Gehan and Mohamed - Part 2, October 28, 2018

Dublin Core


Gehan and Mohamed - Part 2, October 28, 2018


Arab Americans-Ohio


Gehan and Mohamed speak about the experiences when first arriving in the United States; Gehan speaks about what it is like being Arab-American and the effect that has on her dentist office; Mohamed speaks about the evolution of his goals; Mohamed speaks about younger generations; Gehan and Mohamed share their final thoughts aspects of their culture and homeland they would like Americans to know about. This interview took place in central Ohio.


Interviewers: Olivia Reynolds, Mohamed El Sayed, Hanada Al-Masri
Interviewees: Gehan and Mohamed




October 28, 2018


Dr. Hanada Al-Masri, project director
Hannah Bennett, filming
Adam Venrick, filming
Cheryl A Johnson, online presentation of the digital materials


Arab-American Project by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.




English with Arabic translation


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Olivia Reynolds
Mohamed El Sayed
Hanada Al-Masri




Central Ohio


Olivia Reynolds: Can you tell us a little bit of how it was like when you first arrived here? Did you have any struggles?
Mohamed: I came here on November 27, 1978 and I arrived in Chicago with $44 in my pocket. I didn’t even know where to go, I know I have relatives in Ohio here, and luckily a person helped me at the airport, I showed him the address and he put me on a plane and I came to Ohio, which my sister and her husband, they were here and it was hard for me at the beginning because I had to go school, and they helped me actually the first quarter, they paid $600 for me to go to school; and at that time $600 for me was too much money for me, I had only $44 in my hand what was I going to do? Then I end up, start going to college and start working; my first job was working at the valet parking at Sheraton Hotel. I was getting $1.78 an hour, and after that I started looking for other things to do, and it happened I was doing a few jobs at the same time, working salesman, working at Sheraton, work in the kitchen; and I used to get sleep—maybe only 3-4 hours of sleep some weeks, I didn’t get much sleep. I wanted to accomplish myself, I wanted to be when I go back to my country, my family I wanted to be proud of me; my mom and dad especially because they were opposed to me coming here as I said before, I had dream I wanted to come to America. So I established myself, I worked very hard. I met the wife in 1985; she was going to school, she spent about 7 years back and forth between here and Egypt, while I was working here. And When she came back, we felt like we are married again, because it was kinda like, ya know we were married but she was distant, and we have been working since. We established ourselves alhamdulillah, great and she has her own dental office and I have my business also, and the kids help me in it. We are in real estate, we do real estate commercial buildings and rent them and we have a car dealer, and we send the kids to school, it was very expensive and I didn’t want them to come out of school with student loans, so we have to pay for the school while they’re going; and it got to the point, when they were going the three of them at the same time, we were playing like a little over $11-12,000 each quarter, it was very difficult for us. But thanks to God they all graduated and the wife graduated and she’s doing good in her dental office, and that's how we started. It was very difficult beginning, very very difficult beginning. You know the first thing, the language was big problem for me, and to know you’re way around it was a little bit of an obstacle. My dream was to have a car and one day to have a house, it was my dream. And then alhamdulillah we achieve all our goals. So there’s nothing impossible, anything is possible if you put your mind to it, you’ll achieve your goals and get there.
Hanada: Dr. Gehan, you have a dentist office, right?
Gehan: Yes, I do.
H: And, of course you have customers who are Americans and Arabs and otherwise?
G: Yes, all.
H: How did that knowing you’re Arab American, did that affect your business at all?
G: I don’t think so. Like you know, people after they come and they get the kind of service that I offer for them, they’re very happy and they appreciate what I do and even where I come from.
M [adds]: Even though, she gets more patients than some other doctors because she’s female, she speaks the languages; and her office is probably is the only office that speaks four languages there.
G: Yes.
M [continues]: so they can in Arabic, Latinos, Somalian and English; so any patient that come in and doesn’t speak English they have a person, you know an assistant, who speaks in a different language, all of them.
G: Yeah, we do that on the spot.
M: So, she’s doing very well, she’s very successful, she’s actually one of the good doctors in Columbus
G: Yeah, ahamdulilah. Like Mohamed said, when I first came here, you know it was really difficult. I was 21, my husband 27 when we got married. We were both working; my first job was at Pizza Hut, I still remember it [laughs]. It was hard [laughs]. And now thinking about it from Pizza Hut to where I’m at right now, I feel blessed. I feel very happy that I was able to accomplish or do what I did, you know, and go to college and raise my kids and put them through school and find me and my husband. I’m feeling very happy, very proud of what I did.
Mohamed El Sayed: So when did you get a chance of meeting all those awesome people that you have the pictures of in your office?
