This is Hassain. His heart is flooding with kindness. He is always smiling and he loves the Nile. He says the river gives him peace and he feels at home with her. Hassain was born in Luxor on the banks of the Nile. His father died some years ago. Being the eldest son, he is now responsible for his mother and seven younger siblings. He is 32 years old and hopes one day to find a love of his own, someone that he can share life with and grow with. But he will need to save a lot of money to be able to marry and that will be very difficult while taking care of his family.
Hassain works as a waiter on a dahabeya sail boat that takes tourists up and down the Nile. For tourists it is a magical voyage. Hassain serves them with elegance and never complains. He only smiles and says Alhamdu Allah, Thank God, for all my blessings. Before his father died Hassain traveled to Aswan and lived in a dormitory and studied four years at the University of Aswan. He is a scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence. He taught us that Islam has 74 known sects or off-shoots of Islam around the world. He likes to discuss different interpretations of Prophet Mohamed’s life and messages. Hossain is open and accepting of all people, religions and life styles.
Hassain’s dream was to become a high school teacher in the Egyptian public school system in Luxor, his hometown. He wanted to teach young people and to have a secure future and a pension so that he could always take care of his family and get married and have a family of his own.
Egyptians love their families which take precedence over everything else in life. Egyptians find their greatest joy in sitting with their families and friends eating their favorite foods, telling jokes, playing games of all sorts, talking and arguing and discussing, holding hands and hearts.
Hassain still dreams of being a high school teacher. When I asked him why he is not a teacher now, he tells me that even though he has the qualifications he will need 10,000 LE (Egyptian pounds) to pay a bribe to the “higher-up” within the public school administration that could give him a job. After that his salary will be 350 LE/month for the first three years and 700 LE/month thereafter. But…he will have a pension plan. I do the math and discover that the 10,000 LE ($1,429) bribe is equivalent to 28 months salary.
We discuss this. Maha and I ask Hassain if this is really the job he wants and if it is, I promise to help him get it. We ask him to think about it. After a good night sleep cruising on the Nile and a sumptuous breakfast served by Hassain we sit together again. We watch the water buffalo and donkeys drinking along the banks of the river as the farmers tend to their crops. We feel the warmth of the sun on our skin and feel the soft breeze wafting through the dahabeya keeping us comfortable and happy. We sip our tea as Hassain stands beside us. He never sits. He always stands out of respect to us.
His warm smile and beautiful light chocolate skin beam. He stands as straight as an arrow, his back strong and proud. His teethe are as white as the full moon and his woolen grey galabeya sways with his every move. He is an elegant human being with roots as long and deep as the Nile. He is a son of the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt. He is the Earth’s offspring. The same Earth, that has lived and given life for millions of years with generosity and ease, until human kind began to pollute her in less than 100 years of industrialization.
Hassain tells us that he has thought through the night and he has an answer for us. He loves the Nile and he is happiest working on the river but he feels that he must honor is education, his diploma, his father, and that is why he must be a teacher.
Maha tells him that he will always have his diploma and his knowledge. No one can take that away. She tells him that he should follow his passion and do what makes him happiest and build upon it. She tells him how great he is at what he does, how much the guests respect and admire his kindness and his ability to serve so well. We tell him that he has many talents that he uses constantly and he should build upon them. He can study languages so that he can communicate with the guests easily and learn the business side and build upon what he loves to do. He is happy to hear these words of advise and he is convinced that this is what is best for him as he can make a much better living, although it is less secure. We discuss more.
In the five days we spent sailing on the Nile with Hassain and others, we danced and sang together. We felt the greatness of this land and river and country. The generosity and spirit of Egypt entered our souls and we bathed in it and felt a profound contentment. But our eyes shed millions of tears for the beautiful people of Egypt, like Hassain, their lives are not easy nor sure like the flow of the river.
I have been so fortunate to know this land and these people. They have given me my humanity, my deep love for the Earth and the treasures of nature. My very essence is filled with love and appreciation for this great land, people and country. They have given me so much, I cannot easily express it.
I have come to realize that Egypt is perhaps the wealthiest nation to ever have existed on Earth. Why? Because peoples, crusaders, armies and nations from every corner of the Earth have come to take what they can from Egypt for more than 7,000 years and Egypt is still alive and giving and surviving.
No other nation has been exploited as much as Egypt. For 7,000 years, no other people have given as much to the world as the Egyptian people. Hassain is one of the those people. May God bless him and his family. And may he realize his dreams. And may the world wake up to know that it is so wrong to continue exploiting this great land and its people.
For thousands of years Egypt has been called Om il Donya – the Mother of Life.
May God Bless Egypt, I pray and plead.