The Importance of Internships at Arab-West Report

Sent On: 
Sun, 2018-03-11
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The benefit of an internship at Arab-West Report is that you occasionally visit places where you cannot go without the help of founder Cornelis (Kees) Hulsman’s extensive local contacts. Many internships are not as flexible, and don’t offer interns the chance to experience such opportunities. Sometimes, internships consist of merely sitting down at an office, completing routine, thankless work that doesn’t necessarily align with their studies or interests. This happened to me, and that is why I asked my university to switch from my previous internship provider to Arab-West Report, which offers their interns all kinds of interesting possibilities.


A few weeks ago, a Coptic Orthodox priest named Abūna Yuʾannas visited our office. He met with Niccolo Costantini, another Arab-West Report intern from Italy. The priest then invited the interns to visit his village, the Upper Egyptian village of Qufāda. On 17 February 2018, we took Abūna Yuʾannas up on his offer, and 5 Arab West Report interns visited the village.


The village is located about 250 km south of Cairo in an area where foreigners usually don’t go. Kees Hulsman asked the interns to prepare for this visit by reading the previous reports about Qufāda and Abūna Yuʾannas from the Arab-West Report database. We then developed a list of questions and discussed them together with Kees Hulsman. The purpose of our visit was to investigate the relationships between Muslims and Christians in the village of Qufāda. We interviewed two religious leaders in Qufāda: Abūna Yuʾannas, the priest of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Qufādah, and Sheikh Ḥassan, one of the two Islamic clergy of the village.

It was agreed that we would travel in one day from Cairo to Qufāda and back to Cairo since staying overnight would have involved local security authorities who are usually sensitive about non-Egyptians visiting such an area.


Left to right: Maarten Boender (Sweden), Niccolò Costantini (Italy), Abūna Yuʾannas, Sheikh Ḥassan, Shaimāʾ Muḥammad (Egypt), Rosanna Cardella (Italy), Tabea Schneider (Germany)



Abūna Yuʾannas was already waiting for us at the station when we arrived in the city of Maghagha. First, we went to the priest's house for our initial interview. The intervi

-ew mainly revolved around the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the village. Abūna Yuʾannas said that both the church and the mosque do not make differences between Muslims and Christians when they distribute food packages to the poor of the village. Poverty in Qufāda is extreme, and almost everyone is living below the poverty line. For example, many women live without their husbands in the village because their husbands must earn money for the family elsewhere. Sheikh Ḥassan mentioned that Christians visit Muslims to offer condolences upon the death of a family member or loved one, observing that usually the number of Muslims exceeds the number of Christians during Christian funerals. This is because the village is about 85% Muslim and 15% Christian.


The visit to Qufāda was a very special experience because it showed a side of Egypt and the Egyptian society that most people never get to see. It was a very informative and unique opportunity to sit down with two religious leaders and listen to their stories and experiences. The visit gave us a unique insight into how Muslims and Christians are living peacefully together in a traditional Egyptian village. It also showed how media work. The focus is often on tensions and not on cooperation while it is much more beneficial to see how both Muslims and Christians face the same problem of poverty.


It is obvious that Abūna Yuʾannas is a strong networker. He knows local Muslim religious authorities, civil authorities and police officers in his area. If problems occur to people of different faiths he will sit together with the relevant community leaders and find a solution. Being a priest in a predominantly Muslim area means that this is not just a matter of leading prayers but also acting as a village diplomat and if this is done well it will help to address the problems that really matter: Economic development.


For our report on the ‘Peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims in the village of Qufāda’ please click here.


Cairo,  March 11, 2018


Maarten Boender

Middle-Eastern studies, Uppsala University, Sweden