Dreams of an Egyptian boy

Honolulu Community College journalism student Xina-Ann Garett is in Egypt this semester visiting relatives. As part of the school’s Egyptian Day celebration, here’s her report on one of the people she met during her stay there:

CAIRO, Egypt — There is a strong breeze blowing as a young boy walks through the beach park, carrying a pole twice his size and filled with bags of pink and white colored cotton candy.

He makes a musical sound on his flute to gain the attention of people and families nearby who may want to buy his cotton candy.

It is now 4:30 pm and Ra’afat says he’s been out here since 1 p.m. and his workday will not end until 3 in  in the morning.

He is 14 years of age and one of many children here in Egypt who work to help support their families. Every morning his mother makes his bags of cotton candy and on average he carries 50 bags a day, which sell for the equivalent of 17 cents.

Some children like Ra’afat who work to help their families also attend school, but Ra’afat does not. He he is the eldest of three siblings and says  his father also works outdoors to sell sweet potatoes. The chilly weather doesn’t affect him.  “It’s normal and just another day,” he said.

In the beach park there are others like Ra’afat who sell drinks and even a ride on a quad. As he watches kids zoom by on this quad he says “sometimes I ride that and I can do so many tricks like lifting it up on two wheels.”

People in the area who know Ra’afat and his family include a man named Mohamed who says that Ra’afat comes out to this area daily and works hard.

“He comes from a good family that doesn’t push him to work and people understand him here, if he ever needs anything there’s always someone nearby to help,” Mohamed said.

Ra’afat and his father are never in the same area.  Therefore, it would seem abnormal for a child to be working at his age and on his own until 3 in the morning , but here in Egypt it is the norm.

Mostafa, another man working nearby selling potatoes, says that “Egypt comes alive in the night and most businesses open at 12 p.m. and do not close until 3 a.m.  Some are open 24 hours.” He himself also works until 3am just like Ra’afat.

When asked what he’d do if he didn’t have to work, Ra’afat replied “play.”

It’s a simple response coming from someone who is still a child, but conducts business as an adult.

Every child has a dream and some get to live it while others like Ra’afat learn from a young age that work sometimes has to come before play.


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