I have been doing this podcast for almost 2 years now, and through the process I've learnt many things. One thing that I've taken on board is that there is a certain skill in getting people to talk about themselves and make the conversation flow naturally. You need your prepared questions to provide a framework and it also helps those who are maybe not so used talking about themselves, especially to the a virtual stranger. The best scenario though is when we both forget that it's an interview and we have a conversation in which we are both engaged. This was very much the case with my talks with Amr ( there were two as due to a technical problem, part of the first didn't get saved ! ).
I'd say like most people I've met from the Middle East, Amr is an excellent and eloquent talker, and had the benefit of an education at an American-style school in Saudi Arabia and so was able to talk well and thoughtful about many topics.
Amr left Egypt when he was 4, and normally I have been trying to get people on who left their country of birth at an age where they could remember life there. However, Amr is a bit of a special case, as his family didn't exactly migrate or go far away and he maintained connection with Egypt through regular family visits in school holidays. In addition, he lived in a kind of gated, international community in Saudi Arabia, so although his education was an international one, his family life was very much Egyptian.
So, we didn't talk that much about Egypt the country as such, but plenty about Egyptian culture and comparisons with the other cultures that he has had first-hand experience off, which led to come interesting reflections and discussion. In fact, what I enjoyed about our conversation was Amr's openness and willingness to offer some interesting perspectives on Middle Eastern culture more broadly and deal with some of the misinformed stereotypes that exist in western societies.
I think it's a sign of good rapport that we were able to have an honest and respectful discussion about the potential touchy issues of religion, racism and prejudice and I hope that listeners from listening to the likes of Amr and others, will realise that many of the sterotypes that are widely held about Muslims/Arabs/people from the Middle East generally are misplaced, and that there are many more things that we have in common than people may think.
Food is a common theme in many of my interviews. It's something that connects us with memories of home, wherever that may be, it takes us back to a time or a place that evokes cherished memories and strong feelings of nostalgia. I think Amr expresses this better than most in the interview, as he explains how food serves as a kind of universal connector that can bring people from diverse cultures together. In fact, he's bringing his passion into a new sandwich business, which he has only recently started in Tasmania, an hopes eventually to be offering Egyptian food as well. If passion for what he''s doing is any indicator, I'm sure Amr will have much success with this !