The Bakers of Abbassia by Dominic Bracco II
In “New Egypt” citizens have begun an attempt to form the fledgling democracy – engaging in political debate after Friday prayer in Tahrir, writing articles about military control, forming political groups, but these are still freedoms far out of reach for many of Egypt’s poor. The bakers of Abbassia never made it to the protests downtown. Not only were they fearful of loosing their jobs, they also understood just exactly how important their role is in Egypt. One said that if the bakers went on strike the people of Egypt would starve.
Bread has been the staple food since Pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt. Today in a country where 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the price of bread or “eish” which means “life” in arabic has caused unrest in the region in recent years. After the 2008 bread riots, former president Hosni Mubarak fought the rising price of bread by subsidizing wheat, last year importing more than 600 million dollars worth into Egypt. There was also a push to increase local yields, but rising global temperatures are effecting their results.
The bakers are representative of a social block that still goes largely unrepresented in Egypt’s political debate. Life is 12 – 24 hour shifts of endless work for a few Egyptian pounds a day that barely makes them enough money to make the trip back home to see their families. Those that venture from Upper Egypt sleep on the roof of the bakery.