Teachers of the Taste of Hunger

It was the 5th day of fasting; the sun had begun to dip behind the domes and minarets of Mohammed Ali mosque nested in the Citadel in Islamic Cairo, and my sister and I were on our way to an iftar.

Our destination was Mokattam – a small town planted at the summit of rocky mountains. To reach there one must take a taxi to snake up a sun-battered mountainside, on a steady incline.

It was at a stop at a traffic police manned intersection that I noticed a black, blacked-out 4×4 slowly pull up on the other side of the intersection. It was the ‘roadside shooting’ kind, although it was missing the heavy hip-hop bass and gleaming rims. So ordinarily it wouldn’t deserve a blog post, but it was the sight of a small group of poorly clad people rushing towards the passenger-side window that made me whip out my notebook.

An old man hobble-ran towards the group, one arm outstretched and the other awkwardly placed on his side to help him balance in his mini sprint. Some people were walking away from the car by the time he reached them, each with what looked like a white  polystyrene package in their hands.


Kind hearts seated in their luxurious ride were delivering food – by hand – to the poor so that they too could share in the joys of morsels caressing the back of their throats.

My eyes welled up. The charitable in Cairo are many during Ramadan and it brought back memories of the night when I gave bags of lentils, rice and beans to an old lady who sat on the side of the road at the end of Ramadan last year. Her joy still tugs at me as I wished I could have done more and given more to her. I couldn’t help but allow fat tears to roll down my cheeks when I turned away from her, just as I saw a thin streak of light on the cheeks of the desolate as they clutched their food parcels for the day.

My tears were bittersweet: a mixture of joy for their joy, and guilt towards my lack of gratitude for being sustained without hardship. Poverty is real here, and knocks you in your chest when you step out of your lovely furnished flat. It’s when we have to join the nation’s foodless that our eyes and hearts open a bit to the reality of hunger pangs and parched throats. We only taste a bit of it.

The poor are one of the greatest teachers for me here in Cairo, and I’m grateful to be taught the many lessons they have to offer, even if they are only remembered for a while.

– The Londoner


Posted on August 11, 2011, in Power to the People, Ruminations about Cairo, Thru The Londoner's eyes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. profound (“,)

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