Egypt Independent

A day of Eid and freedom, despite economic hardships



Kids have taken over the streets of Cairo, proudly exhibiting their brand new shiny and colorful clothes. Fireworks resound across the city, as the smells of popcorn and corn on the cob fill the streets of the capital.

Eid is being celebrated this year with an air of freedom ushered in by the Egyptian revolution. However, freedom has a price. As the country faces the economic downturn that follows years of corruption, many are willingly paying the price.

Since the revolution, Mustafa, who works for a construction company, has had to work longer hours to cope with the economic downturn that followed the uprising.

“I have taken another job and I am working extra hours, but I can’t make ends meet. I had to cut my Eid money by half,” he says. “It’s sad, but thanks to God for everything. I’d rather have less money but be free.”

Sitting next to him in Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution that toppled the country’s ruling elite, his wife Noha quietly enjoys the peanuts they bought for Eid. “Maybe we are suffering because we have no money, but Egypt has changed. This is priceless,” she says.

Rafaat and Samah sit on the grass next to their bag of sweets and seeds. Around them, their children are running and playing happily, although their clothes don’t seem particularly new. Raafat, who works in a private company, says he can't afford to buy them new clothes, and is having to cope with three expensive events within the space of a month: Ramadan, Eid and back-to-school time.

"I can’t afford everything," says Raafat, "so I had to make a choice. I would rather buy school books than Eid clothes.”

Playing behind them with his little brother, his son Ramy, 14, clarifies that “despite not having Eid clothes, I’m happy. Hosni Mubarak is gone, hopefully corruption will end and we’ll have a fair life and justice.”

Mohamed Mahmoud, a carpenter and a father of six, confirms the financial pinch felt by so many. "In general, money isn’t good at the moment,” he says. Nevertheless, Mahmoud makes a point of spending more during Eid, so that his children can taste the joviality of these festive days.

For everybody to enjoy Eid, a few have to work; street vendors and shop keepers are here to provide food and entertainment. Ibrahim Fahmy is a shopkeeper in downtown Cairo. He explains that his sales have dropped by 60 percent since the beginning of the year. “Last year people bought more during Ramadan and for Eid," he says. "People used to come from every corner of the Middle East to shop in Cairo, but not this year. Almost no one came…”

People come to Ahmed Hosny, a street vendor, to buy chips, chocolate and drinks, and anything else they fancy. Contrary to the experiences of so many others, Ahmed says that this year he is making more money than last year.

“Before, the police would arrest me because I didn’t have a license,” he recalls. But since the January uprising, which started with a protest against police brutality, it seems he has been less bothered by the police.

“I’m not scared anymore. I’m free and people smile at me,” he says.