Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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EGYPT: Welcome China

September 22, 2008 |  7:41 am


Chinatown in Cairo? Perhaps, one day. China’s rising stature and economic power has Egyptians curious about learning Chinese.

Al Ahram weekly reports that the Chinese government is building a $3.75-million school in Egypt to teach Chinese language and history.

“The Chinese are not coming; they’re already here,” states the article, which notes that even traditional Ramadan lanterns hanging throughout Cairo were manufactured in China. “So pervasive have Chinese products and the Chinese people who make them become in Egypt that a Chinatown could well be built here in a few years.”

After Arabic, English is the second-most popular language in Egypt, but for many here, Chinese is the global language of tomorrow.

Since the end of colonialism, Egypt and much of the region, especially in the last eight years, have grown mistrustful and wary of the West. A glimpse eastward is intriguing.

“I would rather let my boy study Chinese, rather than any other common language,” Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, an Egyptian engineer, told the newspaper. “The future is now in China, its culture, industry, language and education.”

— Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: A group of Chinese students. Credit: United Nations