When I get a couple hours break from school, I go there. A friend of mine showed me a quiet spot right on the Nile. You can go have lunch and a smoke before having to head back to class. It’s relaxing being away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
As is typical in Egypt, we were approached by beggars. They were children, but didn’t have that hardened look of Egyptian street kids. They asked for change and we said we had none. They were persistent, and stayed for a little, still begging. At one point I thought to myself, “I wish they would go away.” I really had no change and guilt was beginning to settle in. Finally my friend yelled at one of them. As the kid walked away away he turned around and snorted at my friend.
My friend chased after him, and left me with the other boy. I looked down and asked, in Arabic, what his name was. I figured if a smile is charity, then a good conversation must be worth something.
Their names are Abdel-Rahman and Seeka. They live in Agouza, a province not too far from Zamalek. They come to this bridge every day looking for whatever change they can find. At the end of the day they go home to their parents to divide up their earnings. Abdel-Rahman’s father is blind, and his mother works selling bread for a living. Seeka’s father died in prison and his mother works cleaning carpets, houses, and anything else you can imagine.
I know street kids aren’t a new thing in Egypt. Hell, Seeka and Abdel-Rahman have each other and at least one parent. I went back though a couple of weeks later, and I was really happy to see them. I think the most enthralling is these children are smiling. I keep hearing that in Egypt life is difficult and the woe is me stories. Even I’ve lost hope in the Egypt I once imagined. Life is hard here. It is for these kids. They’re smiling.