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The Big Read Egypt/U.S.

Programming has commenced for the 2010 phase of The Big Read Egypt/U.S. in both Egypt and the United States. In Egypt, citizens in Alexandria are participating in a variety of events at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina focusing on a community-wide reading of a special Arabic edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Meanwhile, program partner, The Egyptian Association for Educational Resources, partnered with the South Dakota Humanities Council to create a unique cultural exploration trip to South Dakota for a delegation of Egyptian students and chaperones who are participating in The Big Read Egypt/U.S.

Egyptian students posing in front of the South Dakota badlands
Above: The young Egyptian delegation in the badlands of South Dakota.

Arts Midwest board chair Dennis Holub hosted the Egyptian delegation during their travels and shared his thoughts on the experiences of introducing the young Egyptians to his home state:

"Part of the joy of retirement is being able to volunteer for services that I could not do when I was working. Recently I helped out my friend Sherry DeBoer, Executive Director of the South Dakota Humanities Council, by agreeing to lead the Black Hills tour of the two chaperones and eight students from Egypt who were selected to travel to this country as part of the Big Read Egypt project. All the Egyptians were proficient in English, and this was the first trip to the USA for the students. What a delight the adventure was. I solicited the help of my Rapid City pal Ruth Brennan (former Arts Midwest board member) to be co-tour guide.

The Egyptians arrived in Sioux Falls and spent the weekend in Brookings. In a rented van they traveled across South Dakota with some stops including the Badlands National Park, the Journey Museum, and Prairie Edge Native American Gallery. After lunch at the Firehouse Restaurant, we traveled to Mount Rushmore, which they loved, especially the very Americana evening lighting ceremony.

The next day we arranged a two-hour Buffalo Safari in Custer State Park, had lunch at the Park’s Game Lodge, toured Crazy Horse Memorial and visited a bronze foundry in Hill City.

It was interesting experiencing the local customs of the Egyptians. After lunch at the Game Lodge, Hossam, the male chaperone, asked if it was ok to take a 15 minute nap. I assumed he meant a “break.” While Ruth and I sat in the rocking chairs in front of the Game Lodge, the Egyptians napped for half an hour on the lawn and picnic table benches. Hossam, who is a medical doctor, said that a nap after lunch is so good for the heart that Americans should adopt the custom.

On our way back into Rapid City, I explained that our last stop was an ice cream shop. Fifteen year old Mario said that someone in Egypt told him the best ice cream in America was at Cold Stone Creamery. Ruth told him that was where we were going. The smile on Mario’s face is one I will always remember. The stop was probably a highlight for the students since the shop provided the perfect exchange between the teenage employees and the Egyptian teens learning all the different ice cream variations Cold Stone Creamery offered.

When Ruth and I asked the students about the favorite parts of the Black Hills tour, many said it was their host families since they all got to stay in local homes.

After the Black Hills, the group toured to Red Cloud Indian School and Heritage Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation and then on to Sioux Falls for the South Dakota Festival of Books. The Egyptians’ South Dakota visit ended with a special session on American and Egyptian literature presented by National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Jim Leach attended by Susan and Adam from Arts Midwest."