Once upon a time there was an Egyptian tale called Om Bassem. She is a strong independent woman who against all odds became Egypt’s one and only female plumber. Amid a busy alley hidden in Old Cairo we talked to the infamous lady at her workshop where she kept all her secrets.
Om Bassem is a well-attired lady who takes work and life seriously. When you hear the word ‘plumber’ you immediately think of a smutty jumpsuit, but this lady proved us wrong. She was wearing a neat red blouse with a matching skirt, drinking tea in her own workshop like a boss.
‘In the beginning, my children thought my life would revolve around none other but sewage. It hurt my feelings, as they didn’t even want to listen. Now it’s different, they became to understand that their mother is a successful woman”
“In the beginning, my children thought my life would revolve around none other but sewage. It hurt my feelings, as they didn’t even want to listen. Now it’s different, they became to understand that their mother is a successful woman like any other hardworking single mum. She has a job that she likes and she has her own business. They are proud of me now”, she tells.
Om Bassem is a single mum and got divorced 20 years ago. She took many jobs to support her family. She started working in a bank and ended up wanting to start her own thing. She was looking for any kind of job, regardless for men or women. She applied for a plumbing workshop at Aghakhan Projects, where they told her it’s only for men and refused to accept her application. “I was the only woman applying of course. I felt that I was man enough to do it”, she says.
This woman is a fighter by all means. She never laid her ghosts to rest until she landed the job, “they threw lots of obstacles in my way, but it made it more challenging for me and I insisted on getting in until they found out that I’m great for this job”, she adds.
“they threw lots of obstacles in my way, but it made it more challenging for me and I insisted on getting in until they found out that I’m great for this job”
The amazing plumber is running her own workshop for 5 years now. She used to work in other shops until she founded her own place in Darb El Ahmar district.
“When I first started working a lot of people were making fun of me, I didn’t care about any of that. I was focusing on my main goal, learning a skill, until people started taking me seriously”, she tells.
Although Om Bassem is a league of her own, she still thinks that there are some jobs that are only for men, “at the end, men are tougher than women. There is a huge difference between being a man and being a male.There are some males who aren’t real men. That’s totally different”, she explains.
Special thanks to Hetetna, an original series that explores different neighborhoods Cairo, Egypt which is produced by and airs on Al Hurra TV.