Think Egypt

The makwagy: Adel Shahta


For the past 20 years, six days each week, Adel Shahta has breakfast with his wife and three children in their flat. Then, he travels through the winding streets to his crumbling shop, down a back alley in the sprawling city’s Al Daher neighbourhood.

He is a makwagy — a person who irons clothes. He earns about $7 per day.

“It’s absolutely not enough money,” he says pressing a pair of men’s pants with impressive finesse. “Everything is expensive.”

Shahta pays extra money to have his children tutored because the education system is so weak. Without the money his wife brings in as social worker, he says, he would not be able to survive.

“Every country has its goods and its bads, but if I had the choice to live in any other country I would leave Egypt,” he says. “I want to live a better life and not to suffer when I send my kids to school. And I don’t want to worry about them finding a job afterwards because I am tired.”

He agrees that Egypt should be better than this. But he doesn’t believe, like thousands of anti-government protesters who have brought the city to a halt, that Mubarak should be ousted immediately.

Instead, Shahta would like to see him stay in power until elections this fall. Anything else could lead to more fighting and burning.

“(Mubarak) hasn’t done change in a long time and he did it now. Let’s give him a chance because maybe he’ll do something different.”

Part of the Christian minority — which makes up 10 per cent of the population in Egypt — Shahta is concerned that the most organized opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, may fill the vacuum. “They’re going to be very tough, not treating the Christians well.”

Education is the only way forward, he says.

“Improve the new generation to be better and then everything will change.”

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