What I Learned from Dealing with Cairo’s Beggars

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I hate beggars. It’s a horrible thing to say, but I do. Seeing them always makes me feel guilty for something I haven’t done; I had no hand in getting them to where they are now, and nothing I could do would help them beyond being able to buy a meal for the night.

Whenever I’m driving, I know I’ll have to deliver a stream of ‘Rabenna yesahellak ya hagg/hagga,’ followed by multiple bouts of ‘Ma3lesh.’ I know I’ll feel awful afterwards, even though I know full well that some of these beggars are rich beyond my imagination.

While my beggar-handling script has been sustaining me for years, someone told me about another method that might help address the problem.

How many times have you seen a woman using tissues to beg? Or bracelets? Newspapers? Flowers? Lemons?

These people are supposedly ‘vendors,’ but they treat themselves like beggars –do you know why? Because begging works. Egyptians are known to be emotional, so any type of guilt-trip is guaranteed to have at least one in every ten people pull out their wallets.

So the advice I received was simple: buy what they’re offering. It’s okay if you don’t need it –you can just donate it later. This is how you can help them without feeding the begging habit; they’ll gradually begin to realize, “Hey! I’m a vendor. I don’t need to beg for money.”

These people need to understand that no one deserves to beg others for things. They need to embrace the fact that they are human beings, that they are just as important as anyone else.

They need to comprehend the fact that money can be brought in through methods other than ‘Kol sana wenty tayeba,’ and ‘Ya Rab tetgawezi.’

Because of the country’s economic state, the majority are suffering –not just the lower classes. I like to remind myself that I could have been in their place, and they very easily could have been in mine. And so the question I ask myself is: “If I were in their place, how would I like to be treated?”

Not with pity. Not with people avoiding my stare.

Please, the next time you see someone begging with any type product in their hands, just make a simple purchase and treat them the same way you’d treat the owner of a kiosk or a cashier in the supermarket.

Of course, some beggars won’t ever respond to this because they make hundreds of thousands off begging as an occupation. We need to try our best to stop engaging with these particular types of beggars, so that others won’t see this and feel like begging is a viable solution. This is exactly how new streams of beggars make way to our streets every single day.

Facing beggars is something almost every Egyptian has to endure every day, and the problem is only intensifying. We need to act now.

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