Joe Moawad of Hinsdale has never lived in Egypt. But that doesn’t make him any less proud of the country that many of his relatives still call home. A lifelong member of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Burr Ridge, Moawad is one of many volunteers who work each year to bring the Taste of Egypt Festival to the church and surrounding community.
Q. Besides a good time, what is the purpose of the Taste of Egypt Festival?
A. It’s an outreach event, to let the community know who we are. And it’s also a fundraiser. We’ve had such an influx of immigrants in the last few years. That is why we are planning an addition to the church.
Q. When and how did the festival get its start?
A. We have been debating whether this is the ninth or 10th year. We started it after we built the first addition to the church, which is the gym. We wanted to have an event that raised money and welcomed our neighbors.
Q. How many people typically attend Taste of Egypt?
A. It’s hard to estimate. Probably a few thousand each day. We have churches that come with buses of people.
Q. What ages is the event geared toward?
A. There is something for everyone. This year, we ordered two new inflatables. That is really to target the older age group, 10 and up.
Q. What is your role in the event?
A. I do the church tours. We do the tours every half hour, starting with a short video that introduces them to the Coptic Orthodox faith.
Q. What are people surprised to learn?
A. Those who take the tour are often surprised at how closely our church resembles the traditional Christian faiths. They also learn that Egypt has the largest Christian population in the Middle East.
Q. People connect Egypt with pyramids and deserts. Is that accurate?
A. Egypt is a great place to visit. It has the pyramids, and it has cities, like Cairo, and some of the best beaches in the world.
Q. What attracts the most attention at Taste of Egypt?
A. The camel rides. We do them right next to 79th Street, so some people drive by and come in to see what is going on.
Q. Besides the new inflatables, will anything change this year?
A. We want to address what is happening in Egypt at the moment. Many of our churches were burned down in Egypt. We will have information available to people who ask.