Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Man of the Nile

Marium Chaudhry

His name is Jamil. I instantly knew Jamil was not from Egypt. Why? He said his name was Jamil and not Gamil, a phonetic difference that separates Egyptians from all other Arabs. As we swayed back and forth on the Nile, with 12 journalists drinking beer and smoking, Jamil and I spoke about his home, his family and his job.
Riding a Fallukha, the name given to the boats that reign over the Nile, I chatted with Jamil about his a job that rewarded him with around 50 Egyptian pounds (almost 10 dollars) per ride. He told me he was from Iskanderiyah and lived with his wife in Cairo. His two sons and daughter were still in Iskandariyah. He moved to Cairo to earn money to send to them.
Strange, I thought. I had heard about Egyptians leaving Cairo to go to other Arab countries to make money but had rarely heard of it being the other way around.
What I didn't realize at the time was that Iskandariyah is a city in Iraq. He never mentioned it and my limited knowledge of cities in the Middle East resulted in the question, "Where is Iskandariyah?" He obligingly answered drawing imaginary lines in the air as he explained where it was. I nodded and listened while thinking, "God, I'm really bad with directions and geography...did he just say Bahr Al-Abiyad or Bait Al-Abiyad??"
Oh well, we continued to talk about his life and his job. I now realize that he must have come to Cairo as a possible refugee from Iraq and was captain of his fallukha after escaping war and leaving his children behind.

Its not a lot of money, he said, referring to his job, but its a living.

Here are some of the pictures I took of him. I think they tell more about him and his new life than I can.

A boat pulls into the dock as the manager of the fleet of fallukhas watches on. The Fallukha is the main way tourists can enjoy a scenic and serene ride on the Nile. One ride usually costs around $10.

Jamil prepares the boat for the next load of tourists that are waiting to board the Fallukha.

Jamil pulls the rope to adjust the mast (that nearly hit me on the head) as we prepare to venture out to the river.

Jamil waits until the sun sets before he turns the boat around.

As the sun sets and the city lights bloom, Jamil silently watches the tourists on his Fallukha. This ride will be the first of a long list of Fallukha rides on his list for that night.


salma said...

Al-oloom as-siyya siyya ya Marium!

I didn't know there was an Iskandariyah in Iraq... you sure he didn't mean the one in Egypt?

Sarah said...

keep the great pictures coming!

Ian said...

I think iskandariya is Alexandria in Egypt right? Unless there's one in Iraq too....

Marium said...

There is an Iskandariyah in Iraq and one in Syria apparently. Im not sure where the dude's from...but heres the link for Al-Iskandariyah in Iraq...i should do back and find out where eh...definitely not from Alexandria..his accent was so not Egyptian..


sam said...


About midway down are casualty reports from the Iraqi Iskandariya:

* ISKANDARIYA - Police said they found two bullet-riddled bodies in the town of Iskandariya. The bodies were handcuffed and blindfolded, the police said.

ISKANDARIYA - Four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a police station in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said

Anonymous said...