السؤال لغير الله مذلة

For as long as I can remember, my grandparents' house in Alsafia had been a hub for beggars of all styles and backgrounds, whom my grandmother Zainab Rustom (Allah yer7ama) entertained with all possible means; money, meals, clothes, etc. No one was every turned away (except when my grandfather came home). I remember one stormy night she heard a child crying outside around 3 in the morning, and dragged our maid out of her bed to help her search the street up and down, until she found the homeless boy, crying and trying to find shelter from the rain and wind, and brought him into the house to spend the night. After she died they all disappeared, except for an occasional old woman probably drawn to the house by the memory of the kind old mashalakha lady, only to find her place empty. When she died there were 2 funerals; one was ours as we mourned the loss of our last grandmother, and one was the beggars and shamasa's as they mourned the loss of their friend.

The country has always seen swarms of beggars going from door to door, standing at traffic lights, pestering people outside (and inside) restaurants, supermarkets and wedding halls. However, now they are flooding the place. I left the country 5 years ago, and now that I'm back I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of beggars I am seeing, and their attitude about begging. The vast majority is not even Sudanese, and around 90% of them don't need to be begging anyway. I can see children with and without amputated arms and legs, and women carrying sleeping babies, and old men who look like they belong to a family and yet are sitting on the sidewalk with a tin bowel in front of them. And, the most irritating and annoying of all, is the grown men who are dressed up and have shoes on their feet, perfectly normal limbs and have NO REASON whatsoever to be begging, and who demand that you give them money. These men have held onto my side mirrors, attempted to open my car door and even slammed the car when I adamantly refuse to pay up. On the other hand, you see children of all ages and backgrounds standing in the scorching sun surrounded by exhaust smoke, selling tissues, expired chewing gum, prepaid cards and toys. They should be in school somewhere or being taken care of by other people. However, they choose to do this rather than stand and beg on the street. And a fully grown man with absolutely nothing wrong with him holds his hand out and demands that you give him money? Yeah right. Not in a million years.

There is no excuse for begging if you are able to work. Don’t tell me the government won't give you a job: the same hand you hold out for money you could use to wash someone's car, carry a pile of bricks or even clean up the streets if you're so desperate for money. What makes those people selling stuffed toys and broken kits at traffic lights any different than you? Why do they prefer to do what they do for hours on end, in this heat, being turned away again and again by people sitting in their comfortable air conditioned cars? What makes an 80 year old man sit at a small rickety old table on the side of road and sell cigarettes and tissues? Why aren’t they begging like you? There is no excuse, so don't try. There are people who don't see food on their tables for days on end; who's children eat dirt at school just to get some energy to get through the day; who don’t even know what it's like to have new, warm clothes, and who can only dream of what it would feel like to go to bed with a full stomach. Do you see these people begging? No, you don’t. Their women sell kisra and nuts, their men carry sacks and bricks in the market, and their children wash cars and sell plastic bags to passer bys. And by the end of the week they might just have enough money to pay the tax man; and if they’re lucky, a little left over for a meal that will silence their growling stomachs. Tagol ley ash7ad? Yakhi ma tikhtashi!

اللهم ارحم زينب حسين رستم و جميع أموات المسلمين
I miss you terribly.


  1. This actually happened to ME:

    I was getting out of my car to open our garage door and park the car inside, when 2 well-dressed men drew up in their spanking new Prado, explaining that they were from Medani, and had engine trouble and were relieved of all their cash by the mechanic, and now had no petrol to drive back to Medani. Could I please give them 60SDG to fill their tank and get home safely?

    These men were youngish (40's I'd say), looked very respectable, were in a fancy vehicle, and did not look hungry or poverty-stricken. They looked like my brother or cousins..

    Now, a similar incident had occurred to me several years ago, in Tunisia, when a woman in a BMW asked me to lend her the equivalent of $20. At the time I was shocked, and sent her packing. My husband (who is the most soft-hearted person in the world, the equivalent of your late Granny), chided me for not having helped her, and I have been stewing in guilt over that episode ever since.

    So when these guys in the Prado asked me for petrol money, I relived the guilt over the BMW lady (whom I had cold-bloodedly not assisted), and hesitated briefly. I decided that I didn't want to be plagued by more remorse, so I handed them some bills.

    Needless to say, a few days later, several family members related the same story of the Prado guys from Medani.. Suckers, all of us.. I feel very naive and stupid, of course. But I am guilt-free, whereas the BMW lady continues to plague my thoughts: Did she need the money to save her dying mother as the ATM's were not working? Was she hungry and needed to buy a take-away pizza? Did she have a screaming toddler at home and no money to buy formula?

  2. This happened to me too! But it was 2 guys and a lady with a baby in a Nubira, who said they had come from somewhere or another and had ran out of a petrol, and a traffic officer had charged them 30 pounds for something, and he even showed me the ticket. I saw the ticket and it had the date on it, but I couldn't see what it was for. The driver was doing all the talking but the guy sitting next to him and the lady in the back were just looking dead ahead and looked like really were in some kind of trouble. If it hadn't been for the presence of the other 2, I would've sent him packing too. So strange!

  3. I've been reading through your blogs all day, and I've been moved one too many times than I'm comfortable with.
    Your perspective is worth sharing and you seem to have a good head on your shoulders, young lady.
    Keep doing what you're doing and try not to make me so emotional in the process.

  4. Have to say got the empty tank con twice. First time I really had no money on me (his opening line also put me off with, "Ma3leish gulna nas2alik 3ashaan inti 7amra zayyana") and second time it was the same guy with different passengers but I remembered him and drove off. They chased me for a while but gave up. Biss.

  5. Thanks Tagreed for the compliment =) and I can't believe they actually chased you down the street! Ghayto lakin jinis gowat 3ein :$


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