Many friends of mine, especially non-Egyptians, get a bit surprised when they hear me -a girl in Hijab- brag about how I was raised by nuns at Catholic schools.

Even though I am Muslim, my parents insisted that I be put in an institution run by nuns, because of what they had heard about their strict yet good schooling methods. 

At both schools I attended, I came to know how vast and diverse our world is. We memorized the Quran in classrooms where big wooden crosses hung above the blackboard.

I remember our Christian maths teacher inviting the whole class to her wedding ceremony by writing the invitation on the blackboard. The Church was packed with people that night. I remember seeing my Muslim classmates and teachers there. 

My school years helped enrich my knowledge and understanding of other faiths and cultures. Tolerance and mutual respect were fostered in us, the students, as we grew up.  

Egypt has a long history of foreign educational institutions. The earliest foreign schools were set up by European missionaries who had come to Egypt in the middle of the 19th century. 

To be exact, the first Catholic school, which is still operational to this day, opened in Cairo in 1847. Today, there are about 168 Catholic schools scattered in different governorates across Egypt; those schools enjoy a great reputation among Egyptians.

Here's why:

1. No discrimination against puplils based on their gender, religion or social background

Sister Georgette Foukey works with a student at the Franciscan Sisters orphanage school in Egypt. Source: Sean Sprague

Parents know for a fact that the school will be a safe haven for their children as everyone is treated fairly and equally. 

2. Manners are not optional

In Egypt, a young girl does her schoolwork in Jesuit-run school in Minya Source: Sean Sprague

Cheating, lying and backbiting are taken very seriously and dealt with sternly.

You've been warned!

3. Interfaith cooperation is the norm

At my Catholic middle school, we would exchange verses from the Quran and passages from Bible to enrich our written essays about motherhood, compassion and love. 

I remember at one point, one Muslim girl volunteered to play Santa for a school play because she was the tallest one in class, and yes, she put on a white scruffy beard!

Sometimes we'd forget that we were fasting and would run to get water after playing sports, only for our Christian friends to remind us that it's Ramadan!

4. Embracing a culture of dialogue

Nabila Makram Abdel Shahid, Egyptian Minister of State for Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates’ Affairs spending a day at her Catholic school, Institution Sainte Jeanne-Antide Source: Ahram

Students are encouraged to express themselves and to open up to other students. 

Learning about our differences was an enriching experience and an opportunity to grow.

5. Discipline, discipline, and even more discipline

Classes start on time and end on time. No matter what happens, no one is allowed to miss the morning queue. 

Discipline just improves everything.  

6. Being a nerd is totally fine

They'll love you for it and protect you from being bullied. 

7. Reasonable tuitions compared to other private schools

Making the school more accessible for students from different backgrounds, and consequently, more diverse. 

8. Having role models to look up to

Long after school was done, the nuns still have a special place in the hearts of Catholic school alumni.  

9. Get ready for compliments

That moment when people ask: "you're too polite and professional, did you go to a Catholic school?" ;) 

10. Just like this child's singing, there are many good things about Egypt

My Catholic schools are one of them. 

11. And the award of the most beautiful school building goes to...

College Saint Marc for boys in Alexandria

In my humble opinion, Collège Saint Marc is the most beautiful school in Alexandria. 

Collège Saint Marc is a French Roman Catholic school for boys, which was inaugurated on October 6, 1928, by King Fuad I. 

I always envied the boys who attended it to be honest. 

This is why many Egyptians, Muslims and Christians alike, take pride in graduating from Catholic Schools.