street vendor gives egyptians sweet taste in bitter times
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
Arab Today, arab today

Street vendor gives Egyptians sweet taste in bitter times

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Arab Today, arab today Street vendor gives Egyptians sweet taste in bitter times

Egyptian vendor of grilled sweet potatoes, Hassan Abdul Fattah, sells the hot delicacy in a Cairo area.
Cairo - Arab Today

 It’s a cold morning. People in heavy clothes are walking or driving to the workplace. Students of a nearby business institute are hurrying for early lectures. This is a perfect time for Hassan Abdul Fattah to go about his trade.

“How warming, you sweet potatoes!” cries the 29-year-old street vendor in a melodious voice. “Start your day with Hassan’s sweet potatoes!” he says audibly, addressing potential clients.

The aroma of the tasty low-priced grilled snack fills the air.

Since his graduation from a commercial school about 10 years ago, Abdul Fattah has been selling sweet potatoes in several areas of the Egyptian capital. It is a family business.

“I have never known any other trade,” he says, as he hands a customer a hot ready-to-eat sweet potato after slicing it open with his knife.

“I used to assist my father before he was forced to stay at home after falling sick. My younger brother also sells sweet potatoes in Shubra,” he adds, referring to a district in northern Cairo.

Abdul Fattah’s business usually flourishes in winter when temperatures drop and people need something to keep warm, mainly in the early morning and at night.

“Allah never forgets His creatures. The lower temperatures get, our work increases,” Abdul Fattah says after kissing the back and front of his hand twice in a gesture of gratitude to God.

“I have many customers since I started doing this job,” he adds, clad in a traditional flowing gown. “They know I sell fine sweet potatoes for cheap prices. I’m also keen on serving sweet potatoes clean.”

In pursuing his business in Qobri Al Quba, a middle-class quarter in eastern Cairo, the young man depends on a wooden cart loaded with a tin container serving as an oven with a small chimney at the top. A stack of the merchandise is arrayed on the hand push cart before they are placed inside the portable oven.

Abdul Fattah roasts potatoes using firewood as the palatable treat is best served when hot.

“I make sure that my sweet potatoes are always hot, especially in winter, so that my customer will feel warm after eating them. They also must be sweet. Otherwise they won’t be a delicious snack that can keep one full for long hours because it is rich in vitamins.”

Braving the cold, Abdul Fattah usually does his job until nearly midnight. “I know it is a long time to be out on the street like this. But it’s the season that I must not miss. Thank God, I rarely go home without selling all my stock. This means earning a handsome sum of money. I also work on summer evenings, but my profits are not so strong.”

Once his business day is over, Abdul Fattah parks his cart in a nearby garage for a monthly fee. Then he catches a microbus that drops him off in the northern Cairo district of Al Waili where he lives with his family of five.

After catching a few hours of sleep, he gets up at dawn to wash well the potatoes before grilling them later. He also checks the firewood. After having his breakfast, he loads two boxes of sweet potatoes and the firewood on to a pick-up that takes him to where his cart is parked.

Like many people in this country of 92 million people, Abdul Fattah complains about the high cost of living.

“Everything has gone up. I used to buy a sackful of sweet potatoes for 10 pounds (around Dh2). Now the price has almost doubled. The price of firewood has gone up, too. Even though I haven’t jacked up my prices. I continue to sell half a potato for two pounds. People are poor .”

In November, Egypt floated its local pound and cut fuel subsidies, measures that were praised by economists, but triggered public discontent due to resulting price hikes of different commodities including food.

The government has said that the tough steps were necessary to heal the economy and urged Egyptians to be patient for the dividend.

“We have nothing else but patience. In a proof of my patience, I’ve delayed any plan to get married,” Abdul Fattah says sarcastically.

“When there are open mouths that wait for food, then marriage becomes a luxury,” adds the vendor, who says his sister is preparing to wed in summer.

“Marriage costs a lot these days. It’s better now to focus on readying my sister for the marriage house than thinking of me getting married,” Abdul Fattah says with a serene smile.

“I’m married to this cart that feeds me and my family,” he adds light-heartedly. “The other day, the baladiya [municipality police] seized my cart and gave me a fine, saying I have no licence. I had to shell out 135 pounds in order to get back the cart. This was too much, but the cart is my livelihood.”

Abdul Fattah is one of an estimated 6 million unlicensed street hawkers in Egypt. They are often the target of police swoops for having no official business licences and obstructing the traffic.

“We are not against the law. But the licence costs thousands of pounds to get,” Abdul Fattah says. “I heard that the fees are determined by how long and wide your cart is and the space it takes up in the street. There are also administrative fees. How can poor peddlers like us afford all this while what we earn can hardly keep us alive?”

The Egyptian parliament has recently disclosed a plan to merge the street vendors and their informal business of around 80 billion pounds into the official economy that has been in the doldrums in recent years

source : gulfnews

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street vendor gives egyptians sweet taste in bitter times street vendor gives egyptians sweet taste in bitter times

 



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street vendor gives egyptians sweet taste in bitter times street vendor gives egyptians sweet taste in bitter times

 



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