Syrians in Egypt: Social acceptance and successful business
Enab Baladi – Reem Hamoud
With the intensification of repressive military campaigns, crackdowns, and arrests by Syrian regime forces since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, Syrians began their asylum journey in search of security.
The share of neighboring countries was the largest due to the close climate or social environment, and many Syrians preferred to go towards Egypt, as they found good treatment there, according to their accounts, in addition to the good hospitality and treatment that characterizes the Egyptian people in general, especially with the Syrians.
There are 1.5 million Syrians in Egypt, according to statistics published by the International Organization for Migration in Egypt at the end of July 2022.
The number of Syrian refugees registered in Egypt is 148,608 people, according to the latest statistics published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on August 24.
In this report, Enab Baladi contacted many Syrians residing in Egypt to inquire about the conditions of life there and the factors that made their residency acceptable to Egyptian society.
Egyptians are “hospitable” people
The kindness of the Egyptian people and their love for guests in general and the Arab peoples, in particular, plays an important role in containing the Syrians and the positive treatment we see today from the Egyptians.
In addition to the special status that Syrians are treated with in Egypt due to the ease of communication and the common language between the two countries.
Syrian journalist Suhair Omri, residing in Egypt, told Enab Baladi that the Egyptian people are “very hospitable” by nature, and she believes from her point of view that the phrase “Egypt is the mother of the world” did not come out of vain but rather from an ancient and present history witnessed in the Egyptian state’s hosting of many people of the other countries.
Samer Sarhan, who has lived in Egypt for ten years, said in turn that Syrians in Egypt, in general, do not suffer from racism and discrimination, as they may be treated better than Egyptians sometimes.
Egyptian journalist Marwa Alaa El-Din told Enab Baladi that the Egyptian people are by nature “hospitable” and like to celebrate foreigners, and the arrival of the Syrians was positive for the Egyptians, especially since they are a brotherly Arab people.
Hussein Qattan, who hails from Aleppo and has been residing in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, for three years, told Enab Baladi that the Syrians do not deny the presence of some racist behavior in Egypt, but this is not compared to the other countries in which they have taken refuge.
Qattan’s point of view is that the Egyptian people are generally “hospitable” and love strangers, and they are “better than the Syrians towards each other and towards strangers as well.”
Media’s promoted image of Syrians reflected on the ground
Egyptian journalist Marwa Alaa El-Din explained that acceptance of Syrians in Egypt is linked to several factors, some of which relate to Egyptians and others to Syrians themselves.
Alaa El-Din attributed the reasons for the Egyptians’ love for the Syrians to the positive orientation of the Egyptian media towards the Syrians and its focus on the positives that the Syrian people have created in Egypt through self-reliance in work and their “skilled” trade, as has appeared over the past years.
The previous image drawn in the minds of Egyptians towards Syrians in general and the people of the Syrian capital, Damascus, in particular, of beauty, good treatment, and a gentle accent, was confirmed as soon as they came to Egypt and became clearly involved in society, according to what the Egyptian journalist said.
Many Egyptian content makers went to shed light on the lives of Syrians in Egypt and the nature of the relationship between the two peoples, stressing the idea that Syrians and Egyptians are “one people” and there is no distinction between them.
Egyptian YouTuber Kareem Elsayed showed, in a video on his channel under the name “The Life of Syrians in Egypt,” the involvement of the Syrian people who came to Egypt after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011 in the Egyptian street, especially the experience of Syrian shop and restaurant owners.
Sociologist Hossam Saad believes that the Egyptian people, after the historical circumstances they went through and the events of the “Egyptian Revolution” in 2011, made them a people who “appreciate the misfortunes of other peoples, especially the Syrian people who are widely loved in the Egyptian street,” in addition to the Egyptians’ standing alongside Syrians and their suffering.
Syrian journalist Suhair Omri believes that the Egyptian media is moving towards highlighting the positives, creativity, and successes of the Syrian people, and this is due, from her point of view to many reasons, the most important of which is the sense of the sacrifices they made after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.
The presence of Syrian actors in Egyptian drama plays a major role in the Egyptian people’s love for Syrians, as Egypt is the center of art in the Arab world and gives wide fame to artists, and art has the greatest role in bringing peoples and cultures closer together.
Hossam Saad – Syrian sociologist
A desire to deal with Syrians
The image of Syrians in the imagination of Egyptians was linked to trust, with what they saw from Syrian refugees, in terms of respect and commitment to the etiquette of Egyptian society, which enhanced their acceptance in the country.
As for Samer Sarhan, the Egyptian people want to deal with the Syrian factor more because of the commitment and trust that has been built between the two peoples over the past years, with some exceptions.
Qattan said that Egyptian employers tended to employ Syrian workers as a result of their gentle speech and method of persuading customers.
Egyptian comedian Ahmed Sayed Amin, through the play “Show Us Your Skills,” shed light on the competition between the Syrian and Egyptian workers and the Syrians’ method and speed in convincing the customer.
The play drew attention to the sense of humor of the Syrian person, whose role was played by the artist Ahmed Sayed Amin.
Sociologist and academic Hossam Saad spoke about the absence of problems and negative phenomena that Syrians may cause, playing an essential role in Egyptian society’s acceptance of them.
Job opportunities exist for both peoples, but those available to Syrians exceed those available to Egyptians, especially after many citizens went to employ refugees, according to what Samer Sarhan told Enab Baladi.
The understanding of the Syrians with the Egyptian people has become easier after more than 12 years of their existence, and both sides understand the character of the other, reaching a common way of coexistence free of problems and racism, according to Sarhan.
The pace of Syrian migration to Egypt increased after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011 due to the ease of entering the country without a prior visa and social preferences, as Egypt was a destination for many businessmen and investors in Syria.
The Robert Schuman Center for Graduate Studies, which specializes in social and human sciences, published a report on March 21 under the name “Syrian businessmen and investors in Egypt and their relations with Syria,” based on a series of interviews with Syrians working in the business sector in Egypt, and reports issued by international organizations.
About 30,000 Syrian investors work in Egypt, more than half of whom are business owners and employ hundreds of thousands of people, according to the report.
The trade of Syrian businessmen in Egypt has been active for many reasons, the first of which is that Egypt has a large local market, with a population of more than 100 million people, in addition to easy access to African, Gulf, and European markets.
The low cost of labor and living in Egypt attracted Syrian investors, in addition to welcoming the Syrian people in the media in Egypt, according to the report.
Marwa Alaa El-Din believes that the Egyptian media conveys the positive impact of the Syrian presence within Egyptian society, such as creativity in Syrian foods and the mastery of their preparation, as they have received remarkable acceptance among Egyptians, which prompted them to imitate them and specialize in Syrian foods.
Syrians are admired by Egyptians, as they approach all jobs without arrogance or rejection, even if they hold a university degree, according to what the Egyptian journalist said.
The head of the Syrian Businessmen Association in Egypt, Khaldoun al-Mowkea, estimated the number of industrial workshops and factories (both formal and informal) owned by Syrians to be approximately 5,000 in 2022, according to the same report.
Syrian investments were estimated at about $800 million in Egypt between 2011 and 2018.
According to the Robert Schuman Center for Graduate Studies, the migration of new numbers of Syrian business owners, small and medium enterprises, and workers to Egypt increased between 2020 and 2022 as a result of the deteriorating economic and security conditions in Syria.
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