- Associated Press - Monday, January 13, 2014

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) - “It’s a nice city; you will like it.”

This was the sentiment Amr Fouda shared with Souma Zakaria when she was looking for a place in the United States to relocate.

Souma and her husband, Essam Raffat, moved to Gadsden in November. The Egyptian couple are enjoying life in a small city.

This is not the first time for Souma to visit the States. For work training, she has visited both New York and Washington, D.C.

“Life there is crowded, busy and high-speed,” she said. “Here is nice and quiet. The people are friendly and helpful.”

For two decades, Souma worked at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Having served there so long, she was eligible for a green card.

“Things changed in Egypt after the uprising,” Souma said.

So she applied to come to the U.S. and began contacting friends who had worked with her at the embassy.

Amr Fouda has lived in Gadsden for five years. He offered to help Essam and Souma move to the area and get settled.

“We like it here,” Souma said. “We plan to stay.”

She said that after living in Cairo all their lives, they are ready for a quieter, more intimate city.

Both Souma and Essam already have received their green cards. (Souma’s son is older than 21, so he will have to apply separately to join his parents.)

The couple has been looking for work and they have been volunteering at the Gadsden Public Library.

“I was impressed with their willingness to help especially since they had only arrived in this country a short time before,” said Craig Scott, the library’s Adult Services liaison.

“They told me they wanted to learn more about the customs of the United States and thought the library would be a good place to start. They also told me that volunteering would help them improve their speaking of the English language.”

Souma said that she understands the culture and perspectives of Americans after working with them “all of my life.”

She studied journalism and mass communication in school and has enjoyed the new experiences living in Alabama has offered. They saw their first parade in December.

“I invited them to see our annual City Christmas parade, but did not know they did not have a car,” Scott said.

“It was very cold that day,” Souma remembered. “But we decided we wanted to watch this.”

The couple enjoyed hot dogs and hot cocoa and said they “did not feel the cold weather.” After the parade, it took them about an hour and a half to walk from Broad Street back to Alabama City.

“We were so worn out and tired the next day!” Souma said.

“But we were happy,” Essam added.

Until they find jobs and can afford their own means of transportation, Souma and Essam have been riding the trolley system. Both are impressed by the dedication the drivers have to their occupation.

“The drivers know our faces,” Souma said. “They help us.”

And they enjoy coming to the library.

“It’s a nice way to get out and meet people,” said Souma. “To start our new chapter here in the U.S.”

___

Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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