I met my Bedouin friend Hemaid several years ago when he invited me one morning…
In my village in Upper Egypt when I was a child we played in the dust. We collected it, we built small walls, tiny walls in the ground. We would make a small fence with the dust and say this is my house and this is your house.
I would play with my two sisters with the dust in the street. My sister would come to my house. I would say you can come inside. I would open the door for her and she’d visit me. I would go to her house of dust and she would make me tea.
Then my sister got very, very sick. She had contracted hasbah (measles in English). This was before we had the vaccine in Egypt.
Usually in our village in Upper Egypt when one child would get this sickness the adults would collect all the children in the area and take them to this sick child so all the other children would get sick too.
Everyone has to get this illness once so they would never get it again. When a child caught hasbah the people would say it’s good that you have it. Now it will pass and go away forever.
But my sister was very, very sick from the hasbah. More sick than most other children who get this disease. And similar to the story of my birth, my mom was thinking my sister was going to die.
My parents went to doctors, of course, and each doctor gave them a different medication. But my sister got sicker and sicker. Then my mother decided to not give her medicine anymore. She’s dying, just leave her.
So my parents stopped giving my sister her medication. And we all waited for her to die. But my sister got better and stronger and healthier. Stopping the medicine had saved her life.
Now my sister has moved from our village in Upper Egypt. She has a daughter of her own, and she plays in the dusty streets of Cairo.
By: Joseph Nazir