A rare trip home for an Egyptian doorman

20 Photos

Salama Osman’s day begins before the tenants of his Cairo apartment building wake and ends only after the last returns home at night, a work week without weekends. Except this week.

By HIRO KOMAE Associated Press

Osman, 46, is on one of his two trips a year back home to the village of Abu al-Nasr, about 770 kilometers (480 miles) south of Cairo. Here, he can relax with his family, a rare respite from his hectic job back in the always-bustling Egyptian capital.

Osman is a “bawaab,” one of likely tens of thousands of migrant workers across Cairo who function as doormen, car parkers, errand runners, night watchmen, gardeners and just about anything. During Egypt’s 2011 revolt and the subsequent chaos surrounding the 2013 military overthrow of the country’s president, they also armed themselves with clubs and knifes, forming impromptu neighborhood watches.

As a “bawaab,” Osman earns a monthly base salary of 600 Egyptian pounds ($75). That may not seem like a lot, but goes a long way here in Abu Al-Nasr, one of many small villages in southern Egypt along the Nile.

“There are no jobs” here, Salama said of his village home, where most rely on farming to make a living. “There is not much money in (harvesting) sugarcanes.”

This village, just south of the Temple of Horus and a small step pyramid, is where Osman grew up. His wife, Amira, and his four children all live here in their home, just next to a 260-square-meter (315-square-yard) farm where they grow vegetables and have a water buffalo and chickens.

It’s a peaceful existence, far different from the noise and cramped life Osman lives in Cairo. He still worked though, handling household issues. At night, he’d have a quiet moment for himself, enjoying watching Egyptian classic movies, professional wrestling and Indian movies on television while sipping a cup of tea. On Sham el-Nessim, an Egyptian holiday, he took his children to the Nile to have lunch on its banks.

“Everything was perfect,” he said while riding on a train back to Cairo, a 12-hour journey.

Back in Cairo, Osman settled quickly into his routine. He’s worked as a doorman for 16 years in and around Cairo. He speaks every day by phone to his wife and children back in Abu Al-Nasr, but the money he makes in Cairo can support all of them, forcing him to continue his life in the big city. He occasionally pauses long enough to have a cup of tea in front of the apartment building where he works.

As far as how many more years he’ll work part from his family, he doesn’t know.

“Maybe five years. Maybe 10,” Osman said. “Not yet.”

Here are a series of Associated Press photographs of Osman, a Cairo doorman taking a rare holiday at his home in rural Egypt.