Change is scary for many, even though people have long said that change is inevitable. But for the Moharrams, change is not just inevitable — change is a part of their family. Over the past 18 years, they’ve lived in New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Egypt, before ending up here, in Cupertino, Calif. Freshman Tasneem Moharram says that the longest they’ve ever stayed in one school is three years. She predicts that they’ll stay here for four years, until she finishes high school. After that, Tasneem says they’ll probably move somewhere else, maybe to be closer to her sisters, who will be in college.
They’ve been to so many states – and so many cities within each state – that senior Nadaa Moharram isn’t sure of the names of every city anymore, or which year they moved to each place. But she recalls a rough timeline of the family’s travels. Their story starts in New Jersey in 1998, where senior Ray Moharram was born on Aug. 13. Senior Nadaa Moharram was born a year later in 1999. Although a year younger than Ray, Nadaa skipped first grade and both are now in the same grade. After a couple month stint in Massachusetts, they moved back to New Jersey, where Tasneem was born. Soon after, they found themselves in Florida, where their brother Hamza was born in 2006. After moving to Egypt, their youngest sister was born in 2007.
“We decided over the summer that [we]’d move halfway across the world,” Nadaa said.
Nadaa’s mother had always wanted more of a connection to her Egyptian roots, and after her younger brother was born in Florida, they made the move across the world to Cairo, Egypt. While Ray considers it her least favorite place she’s been so far, it’s Nadaa and Tasneem’s favorite — Nadaa’s connection to the country is still so deep that she accidentally calls it her birthplace before correcting herself.
Upon arriving in Egypt, the sisters found themselves amidst something historical — the Egyptian Revolution of 2011- which is locally referred to as the Jan. 25 revolution, which resulted in the resignation of President Ḥosnī Mubārak.
“It was one of those things that unified everyone you know — the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews,” Ray said. “The Christians and the Jews would make a barrier around the Muslims who were praying. That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Despite the violent stories about the revolution, none of the sisters expressed any fear while recalling it. The family did participate in some more peaceful protests, although their protective parents kept them out of the streets whenever it was dangerous.
“After a year and a half, they elected a new president and he was part of the Muslim brotherhood, so Christians and Jews were very uncertain about it… it kind of got depressing and people started killing each other,” Ray said. “I wouldn’t call it a revolution that succeeded because we didn’t succeed in anything except making people angrier and make people turn against each other.”
And soon enough, the Moharrams left the chaotic post-revolution Egypt for somewhere quieter – Lexington, KY – which quickly became Ray’s favorite place. For her, it was a place where people had the same interests as her, a place filled with people she found to be “her type.” But for Nadaa, leaving Egypt felt like leaving home — although she feels a bit alienated in both places. When she’s in Egypt, she doesn’t feel like she’s considered a true Egyptian because she was born in America. Yet when she’s in America, everyone is so diverse that people don’t instantly identify her as American. Instead, they instinctively wonder what culture she came from.
Kentucky just wasn’t the land of opportunity for Nadaa as it was for Ray. For Ray, a creative-minded spirit with a passion for arts and writing, she felt like she fit in more with the larger crowd of creatively minded artists. It was a place for her to fit in. But for Nadaa, who considers herself more science and math-oriented, it was difficult to find people with the same passions. Tasneem agreed with Nadaa, that Lexington was her least favorite place they’ve ever lived. Finding connections with her hobbies wasn’t the issue she recalls encountering, although she does recall a rather cold, lacking sense of community.
“People weren’t very welcoming, they would not get used to you. No matter how hard you tried, they wouldn’t accept you. You had to be there forever,” Tasneem said. “If I stayed there another five years, it would probably change.”
But the sense of isolation that Tasneem recalls in Kentucky also brought the family together. Nadaa goes so far as to say that if she wasn’t friends with her sister, there were times that she would have felt all alone. A part of her wishes that she could’ve grown up with the connection that comes from staying in the same house for 18 years. But even without 18 years of a connection to one place, moving so much and often to places where they don’t know anyone has tied the family closely together.
Amidst the many people that fear change, each of the sisters have found their own comfort in change. It gives Nadaa a new perspective. For Ray, change means starting over. And with starting over comes the opportunity to take risks and be who she wants to be. After all, she points out that one year from now she won’t see anyone at MVHS. Being pulled across the nation at a mere moment’s notice has taught Nadaa to gather lessons from around the world, to escape the encapsulating bubble that comes with living in one place, where everything else remains stationary.
“You know a lot more than people do. You come here to Cupertino and people feel like ‘Wow they’re the best of the best’ because you’re in the best schools, you have all the money, you’re in the Bay Area, you’re in California,’ I mean what’s better than that?,” Nadaa said. “But people don’t know. You don’t know how everyone else is. You don’t get that perspective.”