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Free Trip To Egypt

Check your baggage.

It’s well known that nothing breaks down prejudice as effectively as spending time with the people one is prejudiced against. What if one could take Islamophobic Americans and fly them to Egypt for a holiday on which they would meet Egyptian people and discover the things they have in common? That’s the idea Canadian-Egyptian entrepreneur Tarek Mounib had, and Free Trip To Egypt follows his efforts to make it a reality.

Poster for the social awareness documentary Free Trip To EgyptInitially, Tarek has some difficulty finding recruits. Several people are convinced they’ll be kidnapped and held hostage or have their throats slit, they sincerely believe that most Egyptians – and Middle Easterners in general – are terrorists. What we hear over and over again is that they picked up these beliefs from the news. Surrounded by others who hold similar notions, they have no reason to question them.

Several of the people who do agree to go on the trip already have personal reasons to think a little differently. A elderly Jewish couple has a son who works in the Middle East. A former soldier loves travel and finds the idea of a bit of danger exciting. Others simply want to understand the world for themselves. For all, the experience of being matched up with local people who show them around and take them into their homes is a revelation. Not one seems to have expected to admire modern Egypt or to make friends there.

Tarek’s experiment doesn’t really tell us anything about the potential of average xenophobic Americans to change their views. With so much money and sincere effort thrown at it, the endeavour was never likely to go wrong. What makes the film rewarding is to watch this select group of people discovering that the world is a nicer place than they thought and having their lives enriched by the experience of a different culture and fresh ideas. The joy this brings is palpable and you’re guaranteed to leave this film feeling better than you did before it started.

– Jennie Kermode, Eye For Film

 

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