Talk like an Egyptian? Egyptians pronounce the “g” in Egypt like the “j” in Beijing. They also pronounce the “th” in the, this, and then like the “z” in zebra. Mansour Boctor is no exception to “zis” rule.
I worked with Boctor in 2010 in Doha, Qatar. We shared an office cubicle. He always had family pictures on his computer screen, received frequent calls from his wife and children, pinned Bible verses to the wall, and confessed regularly to eating my Cheetos in our file cabinet.
Boctor is middle aged, round-faced, and a little heavy set. Typical of Egyptians, he smiles easily and often. He was an active member of the Gideons both in Egypt and in Qatar. He has been part of Assembly of God, Brotherhood, and Baptist churches throughout his life. In Arabic, Mansour means “victory.”
He and his family emigrated from Egypt to the United States in 2011, after experiencing “one of the toughest days of my life.” On May 9, 2011, Boctor and his family were visiting his brother in Cairo when radicals burned the church across the street following rumors of a woman converting to Christianity. Some extremists knew Christians lived nearby: “They tried to open the house and kill everybody inside.”
Calling it “the worst situation in my life,” Boctor felt certain “I was about to lose my life, really.” In the end, the army rushed in and broke up the crowd. None of his family was hurt, for which he cites “God’s protection.”
The Boctors now live in Nashville, Tennessee. He has a work permit in the United States, and he is moving toward green card status and eventually citizenship for all of his family. He manages a beauty supply company owned by a Jordanian and an Egyptian.
Two of his boys, Mark and Michael, frequently interrupted our video phone call last summer. He proudly put them both on the phone to say hello. One of them smiles and says he wants to live in Florida. Boctor says his kids have brighter futures and better education in America than in Egypt.
Asked if he ever plans to return to Egypt, Boctor says, “No, no, no, no.” He does miss his mother and five brothers, as they have not gotten visas to America. He also misses Alexandria’s beaches and an annual Christian conference in Egypt.
Boctor acknowledges that life in America is hard, “but you know, it pays off” because “it’s a free country.” He feels little prejudice, finds “very biblical” churches, and thinks he values the history of America “maybe more than some Americans.” An elder, Sunday school teacher, and associate pastor at his church have all encouraged him and shown special interest in his family.
Egyptians engage American society, Boctor explains. They work hard. They vote. Many imagine a better future for themselves. But Egyptians also stick together, he notes. Some move to Arabic-speaking neighborhoods. Some push state officials to offer driver’s license tests in Arabic.
Boctor says Egyptians also pray for their nation. Many quote verses like Isaiah 19:21, “Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day.” He trusts that “God will never leave” Egypt.