By Karris Golden
Tarek Mounib knows he scares people. In the eyes of some, he is the embodiment of terror. Some fear his religion, which is Islam. Some also fear his ethnicity: He was born and raised in Canada by parents who emigrated from Egypt to Canada. Growing up in 1970s Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mounib’s was the only Muslim family in the neighborhood.
In 2017, he had an idea: He’d take a group of Americans to Egypt. He would immerse them in Egyptian lifestyle, culture and surroundings to dispel their fear and anxiety.
Mounib, a successful software entrepreneur announced he’d offer six people an all-expenses paid, 10-day trip to Egypt. He also founded Kindness Films, which worked with filmmakers Ingrid Serban and Forest Sun to document the journey.
The result is the new documentary, “Free Trip to Egypt.” Perhaps your reaction is like mine: “Sign me up.” We’re not the target. Instead, Mounib sought to show the land of his parents to those who cringe at the thought of visiting a “Muslim country.”
“Travel and cultural exchange are the best way to open up our eyes and ultimately, to hopefully envision a more peaceful world,” Mounib explains. “I want to build bridges and document that process from the very start.”
At its core, this phenomenal film chronicles what can happen when one person does his part to tackle world peace. “Free Trip” offers raw, sweet, sad, funny and painful moments that ultimately prove the power of honest dialog.
“The whole point of this project is, ‘Hey, come on over; meet us. Let’s exchange ideas. Let me understand what you’re afraid of. … Let’s talk,” Mounib says. “The film for me is not about making any group look good or bad. It is about seeing what magic can occur between people when we connect at a human level.”
Early on, Mounib chats with a boy of apparent northern European descent. He tries to convince Mounib to choose him for the trip while his mother looks on.
It’s a sweet moment that quickly gives way to trepidation. As narrator, Mounib informs viewers that he’s headed for a rally for President Donald Trump in Louisville, Ky.
There, he’s invited on stage. At one point, the Trump impersonator interviewing him implies travelers to Egypt will waterboarded.
Most of his interactions at the rally aren’t much better.
“It’s like Iraq, Iran … it’s all of them places; we’ve just got to shut ’em down,” one woman tells him. “And take back our oil that’s over there, and take care of America.”
One man advocates American isolationism, explaining that Islamic beliefs don’t “agree with our Constitution.”
Mounib does eventually find willing travelers. They include:
- Katie Appeldorn, 38, former U.S. Marine corporal who is a single mother and works for a California energy contractor.
- Jenna Day, 27, actor and former Miss Kentucky.
- Ellen, 70, and Terry Decker, 69, retired school teacher and General Motors manager, respectively.
- Brian Kopilec, 28, computer animation student and former U.S. Marine corporal.
- Jason Reynolds, 33, pastor/church planter and recovering drug addict.
- Marc Spalding, 46, police officer who tells Mounib he fears “being taken hostage” in Egypt.
A premiere screening of “Free Trip to Egypt” is scheduled for June 12, on #PledgeToListen Day of Unity. Go to www.FreeTriptoEgypt.com for more information or search online for #PledgeToListen.