste.
     The Nile River (the longest river in the world) runs through Egypt.
     Showing the soles of your feet is considered impolite in Egypt. Be careful where you point your toes!
     Egyptians created the first known calendar in order to predict when the Nile would flood.
     Ancient Egyptians considered cats to be sacred animals.

Along with participating in the creation of dinner and putting together their attire, there are other activities you can do to make for a fun filled evening. After discussing ancient Egypt and the practice of mummifying the deceased in order to preserve them for the next life, have your kids wrap each other up like mummies! You can use toilet paper and even divide up into teams for the best mummy wrap competition. When discussing the pyramids, have your kids build their own pyramids out of foods, building blocks or even make a human pyramid.

As you learn more about the Egyptian culture, both past and present, your kids will gain a better appreciation for the diversity of other countries, appreciation for their own culture, and your family will enjoy a fun night in together - no passports required!

Alyssa Craig is a Salt Lake City native who loves hiking in the mountains, running, frozen yogurt, and quick wit. She is a professional writer and loves perusing the many posts in the blogosphere. In her free time, you can find her escaping the world on her hammock or watching re-runs of “Friends”.

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