“Washing Cars at the Break of Dawn” : A Porter’s Wife


Washing cars at the break of dawn to make a living for a 25 LE salary at the age of sixty is surely no walk in the park. Yet so many less fortunate women do even worse jobs than these, under mostly harsh conditions. Om Ramadan, a porter’s wife, represents a segment of so many women who exert tremendous efforts to make ends meet in a society that has non-existent social mobility.

 Tell us what do you do everyday?

I start at 4am in the morning with washing cars followed by my own little household. I usually watch TV until I am sent to run errands for the residents. Apart from that I always used to clean the entrance and staircase but I am too old for that now and my health doesn’t allow this kind of effort anymore.

 “I didn’t have any time to dream actually.”

As a young girl, what did you dream of accomplishing when you grow up?

 I didn’t have any time to dream actually. I got married at the age of 11 to my cousin whom I despised apart from that I was the second wife. I shortly gave birth to two children but both died right after their birth. I got divorced and remarried my husband of 42 years and was blessed with three healthy children.

What makes you unsatisfied?

 Everything has become so expensive now; both rich and poor people cannot cope with the extreme price increases. So many products are not affordable anymore and the same goes for medicine and health care.

 I’m also unsatisfied with the lack of supervision the government has towards teenagers and youth. Young people drive their fast cars with loud music all the time regardless of people walking in the streets and drug needles are like coke cans on the streets. Twenty years ago there were young people too but there was supervision as well. Not only parents should take care but also governments and officials who are hardly seen anymore in people’s lives.

What breaks your heart?

The violence men use nowadays towards their women really breaks my heart. I’m a widow but I watch TV and observe devastated wives around me. Most of the women in Egypt live in desperation with lots of disappointment and little complaining. Men act violently towards their wives without considering their hectic mornings taking care of their homes and their bunch of accomplishments towards their children. No married woman in Egypt is totally happy. All men are controlling by their nature but they act in different ways. Another thing that breaks my heart is when a child abandons his mother after he gets married as a result of taking orders from his wife. A mother’s heart is easier broken than a wife’s heart. Children these days have no family commitment which is a heart breaking thing.

  “The violence men use nowadays towards their women really breaks my heart.”

What are your biggest fears?

 I fear the whole insecure environment around us. People are acting fiercely towards each other, and sleeping lonely at night makes me sleep with one eye open. I’m not in full security at my own home. Living alone in a small room in a building’s entrance is a life risk for an old, simple woman like me. Years ago I didn’t bother to lock the door at night, now locking the doors isn’t enough. I hardly ever run errands for residents at night as streets aren’t safe anymore. I hope my children and grandchildren live in security as they are my only concern.

What are the rights you can’t get?

 I’m in desperate need of medicine and health insurance. A woman like me can’t afford medicine and injections every day with her monthly salary. Health officials must take a look at the poor people’s lives and offer them free health care as it’s their rights and primary needs. The building owner has no compassion as well regarding my salary and he happens to work as a legal advisor at the supreme court of justice! The pharmacy offers me a discount on my daily medicine and without the help of the pharmacist I would have been dead years ago.

What are you excepting from your children?

I expect them to live healthy and satisfied with what God provided them with and raise their own kids the way I raised them when they were little. I also want them to be financially secured and in no need of other people. They come to visit me regularly.

“A woman like me can’t afford medicine and injections every day with her monthly salary.”

What do you pray for?

I want God to give me the chance to go to pilgrimage before I die. I want him to surround me with the love of people and help my children with their hard lives.

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