Wednesday, 20 September 2017

“Keep Egypt clean”





The worst nightmare is that when one loses his ability to take action against the one who wants to hurt him… thank God that waking up is the way to get out from such condition… like in sleeping, waking too has its own terrible nightmare; that is – as I think – one’s inability to face the problems that confront him, his family, or someone dear to him.

However, the most horrible one is the inability to face what destroy the national existence and impede the nation’s capabilities, and whenever one tries to find a chance to face – whether he is the one launching the initiative or participating with others – he does not find it, or the chance comes paralyzed.

If I was about to talk about attempts in such regards that I started some or tried to join others who initiated them, I would not have enough space… that is why I will talk directly about an initiative that I believe will be fruitful and may open the door for other initiatives in many fields.

The initiative I mean is the campaign that raises the slogan “keep Egypt clean” along with an illustrating draw depicting a big bunch of people standing close to one another including one portrayed in different color stretching his hand to throw garbage in a rubbish bin and a caption saying: “proud of not throwing garbage in the street”.

First, there is an established origin of this thing of cleanliness and protecting the environment as it is said that in the ancient times of Egypt and when it was time to move to the other world and judgment starts, the Egyptian used to defend himself by saying in the beginning that he did not pollute the waters of the Nile.

Looking at the ancient portrays, we get the direct impression that these ancestors knew and practiced cleanliness… as clothes were elegant and pretty… hair cut and combed… men’s beards shaved… nails trimmed… bottles of perfumes and musical instruments apparent in most of the portrays… even cattle appearing in depictions of plowing, seeding, and reaping look organized and also clean.

When Herodotus came to Egypt in the ancient times and wrote his history, he did not hide his wonder of those who eat outdoors in the open air while they answer nature’s call or build W.C.s indoors… I later knew why he was in wonder when I visited the Palace of Versailles where royal families in France used to live, including the Bourbons… the huge palace was empty of W.C.s as servants used to carry a “potty” where those inhabiting the palace used to defecate and then throw its contents in the outside… furthermore, it is said that the French excellence in making perfumes is because they rarely bathed and hence they had to make strong fragrant perfumes in order to overcome the smell of sweat mixed with dust.

One finds in that established origins too, after the pleading of the ancient Egyptian of not polluting the Nile waters, that the divine religions directly urge one to be clean and they connect between cleanliness and purification… and so, it was not a coincidence that the newly-born Christian is baptized by water… and that the water prayed upon has a standing status and role in the life of believers… again, it was not a coincidence that ablution with water is a prerequisite for holding prayers in Islam with the exception of dry ablution in case water was not available… and to wash oneself wholly after having sexual intercourse… what ablution and washing are but other forms of Baptism.

During our childhood and boyhood in the Egyptian countryside, and despite the harsh life and scarce resources, we lived and witnessed our folks practicing cleanliness whenever they could… as milking the udder of the female cattle, whether a cow, buffalo, or even a goat, was not done unless it was wiped and cleaned… also the “Tagine” or “Matrad”; that clay pot where milk is being milked into, was sterilized for many hours in the domestic primitive oven of the house… and every time my grandmother used to ask the daughter-in-law who was in turn to milk the cattle: “have you sterilized the Tagines?”

After this comes the turn of Azyar, which is the plural of Zeer; it is the big clay pot where water is kept and the place where it was put… as dry leaves of corn cobs or the red leaf of palm trees were used to clean the ZeerZeer was emptied of water and tilted, then it was rubbed from inside in a circular movement with the corn leaves or the red leaf… also, apricot seeds were washed in order to be used in precipitating the mud in the water…

After Azyar comes the turn of Qenawi and Bahrawi Qullal, which is the plural of Qulla; the clay pot used in holding and cooling water… as they were washed from the outside for the clay pores to open after being blocked with mud and fine particles… since cooling water by Qulla is done by evaporating the water oozing through the clay pores… after this, Qulla is fumed with an aromatic smoke emitting from a mix of Alum, bitter Frankincense, and cat's eye chrysoberyl placed over glowing hot burning corn cobs with the Qulla's opening opening put over the fumigator... and before Qullal are put in the shining trays, their necks, extending from above the holes to the edge, were filled with Mint and Basil leaves if there were any, then covered with a clay or metal lids... also, the tea tray and teapot used to shine and "glow" as the oven ashes  were used in scouring cobber, aluminum, tin plates, and glass and the result was amazing... also, it was sterilized due to being exposed to burning blazing fire.

After this comes the turn of the house centre as it was swept with brooms made of dray palm knots, the red leaves, or even from Qohoof, which is the plural of Qahf… for those who do not know, Qahf is that wide layer that attaches the palm leaves’ stem to the palm tree… it is about twenty centimeters wide at the bottom then it narrows until it has a thickness of a newspaper; meaning about five centimeters… the front of Qahf is hammered in order to have long tassels used in sweeping fine dust… and Qahf is usually curved upwards and hence came the proverb saying: “may God grant each Qahf with what straightens it”… and in case there was no broom, rice or corn straws were piled, knotted, and used in sweeping… after this, water is sprinkled for the haze of dust to clear down…

Other examples of practicing cleanliness is putting dry land rubbles or Radm under cattle feet and teaching the child to bend the edge of his clothes and use it to wipe off mucus dripping from his nose so that he does not make that sound coming from his nose when he tries to prevent that mucus from slipping over his lip.

There is a long history of practicing cleanliness in our countryside always accused of transferring its bad habits, including griminess, to the urban cities… which is totally untrue and unfair.

We may continue later… definitely, we will.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar




This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on September 20, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:


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