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From mounted speakers on the buildings of downtown Cairo, seeps the evening call to prayer for Muslims here. The streets are crowded with cars and vendors, buildings are tall and worn. But up above it all is where Hamed Selim spent his childhood.
HAMED SELIM: “I was born in downtown of Cairo. I lived on a roof of downtown Cairo, not in an apartment, you know. But it is really shiny and nice, and big and beautiful, and lots of neighbors. And everybody knows each other and such things. It is like a small village.”
The roof is where his mother, and other family still live. 12 people stay in this small three-room home, originally just one room made for building employees. But over the years, with help from remittances from Switzerland, Hamed’s family has expanded and transformed its home of the last 60 years.
SELIM: “In the beginning it was only 1 room, which we used to live 6 person inside: father, mother, 4 brothers. We closed like a [balcony], we make it a room as a kitchen. And we make another small [balcony] as a bathroom, yeah. Then we built an extra room, [with] place for another 3.”
Selim’s family is, and always has been, poor. His mother, Karima, calls it living on “fixed income.” She gets 500 Egyptian pounds a month, or about 70 Swiss Francs, from her now deceased husband’s pension. Electricity costs alone can run between 200 to 300 Egyptian pounds a month. It is with this reality, that Karima Selim is optimistic for the latest revolution.
KARIMA SELIM translated by HAMED SELIM: “She says in the beginning she was from the time of the King, Farouk. This is from the Muhammad Ali family. Until the revolution came from Nasser the life was really interesting and nice and secure. And after Nasser start, the life goes down until this new revolution came, which is really good for Egypt. We are suffering now: lots of bad things happening in the street and all over. But she’s really [an] optimist.”
Karima Selim sits in a chair in the main room of her home, three large couches line three walls. The space serves as living room, dining room and bedroom depending on needs. Mohamed is one of her sons.
Mohamed earns about 350 Egyptian pounds a month in his office job—that is about 50 Swiss Francs. He says everything is still terribly expensive in Egypt after the revolution, but things are slowly improving. They need more stability, he says. But progress is already being seen, with rising wages, and he was promoted.
An uncle of the family, also named Mohamed, has lived in the United Arab Emirates for the last 35 years, but returned to Egypt last year.
MOHAMED (uncle) translated by HAMED SELIM: “The revolution should come since a long time ago, you know, because the land needs it. But now it’s happened, and he’s thankful for this, but we have try to push ourselves in the right direction, you know. He’s waiting for something better comes as a result from this revolution. It didn’t come yet. He’s really an optimist. He says it is going to be better than what it is now.”
Karima Selim says having her son Hamed in Switzerland, and traveling the world, it is like she has seen the world, though she’s never left Egypt, and she considers this rooftop her home.
The family seems content to watch the evolution of Egypt from up high, observing changes below.
Total comments: 1 | Add to the discussion.
I kinda feel like Karina Selim. With your good reporting, Tony, I feel like I’m understanding more about the world. Thank you do very much.