What does Iran have in common with Egypt and Morocco? A lot more than you think, and a lot less depending on where you look. The language of Iran, Farsi (or Persian as it’s also often called), is written with the Arabic script. Arabic, the language, however is spoken in Morocco and Egypt as official languages. Language and cultural attitudes is also quite different. More women in Egypt still favour the traditional, conservative way of life and dressing as opposed to their counterparts in Iran who show a marked rebellion against what its Islamic government stipulates: head covering, public separation of the genders etc.

This month in the United States is the Discover Languages Month. One of such activities at my department includes inviting students from different countries and cultures to speak to us about what is important to them, and what we may want to know about their culture and languages. Mohamed spoke about Morocco, its linguistic diversity and cultural influences while Reham spoke about Egypt giving us a view into the everyday life of its citizens. Yesterday, Mojdeh Faraji came to speak about Iran, dedicating a large part of her talk to the artistic contributions of Iranian film makers some of whom are now serving prison terms in the country for speaking out against the government. The Iranian director of the movie Offside was one case in point.

If I do find myself in the Middle East someday – maybe as a teacher of English, where would I rather be? For the food, it might be Morocco. For the view, it will be Egypt. For the weather, the culture and the language, It might be Iran – a freer one of course.

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