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Over the past ten to fifteen years fuelled through the economic rise of China and consequently the increase of Chinese economic interests abroad, Egypt’s community of Oversea Chinese has experienced an unprecedented growth.
Currently Egypt’s Chinese community numbers around 20,000 members of different social classes, income, religious, ethnic and professional backgrounds. Chinese Muslim students at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University have been for decades a large percentage of the community in Egypt. Others are coming to Egypt for work and business related issues. Since the rise of China as a foremost economic power, particularly this group has increased tremendously in numbers.
Our German intern Maurice Gajan speaks Chinese fluently and interviewed Mary Lai (黎馨馨), the head of the Sino-Egypt Friendship Promotion Society and former board member of the Center for Arab-West Understanding on the phenomenon of the growing Chinese community in Egypt.
Mary Lai is a native of Hong Kong and has been living in Egypt since 1988, when she first arrived to Alexandria to study Arabic. During the almost 28 years, which she has spent in Egypt, she worked in translation and operated a trading company and a business consultancy. Nowadays, she is mainly involved with the Chinese community, predominantly through her position in the Sino-Egypt Friendship Promotion Society, as the publisher of the Sino-Egypt Friendship (中埃友谊) magazine and several other community organisations.
The interview explores the organisation of Cairo’s Chinese by both governmental and civic organisations and sheds a particular focus on the role of Chinese Muslim students as a potential bridge between China and Egypt.