M: That was back in probably, my beginning was of all those things back in ‘94, and that’s when I started getting involved in, you know, in the local governments and things like that. So, throughout the years from ‘94 through those days, and I’m still very active and I represent the community here, we have a very large community in Columbus. I represent to the community on multiple levels, in Washington and lots of times when they have the process and people come from overseas and I’m always invited and get my ticket to be invited. You know actually, I had clearance to the White House, it wasn’t easy to get in so they have to check, You know and so I’ve been there many many many of times. I attend most of the peace meetings in Washington, I was invited to.
MES: So how does your dream evolve from only have a car and a house and maybe someday you’re going to have a house, to like actually being in that position, like being involved in politics and economics and businesses?
M: Determination, when you’re determined. I am also a private pilot, I learned how to fly. I wanted to do too many things I wanted to do. I had so much energy and I never wasted my time. So any opportunity I was thinking about, I will do it. So I start businesses in 1980, which I came here in 1978, so in three years we had the business in Cincinnati. After that I start first business and then moved to other different businesses, and I have probably in total about 12 different categories of business. And thanks to God, we have been very successful, we did not fail in any of them [clears throat]. Now for the last few years, we got out to the retail business we focus on the real estate, which is much more productive for us and easier. And with the age, you just relax and take a little break. And I want to spend time with the family more. I feel like the quality time now is to spend with the family and the kids and just to be able to travel without having that stress in you ‘Where am I gonna come up with that money? How am I gonna pay the bills?’ So uh, as I said the determination that you want to achieve your goal you want to be some important person in your life, you wanna be an important figure, you have to be part of the culture, part of society which you just have to continue going, I mean determination will get you where you wanna get. Even though it was a struggle for me to come up with the money at the beginning, but I was working so many hours I believe from the middle 80s to maybe just last couple of years. I was putting in hours 15, 17 hours per day, that’s seven days a week. I never took a vacation until actually probably 5 years ago when the wife, uh, she started to have her dental office, we start being a little bit more comfortable financially, that's when I started being able to take vacations. For probably 25-30 years I never took a vacation.
H: And it seems through your business you’re offering a lot of job, employment opportunities for younger generations. Can you tell us about your employees, like where are they from basically?
M: Well, it's a-- we hire lots of people. We had too many different hires, local people some of our peoples who come in from overseas. We never made difference between them whether a person local and like, you know, born here, or whoever can do the job we’ll hire him and we treat them well, always I feel like, you know, I’m investing in that person the money I’m giving to him. I treated them with respect, and they were very loyal to us. We never had any issues with employees. Very loyal. We treat them with full respect, pay them on time, treat them with dignity, and they were loyal to us even though at one point I have 12 businesses running at the same time. From Colorado to Ohio to Columbus and Cincinnati, at the same time. So I was just traveling, a lot of times I just do a lot of traveling and at the same time I was going to school, to college. So I was flying sometimes I could be in Colorado and my exam is tomorrow, I just come and take the exam and leave.
MES: So I can see that there’s like a lot of similarities between you and my dad: that both of you, you started from like nothing and you came to like something. But I always hear my dad telling me that he wants me to be not just like him but even better. Do you feel the same for your children? How do you push them towards that goal?
M: The time has changed. What we been through, you’ll never be through. I always try not to let my kids been through what I have been through. But, to be like your dad or a little bit better, take his advice. When he tells you do something, or the way to do it, listen to him and take everything he said in consideration. Take his advice because the only person that wants you to be better than him is your dad. A father always wants to have his kids be successful, and even than him and doing better. We get out of pride, we get security for you and your family in the future, and the father will advise you. He been through this, that's the expertise, the expert. The experience he had before, the obstacles you don’t have to go through it. So you just get the result, he tell you to do it, that's the way it should be done-- listen.
MES: And how do you push your children, your adult children, they’re not children but [laughs].
G: [laughs]
