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 المسلمينI miss you terribly.