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El-Ghorba: A Media Ethnography of Transnationalism among Arab Immigrant Families in Canada
Unformatted Document Text:  children outside the home most of the daytime, Zeinab stares at the television for hours on end. She has finally found herself a companion in the often-lonely house. This house which Zeinab decorated herself to resemble her home back in Kuwait. It was adorned with Egyptian olas, clay flasks that would be used to cool water in the heat of the Nile’s countryside, are a lingering symbol of her upbringing in Egypt. While Zeinab recalls having to drink from them when she was a youngster in Imbaba, she now keeps them for ornamental reasons, something her children simply cannot comprehend. In the bitter Canadian winters, the olas are a misplaced symbol of Zeinab’s nostalgic past. It wasn’t long before Zeinab’s dinner preparation was interrupted again. As she sorts through the pan for the edible pieces in a bed of blackened crust, she stops every few seconds to steal a glance over the celebrity news. The television, tuned to her favorite channel, the Egyptian Satellite Channel (ESC), breaks abruptly from regular programming. She hears the harmonious voice of the muezzin as he recites the opening ayat from the evening prayer. Zeinab looks up at the clock, lays her pan down, slides her veil across her forehead and proceeds to her room to attend to her religious duty. As I approached the house’s front door, I notice the two textured class banners on either side of a dark brown wood divider. At the center of the divider is a bright blue upside down palm-shaped clay piece. In the middle of the palm is an assertively obvious ruby red gem carved in the shape of an eye. The hand of Fatima, placed to fend off the evil eye of envy from the house, tells me that as I walked through those doors I was transcending space into another realm. For the next few days, I would forget this household enclosure is smack in the middle of a mid-sized North American city. The community: Having worked for several Arabic media outlets in the eastern Canadian coastal city of Halifax, I had grown curious about how the Arabic speaking community received these services. At a time in Halifax, there was a weekly Arabic language newspaper and 4 variety radio shows on community stations. It wasn’t until the advent of Arabic satellite television that these locally-produced programs started to diminish and dwindle. For the first time, Arab migrant families to this old-home maritime city would watch Arabic television broadcasted live from their countries of origin. The programs were being broadcast simultaneously via satellite across the globe to Arab audiences. In a city whose greater population is a little less than 350,000, the growing Arab community has become both visible and influential. Not long ago one could count the number of Arab families living in the area on two hands. Today, according to the latest Halifax census, Arabs constitute the second-largest visible minority after the black community. Historically, the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, of which Halifax is the capital, has seen little overall immigration compared to the larger provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. However, Halifax’s Middle Eastern community, thanks to large influx of migrants that started in the early nineties is now the city’s second largest visible minority group after the African-Canadians. Many of those who moved from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates sought more secure lifestyles in Canada. The Gulf war had destabilized the region and those who sought immigration as entrepreneurs, investors or refugees found harbor in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Home to Canada’s second largest harbor and being the easternmost large city in Canada, Halifax provided ample opportunity for both trade and comparatively inexpensive travel back to the Middle East during holidays.

Authors: Iskandar Farag, Adel.
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children outside the home most of the daytime, Zeinab stares at the television for hours on end.
She has finally found herself a companion in the often-lonely house.
This house which Zeinab decorated herself to resemble her home back in Kuwait. It was
adorned with Egyptian olas, clay flasks that would be used to cool water in the heat of the Nile’s
countryside, are a lingering symbol of her upbringing in Egypt. While Zeinab recalls having to
drink from them when she was a youngster in Imbaba, she now keeps them for ornamental
reasons, something her children simply cannot comprehend. In the bitter Canadian winters, the
olas are a misplaced symbol of Zeinab’s nostalgic past.
It wasn’t long before Zeinab’s dinner preparation was interrupted again. As she sorts
through the pan for the edible pieces in a bed of blackened crust, she stops every few seconds to
steal a glance over the celebrity news. The television, tuned to her favorite channel, the Egyptian
Satellite Channel (ESC), breaks abruptly from regular programming. She hears the harmonious
voice of the muezzin as he recites the opening ayat from the evening prayer. Zeinab looks up at
the clock, lays her pan down, slides her veil across her forehead and proceeds to her room to
attend to her religious duty.
As I approached the house’s front door, I notice the two textured class banners on either
side of a dark brown wood divider. At the center of the divider is a bright blue upside down
palm-shaped clay piece. In the middle of the palm is an assertively obvious ruby red gem carved
in the shape of an eye. The hand of Fatima, placed to fend off the evil eye of envy from the
house, tells me that as I walked through those doors I was transcending space into another realm.
For the next few days, I would forget this household enclosure is smack in the middle of a mid-
sized North American city.

The community:
Having worked for several Arabic media outlets in the eastern Canadian coastal city of
Halifax, I had grown curious about how the Arabic speaking community received these services.
At a time in Halifax, there was a weekly Arabic language newspaper and 4 variety radio shows
on community stations. It wasn’t until the advent of Arabic satellite television that these locally-
produced programs started to diminish and dwindle. For the first time, Arab migrant families to
this old-home maritime city would watch Arabic television broadcasted live from their countries
of origin. The programs were being broadcast simultaneously via satellite across the globe to
Arab audiences.
In a city whose greater population is a little less than 350,000, the growing Arab
community has become both visible and influential. Not long ago one could count the number of
Arab families living in the area on two hands. Today, according to the latest Halifax census,
Arabs constitute the second-largest visible minority after the black community.
Historically, the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, of which Halifax is the
capital, has seen little overall immigration compared to the larger provinces of Ontario, Quebec
and British Columbia. However, Halifax’s Middle Eastern community, thanks to large influx of
migrants that started in the early nineties is now the city’s second largest visible minority group
after the African-Canadians. Many of those who moved from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the
United Arab Emirates sought more secure lifestyles in Canada. The Gulf war had destabilized
the region and those who sought immigration as entrepreneurs, investors or refugees found
harbor in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Home to Canada’s second largest harbor and
being the easternmost large city in Canada, Halifax provided ample opportunity for both trade
and comparatively inexpensive travel back to the Middle East during holidays.


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