M: I lecture them probably twice a week and sometimes they hate me [laughs] They don’t want no lectures because, you know, every time we sit down and have a few minutes with them I try to always remind them, constant remind them. You do this and you do this and you do this. So the main thing, I want to keep them away from all the troubles, that's one thing. I want them to keep their heritage, where they came from. I want them to be a good citizen of the country here and abroad, and I want them to be very highly educated, not just finish high school. And I want them to be a person the people take them as a role model. When your father remind you on a daily basis of things like that, eventually you’re gonna listen. So the first thing, you wanna finish your school, your education that’s the most important thing. And use your vision, you have to have vision, you cannot just look, you know ‘What are you gonna do today?’ You have to think for like 10 years and 20 years what am I gonna be in 20 years or 30 years and 50 years from now, ‘When am I gonna be retired?’ ‘Am I gonna continue working for somebody?’ The paycheck sometimes, yeah it's great but you wanna be somebody. You want the people to take you as a role model.
OR: Do you have anything final to say about how you got here? Anything else to say about your culture or your homeland that you want Americans to know?
M: I want the Americans to know that, as I said before, they did not have a clue how the people they were living there in third world countries, most of them I think people take for granted they’re living in heaven and how it compared to third world country. I love my country, and I will never [clears throat] wanted to see the people think bad about our country. We have good values, we have family tradition, we have good values, it’s not even found in any society but probably in the Middle East. We’re very warm people, very generous, we’re honest, we look for our neighbors. The lack of information, the lack of knowledge that the American society had before; they always assume what we are, they assume everybody has a camel for example, everyone has an oil well, which is not. We work, we’re very hard working people. We wanted to be like everybody else, and we’re normal people. Years ago before the war in Iraq, they didn’t know anything about the Middle East, if they see somebody wearing the veil they look at them like an uneducated person, no. The women wear the veil, they’re veiled because they choose; no man forces wife. It’s her option, her choice, if she wants to wear it, fine; if she don’t want to wear it, fine. So it's-- as I said it’s you know the wife has the choice to wear-- to practice her religion. My wife, sometimes she wear it, sometime she doesn’t; that’s her choice, I don’t ask, you know. So my advice to the young generation: to look for the best, to be a hard worker, to focus on their school, to stay away from all the troubles and bad friends and all this little crazy stuff going around, and look for future. Think about your future for 20 and 30 and 50 years, where I am going to be. Am I gonna be just another person live and make the living and eat and sleep or I wanna be an important person, to be productive. Each one of us has a responsibility, each one of us should live [inaudible], he leave this Earth and the people say he did some, he left some behind. A legacy; you have to leave some behind for the people who look after you.
G: I agree, you know, you have to have a purpose in life. You have to, in order to be happy I think you have to contribute and not just take, you have to give. You know, for me I try to help younger people also and like students who wants to become a dentist, like my door is always open and they come and they can shadow me, and actually 3 of the people that shadowed me, they actually all got into the dental school [chuckles]. I’m so happy for them. Also, the dental assisting schools they always send people there actually; I have some awards from them because I was helping a lot the dental school and dental assisting school. So I’m always looking for ways to contribute more and more, you know, always come up with an idea, you know “how can I contribute to my community?’ ‘How can I, like my husband said leave a thumbprint?’ you know after you leave, what did you do? Did you have a purpose? Did you do something?
M: You know, when we go travel overseas, like especially in Palestine, we do help whatever we can, it's not a large amount but we can do what we can for the schools, hospital, I sponsor 5 kids from the university. When I was there on trip, they are smart kids but they are short on their fees. We took care of this. So, we try to help as much we can, and always just like the wife said, the doctor said, or Gehan said: contribute. It doesn’t mean you have to contribute, what you can, what you can give. When you give, when you learn how to give, you feel better always.
G: Yes.
M: And the person who gives feels always much better than the person who takes. Whether you give advice, you give knowledge, you give a hand to somebody, you contribute what you can. It doesn’t have to be money all the time, sometime you just don’t have it, but somebody ask you for assistance for help, don’t back down. Just do it.

Original Format

MP4 Video - 720p HD



Time Summary

Description of their experiences upon first arriving in the United States
Gehan speaks about what it is like being Arab-American and reflects on how it was when she first came to the United States.
Mohamed speaks about how he met a variety of well-known people.
Mohamed speaks about the evolution of his dream.
Mohamed speaks about his employees
Mohamed speaks about the younger generations
Mohamed & Gehan speak motivating their adult children.
Mohamed and Gehan share their final thoughts about aspects of their culture and homeland and what they would like Americans to know about their culture.

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Interviewers: Olivia Reynolds, Mohamed El Sayed, Hanada Al-Masri Interviewees: Gehan and Mohamed, “Gehan and Mohamed - Part 2, October 28, 2018,” Arab-American Project, accessed June 14, 2024,