LA YOGA - May 22nd, 2019
The premise is intriguing. Invite a random selection of Americans who support the Muslim ban to an all-expenses-paid trip to Egypt. We all have heard that personal interactions will lessen the fear of strangers, and the documentary Free Trip to Egypt sets out to test this concept.
The project was organized by Tarek Mounib, a Muslim of Egyptian descent raised in Canada. He wanted to connect people in kindness instead of fear. The idea to offer the free trips came to him with such power that “he couldn’t say no.” Tarek first promoted his offer at a Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky, from which he ended up recruiting several participants. Some accepted the offer with the aspiration of converting Egyptians to Christianity.
Discovering Similarities Among Differences
One woman participated despite her family warning about the risk of beheading and sex slavery. Before the trip, she declared, “If something extreme happens, I hope I just die so I don’t have to hear about it for the next 30 years.” Once in Egypt, the group of seven Americans were matched with a variety of hosts in Cairo. Everybody found an unexpected similarity with the Muslims.
Finding Lightness of Heart
A Christian young man remarked that he found “a warmth in their heart, they’re basically my family now.” One Jewish couple wanted to go on the trip because although they identified as liberals when they were young, in recent years they had become fearful and even racist. Their son was currently working in Saudi Arabia, and they were somewhat estranged from him. Their hope was to have him regain respect for them by going to Egypt. While traveling, the wife ends up falling in love with the burka-wearing mothers that she is paired with. Her husband exclaims, “It’s completely different here than our news media tells us. I mean it’s completely different – – my mind is turned over.” His heart, too, becomes lighter.
Their life-changing experience develops into several poignant storylines — not to be betrayed by this review. Optimistic and poignant, the film has some surprising revelations for the viewers, as well as for the participants.
The experience abroad in a predominantly Muslim country elicits thought-provoking reactions from people whose fears had been fueled by the right-wing media. One commonality many found was the respect for religious adherence: Christian, Jewish or Muslim. This is something everyone could relate to.
See the Life-Changing Film Free Trip to Egypt
Free Trip to Egypt shows in LA at the Laemmle Monica Film Center from June 7 through June 13.