الاثنين، 2 أبريل 2007

The "Sunni" Grocer

I know the first thing you'll think about when reading the title of my post is Iraq, and the Sunni-Shiy'a divide! Well, you guessed wrong…

This is about a story that happened to me when I was young, and I recalled it recently while being in contact with this new society I feel stranger to.

In the winter of 1974, I went with my father to get the food rations "Tamween". For those of you who don't know or are too young to know, most basic groceries had to be purchased using ration cards "Betaqa-Tamween", you couldn't buy sugar from the regular grocer as you would now. This is probably how far we progressed in Egypt, even meat, and chicken were offered using food rationing cards from government owned consumer co-ops "Gamiy'a".

Anyway, I was about 9 years old, although it seems now like centuries ago…

Our designated grocer –you had to have a designated grocer- was at Manial area, it was called "the three brothers' for those of you who know Manial, that's to the right after bridge coming from Giza on your way to Salah Salem road, opposite Pizza Hut restaurant.

Anyway, I remember my dad telling me to go to the "Sunni" grocer! I didn't know who he was?! I soon found out because everybody was calling him "Sunni". I still remember him vividly; he was a 40 something, dark complexion, short, bearded man–that's why they called him "Sunni", at that time, it was very rare to find someone wearing a beard, unlike these days,

The guy was always smiling, and his face was full of tolerance "Bashoush", he was joking with me, and gave me the rations in very little time. I watched the guy and saw that despite the nerve-racking crowd waiting to be served, he never lost his smile! I asked dad why do people call him "the Sunni", and he told me that they do that because of his beard. I remembered that when I met the famous Sheikh Metwali El Sha'arawi during my marriage ceremony; he was the exact opposite!!! He never smiled, and actually shouted at me because I was holding the hand of my soon-to-be wife…

These days, you see a lot of Sunnis, you don't see them smiling, actually, and they are most of the time tough and unpleasant to deal with. What a change…

هناك 4 تعليقات:

Egypeter يقول...

Ya know, my parents left Egypt for the States permenantly in 1972, very shortly before I was born, and I think you succinctly illustrated the difference between that period in time and today's current dilemma in Egypt.

What has changed between these two relatively short periods of time? What has happened that has caused Egyptian society to change SO drastically in the last couple of decades? I have my thoughts.

But whatever the reasons we must stem the tide.

howie يقول...

This is something I ponder a whole lot...

Intuitively...you would think religion would make people more decent human beings. However, Muslims do not have the market cornered on religion turning son of a bitches into worse son of a bitches (though I have seen bad people get religion and become better people).

This is a frightening and fascinating concept. Very good and bad people that are religious and very good and bad people who are not.

I think the answers are enormously complex...but if there is a God...and I deeply believe there is, then something is getting very screwed up here.

howie يقول...


"What has happened that has caused Egyptian society to change SO drastically in the last couple of decades?"

Oh...I think people became disappointed in crazy secular politics so they have turned to crazy religious politics.

I think the real question is...why does it have to be some form of extremism when such always brings much suffering and little good and always ends up with power and control in the hands of a cynical and rather sinister few.

نسرين يقول...

I always wonder if there is a critical point at which the people of a particular society decide that change has to happen.

Currently, basic freedoms including freedom of belief and expression are denied in Egypt. The government does not seem to be capable of providing solutions to simple issues such as, creating a process by which a religious minority (the Bahais) can follow the law and obtain proof of citizenship! Instead, it is contributing to escalating the religious conflict among its citizens by not solving this problem. Furthermore, it is preventing its people from expressing their opinions and venting their frustrations through blogs and discussions by censoring blogs and arresting and imprisoning bloggers.

The situation seems to be going from bad to worst and is witnessed by the world community that is starting to react.

Unless there are serious discussions and a sincere search for solutions happening behind closed doors that we are not aware of, I think we should worry about the future of Egypt!