After a day of fasting…
Thirst had been quenched, hunger had been quashed and my hope was that the reward of another day of fasting had been recorded. I’d filled my stomach with dates and a shrimp sandwich washed down with Mirinda and a bottle of water, and I longed to perform the sunset prayer to also feed my soul.
Finding a mosque in Egypt has never been a difficult task, and when out and about it has always been comforting to know that there would also be a space for females to pray in, unlike some mosques in London. In Old Cairo, there’s such an array of mosques to choose from, but that evening I settled on a backstreet mosque tucked deep within the back alleys of Khan el Khalili.
The women’s section was towards the back of the small, dingy mosque, partitioned with a curtained wall, and had been a place of refuge from Cairo’s overbearing heat earlier in Ramadan when I was close to collapsing during a walk in the area. There was nothing prim or pristine about the place, yet there was something that drew me to pray there.
The last time I had been in there, I was the only person in the section, however on this occasion I walked in to find two little bodies along the back of the small space.
I became distracted and my mind was preoccupied by their story: where they lived, where their parents were, how old they were, what their names were and how they’d found themselves sleeping in the mosque. I wondered whether they’d eaten, and spotted a bottle of juice by the girl’s head.
I’ve always been a believer that there shouldn’t be any street children anywhere, that they shouldn’t have to face such a tough life at such a tender age, but the reality is that they must. Many have to do it alone, with only charity from the kind-hearted getting them through each day. Others seem fatherless as they sit with their mother and siblings on street corners, desperately hoping for people to buy a packet of pocket tissues so that they can buy something to eat for the day.
A lot of the time, they flash you an adorable smile, and you cannot help but give them the half a pound they seek, but these two cherubs reminded me that the street life is often just too exhausting for these little bodies to take.
A colleague once commented on the number of mosques there are in Cairo and asked why there are so many – the question wasn’t one that I bothered to answer. Mosques are not only places of worship for the millions of Muslims in the country, but also places of solitude and refuge for those who don’t have as much as a roof over their heads. And unfortunately, these children are from amongst them.
– The Londoner