Archeologists discover court of Alexandria

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    KATY HAR

    Hearing Utah called the “Saudi Arabia of America” might raise a few quizzical eyebrows. But for Ahmed Abdeltawab of Cairo, Egypt, the comparison makes perfect sense.

    “Saudi Arabia is the main aim for Moslems, because there you feel safe. Utah is the Saudi Arabia of America because here you feel safe, you feel happy,” he said.

    Abdeltawab, an obstetrician from Al Azhar University in Cairo, has been at BYU for the past nine months working with Richard Heckmann in the Department of Zoology.

    His wife, Mona, is an obstetrician from Ain Shames University in Cairo. They and their two sons, Sameh and Hosem, plan on staying at BYU for at least two years.

    “I’m so lucky to be here. Your religion is very close to us, and I feel safe here for myself and my family,” Abdeltawab said.

    In Egypt, he was given a grant from his university to do research on genetics, specifically on genetic human parasitology, Abdeltawab said.

    Searching for a place to do his research, he sent letters to several universities across America.

    In the end, Abdeltawab had to choose between two professors — Heckmann, and another professor in Virginia.

    One morning, while dozing off for a few minutes, he saw a dream.

    “I saw that my father was going to die, although he is living. I was standing beside him and he said to me, ‘Go to Dr. Heckmann — don’t go to this man in Virginia.'”

    Abdeltawab said he knew his father is close to Allah, so he had to obey him. “And so, I changed everything from Virginia to here,” he said.

    “Here are possibilities which are not found in my country,” Abdeltawab said. “It is more advanced, and that is the reason I am here — to learn and to transfer that to my people.”

    Many scholars from foreign countries need three to four weeks to adjust to the different environment here, but Abdeltawab was a “self-starter,” Heckmann said.

    “When he arrived he was ready to go to work,” Heckmann said. “As for his work ethic and professionalism, he’s top-notch.”

    Human parasitology is of major importance in Egypt, Heckmann said.

    While at BYU, Abdeltawab will learn nucleic acid techniques, and may have the chance to establish a lab for that in Egypt, Heckmann said.

    Abdeltawab and his wife met while working at the same hospital.

    Mona, thinking he was a “great specialist,” gave him a lot of respect. “Finally, she discovered I was still a resident,” he joked.

    Now the couple has been married for three and a half years. Their seven-month-old son, Hosam, was born about a month after they arrived in America.

    “We had a child here, so he is a U.S. citizen. This, for us, is a good thing. He will always keep us in contact with America,” Abdeltawab said.

    Mona will have to wait to continue her profession because she does not having a license to practice medicine in the United States.

    “Of course, I miss my work so much. And when I go back to my home, I will go back to my work,” she said.

    Similar to BYU, Al Azhar is also a religious university and is tied to the Moslem faith. Students attend religion classes there also, Abdeltawab said. Professors, like at BYU, are also helpful and caring.

    However, differences also exist between the schools, Abdeltawab said. Al Azhar has a branch for males and a branch for females, with men teaching men and women teaching women. “But there is cooperation between these professors,” Abdeltawab said.

    Faculty members at Al Azhar are also unable to retire, Abdeltawab said.

    “To be retired you have to die,” he joked. “You can take higher positions up to 65 years of age, like chairman of department or dean of college, but once you reach 65, you can only work as a professor.”

    Until Mona sees the U.S. flag, she often forgets she is in America and not Egypt, Mona said. Latter-day Saints are near to Moslems in their friendly and helpful attitude, she said.

    Abdeltawab meets with other Moslems on campus every Friday for “common prayer.” Worshipping together is beneficial in many ways, he said.

    “Firstly, you feel happy when praying to your God. Secondly, you meet other Moslems. If anyone has a problem, they will help him,” he said.

    After the two years are up, Al Azhar will allow him to stay for four more years if he can find a grant, Abdeltawab said.

    But regardless of how long they stay, he and Mona already are planning for Sameh and Hosam to attend BYU.

    Becky Gardner/Daily Universe

    ALL IN THE FAMILY: Ahmed Abdeltawab is an obstetrician from Cairo. He has been studying with Richard Heckmann in the Department of Zoology for nine months. Left to right is his wife, Mona, and sons Hosam and Sameh.

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