CALL HER FATIMAH
China, Egypt 2012-2015.
At the intersection of gender, religion, and ethnicity.
Over more than a century, Egypt has been an important destination for Muslim Chinese seeking Islamic knowledge: today, many young Muslim students move from their country to Egypt to learn about Islam. They are Muslim - but they do not know much about this religion. Once in Egypt they discover it through the study of Arabic, the Koran, and through life in Cairo. Over the last two years, I spent time inquiring within this hidden world, documenting their daily life as young foreigners with struggles between religion, culture, and genders’ divide. I decided to tell this story through the experience of Ding Lan --Fatimah is her Muslim name-- a 25 year old young woman that I met in Cairo. Young Chinese Muslims like Ding Lan come for Al Azhar, the highest Islamic Institution, worldwide known and free. They are Huizu (a Muslim minority in China), from regions as Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia or Henan. They are between 20 and 25 years old, as average and live in two specific areas in Cairo: Abbasseya and Nasr City. After Cairo, I followed Ding Lan back to her home in China in Henan province. There, I searched for the Muslim elements in her life and cultural background to understand her choice to move to Egypt. Historically speaking, Islam entered China during the seventh century and had always been favored by the exchange of ideas and cultural behaviors along the Silk Road. From Beijing to Cairo, I traveled for a long term project, exploring the diversity of religion in these two societies and the intersection of Islam with the Chinese culture. This is Islam in all its cultural diversities.