Rami Abdoch ′11
Hometown: Cordova, Tennessee
You had the opportunity to study in Cairo, Egypt, last spring as a Rhodes Buckman Scholar. First of all, that′s awesome. Second, why Cairo?
I had a strong desire to study Muslim identity in the Middle East. Cairo was the ideal place, considering its rich Islamic history and significant Western influence; it was a unique hybrid of the "occidental" and the "oriental." By studying Arabic at the American University, I was able to gain proficiency in the language, develop cultural competence, and improve my understanding through shared experiences with the city′s diverse inhabitants.
How was the dive into the language and culture of the Middle East?
In a word, enlightening. Whenever I would take trips into downtown Cairo, I would go to locations where only Arabic was spoken. I spent much of my time in the Khan Al-Khalili market district and Al-Azhar Masjid / University. One day about two months in, I spent an entire day downtown and didn′t need to speak a word of English. I kept up in conversation and people understood me. That gave me the confidence to push myself and spend more time doing my own independent studies in Arabic.
The journey′s complete and you′re now stateside. Looking back, what did you learn?
I experienced the unprecedented degree of hospitality in the Middle East. My neighbors really extended a hand, expressing genuine intentions to get to know me. Many times, complete strangers would invite me to enter their home and share food with them. I was able to explore my own Muslim American identity among the diverse Muslim identities of Cairo.
What′s the next page of your story?
I intend to return to the region to conduct more formal research for another year or two before beginning my graduate studies. I′m very interested in questions of perception with respect to Muslims in the modern world. I will also be able to access classical texts, such as those of the famous jurisprudent Imam Ash-Shafi`i and the master theologian Imam Al-Ghazali. In brief, I want to bridge classical Islamic scholarship with contemporary social theory and research methods to facilitate greater understanding of Islam. In sha′ Allah (God willing), I will be able to do that.