Understanding Egypt is a series about Egyptian culture and traditions. I will try my best to explain the Egyptian way of thinking about different aspects of life that are usually different (or not) from Western and other cultures. If you have any questions or points you need elaborated please contact me through the comments sections or through the contact me page.
“Why is your name on facebook different than your name on your official papers?” I’ve been asked…many times. Plus the fact that barely anyone who meets me anywhere (outside of Egypt) knows how to find me on facebook, except if I give them my email.
So my name in any non-Arab country is Mina Mahrous, as seen on this website. Mina, my first name (which is totally a guys’ name by the way!), and Mahrous, my last name – NOT!
Ok, let me explain how the Egyptian naming system goes, my actual full name, according to Egyptian official papers, is Mina Sameh Nabih Mahrous. Mina is my name, Sameh is my father’s name, Nabih is my grandfather’s name, and Mahrous, my father’s grandfather’s name. Yes, that is how the naming system goes in Egypt. We don’t have a Surname or a Family name. It’s just an endless list of names. Well usually one would know their name until the 5th or 6th name (a 6th name is the name of the father of the grandfather of my grandfather! I know until my 10th name…How awesome is that?!).
As a matter of fact, SOME families do keep a family name. It is not a chosen name, though, it is more of a given name to the whole family, years ago, and they use it instead of the fourth name, some examples would include a name with a reference to where they come from. For instance – this is not a real person – Ahmed Mohammed Mostafa Al-Sharkawy, having “Al-Sharkawy” as their forth name (aka family name) would indicate that originally they are from a city in Egypt called “Al-Sharkia”.
Another thing about names in Egypt is that in any given crowd, you have three options by which at least 60% of said crowd is called: Mohammed, Ahmed and Mostafa. If that crowd included Christians, especially of my generation, be sure at least 40% of those Christian GUYS are called Mina!
For that reason, when anyone is called Ahmed or Mohammed they would rarely be called by their names, they are called by which ever is more unique, their father’s name or their forth/family name. I have known people for years, not knowing what their first name was, they were just always called by their father’s name, and even nicknamed according to their father’s name, and then they add you on facebook and you ask “who the hell is Ahmed Khaled?!….aaaaaa Khaled! I never knew his first name was Ahmed!”
Personal problems with my name
I’ve spoken of this before, my name is Mina, a girl’s name in 99% of the world, except in Egypt, and someone told me also that it’s a guys’ name in Greece and Ukraine. Haven’t met the odd Greek or Ukrainian guy called Mina yet but I’m looking forward to it! (If you are reading this blog please make me feel better about myself.)
So the problem is, obviously, people are either shocked to hear me say my name, or if I contacted them before them seeing me, they are expecting to meet a girl (Theodora from escapeartistes.com thought I was another guy trying to propose to her on Cairo streets! And my landlord here in England, well, at least my friend met her before I did and the shock wasn’t to my face, would have been funny though! 😀 )
My second problem is with official papers, they only ask for FIRST and LAST name, and so I use Mina and Mahrous, respectively. Comes passport, with full name (Mina Sameh Nabih Mahrous) written on it. Now most of the time it passes, people read the first and last word, and they see it matches what I have written in the applications and off I go, but sometimes they are more into it…”No let me call the main branch of our banks in London first to make sure this can pass…your passport have four names but the enrollment letter from your university only has two!”…They let it go eventually.
My last, futuristic, problem is if I will continue living outside of Egypt, in any country, should I change my family name? Mahrous isn’t very easy to remember is it? Should I go with an easier name? What if I get married out of Egypt, will my kids be happy being called **** Mahrous? Should I make life easier for them? 😀
– All names mentioned in this post are imaginary names, if they coincide with anyone’s real name, my apologies for that. Well except my name, that is a real one, apology accepted mother…