Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Fight of the Boab

     In the states, when I have seen men get into a fight, A - It happens rarely, and B - It ends badly because alcohol is involved.
But I just watched a fight between Egyptian men, which was, as typical, A - Not alcohol induced, and B - Ends in peace.
     Like Shakespeare’s chorus, I have just told you the beginning and end. Here is what happened. I heard shouting on my street. I went to my balcony to see that I was not a lone voyeur. Five other women were on their balconies watching the fray.
     Two tree trimmers were down below, hacking away with machetes in the treetops. The boab*, from the building across the street, shouted and pointed at the litter of leaves on the sidewalk. One trimmer came down from the tree and continued shouting face to face with the boab. The boab shoved the trimmer. The trimmer wrestled the boab to the ground in a counter shove, his turban flying off. Men, who were watching from the street, pulled the two apart.
     The two men continued shouting as their comrades held them to opposite sides of the street. After a few more words and gestures, one trimmer began to pick up the leaves and put them in a bag.
     A twelve-year-old boy, Youssef, the neighboring boab’s boy, went over with a broom and began to sweep. In view of this generous act, the boab’s wife grabbed a broom and began to sweep. The trimmer, not to be outdone by a child and a woman, took the broom from the woman and began to sweep. Then all the grown men began to work together to clean up the mess.
     The boab, his turban replaced and his pride intact, went to give directions to the trimmers and help with the sweeping. When the sidewalk was tidy, the trimmers climbed into the next tree, and the onlookers, myself included, found their way back to their own business.
     This is a typical Egyptian fight—a lot of racket that leads to nothing. Alhumidillah*.

Boab: The boab is a man who is caretaker of an apartment building. He typically lives in the basement or under the stairs of the building. He usually cleans, parks cars, carries packages, runs errands, and otherwise waits hand and foot on the people who live in the building.

Alhumidillah: “Thank Allah”