Samar Nagy is a Luxor native and tour guide. One day on her way back from work she glimpsed a group of children communicating with each other in sign language. She was struck by their isolation from everyone around them and thought to herself, “how can I use my skills and what I’ve learned to communicate and get through to these kids?” The answer seems so simple, and yet it had escaped a lot of people before her. And so from here her idea to start organizing guided tours for the hearing impaired children of Luxor was born.
These children, believe it or not, had never gotten a guided tour of their own rich-in-history Luxor before, which makes you appreciate a lot of things that you’ve been taking for granted. When I spoke to Nagy about her initiative, you could fee her pride in her country and heritage, and her eagerness to share this with everyone around her. As a cynic myself I couldn’t help but smile as I heard her tell her story.
In order to bring her idea to life, she did some research, found an organization that works with hearing-impaired children in Luxor, got in tough with them, shared her idea and the rest, as they say, was history. “I wanted the kids to feel their worth,” she said, “before this these kids were only able to see the rich history of their country without knowing anything about it.”
“The children’s enthusiasm was an amazing thing to behold,” said Nagy, “In the beginning, they only listened intently as I explained everything to them but after a while, they started asking their own questions and were fascinated by the kings and queens of the past.”
Nagy is hoping to spread this initiative across all of Egypt, but for now, she excitedly shared with me the news of a call she received a few days earlier – an invitation from an organization for the disabled in Esna, a city that has its own treasure trove of attractions, to do a guided tour for kids over there as well.
After this experience, she told me that she is now inspired to learn Arabic and American sign language herself in order to be able to continue doing this for kids herself, but also to be able to give guided tours to tourists from America with hearing impairments.
When I asked her what the most memorable reaction she saw from the kids was, she told me that at the end of the tour one girl signed “long live Egypt” to her. When you think about the happiness and pride these kids felt after learning about their history, you have to wonder at the system that failed to give them easier access to something so basic.
It is hard to get exact data of anything in Egypt, but a 2007 study by the World Health Organization estimated that 16 percent of the Egyptian population suffers from hearing loss. A lot of them end up being illiterate and unemployed and living in isolation from the rest of society because they are unable to integrate. An initiative like this is definitely overdue. So, Samar Nagy, we salute you.