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The angel with paper handkerchiefs

February 27, 2010

Children are angels.Their souls are pure and untainted by immoral life. They carry the divine shine  in the eyes. Children are sent on the Earth to enrich the lost souls of parents, neighbors, friends, enemies. Their smile is gift for the

Tired Alexandrian girl, a seller of paper handkerchiefs, sleeps relied on car's wheel. Did she eat something before she slept? Photo: Aroosa Masroor/

gloomy people and for the people tired of the dismal daily life. Because of that they are the angels. One such angel, without wings, I just met on the streets of Alexandria.

It was a meeting that changed me. It woke up in me the emotions that I did not know that exist.

It was one of those noisy nights that lure you to a lonely walking along the shore of the rustically Egyptian city seeking well-known fragrances of the Mediterranean. And a good place for coffee.
Happy to survived the night madness of cars’ overcrowded Alexandria streets without the traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, I found the safe side, which leads to my Windsor Palace hotel.

While I was broking among the unknown Arab faces  in front of me left off a little girl. She had no more than 5 years. Maybe she was younger. She had a white hidjab around the head. She was all dressed in white.  She stepped in front of me. Something told me in Arabic. I did not understand. But her smile, warm as the first sun after the winter, forced me to stand.  At the moment she seemed to me, as a little beggar.  But little girl was not offensive. She smiled to me. The angel watched me. She gave her small hand to me. Again, she  said something in Arabic. Again I did not understood her. No matter. It was clear what she wants. I put in her hand 50 piaster. Half Egyptian pound.  Western  travel guides suggest: “You can leave 1 or 2 pounds as a tip to the hotel staff.  To the beggars …. you should avoid them …there are a lot of them … ” No, I did not follow the instructions of tourist books.

Simply  this child could not be avoided. God sent her to my path. She was happy with my small present. She was smiling. I continued to the hotel. I came neither two steps, when small hand pulled me for a jacket. This time she approached to me in the English: “Sir.”!

I turned up.

She offered me a pack of paper handkerchiefs.  I was more than surprised.
“No sweety. I do not need” – I forgot that in front of me was staying child who does not understand English. But she wanted to give me the handkerchiefs  . She was continuing to offer me. She talked something in Arabic. It sounds me as: “Take it! Take it!”
“No, I do not need. Go sell it elsewhere – I continued my English, suddenly realizing all the greatness of the this little human being. She did not want to beg. She did not want even half a pound without work. In front of me stayed little trader.  It was a little proud trader with a big heart. In front of me it was a little Egyptian bee who works at a time when most of its peers around the world are sleeping. She  continued to offer me handkerchiefs. I realized the message. I took it. I did not want to hurt her. I said “Thank you,”

I had no more words.  I was on the verge of tears. Those tears,  that flow from the heart, touched by children warmth. I wanted to kiss this little, gold, blessed hand. In my eyes the girl was not just a trader. It was a little lady worthy of respect. However, I was afraid. This is not mine city. This is not mine country. I did not know how people will react. What they may think. Unfortunately, the foreigners did many bad things in Africa. Many times, children were victims of various bad white people who misused African poverty. I can understand the enormous confidence towards any stranger who touched a child on the street.

I turned look around me seeking girl’s parents. I wanted to tell them: “Do you know that you are blessed with this child”. However, there was nobody with her. She was alone with his handkerchiefs. On the moment, it reminded me of famous fair tale story about a poor girl who sold matches. I hope that the Lord will be far more merciful for this child. And then a small seller again offered its hand to me .

This meant that her good have a price. Of course. She is boss. She is serious merchant. She determines the price. This is real commerce. Everything else is charity. And she does not want charity. She wants to earn the money. I gave her another half pound. Trade ended. It was the most beautiful smile that someone gave me in Egypt. Girl was happy. Satisfied. She let loose me and  gone. Like the wind.

In my country, I cannot buy almost anything for 1 Egyptian pound (0.1 euro) Even not the package of handkerchief.  Maybe, one chewing gum that will lose the taste very fast. This girl certainly can buy a loaf of bread. With the pound in the hands she certainly will not go to sleep hungry. In my country  1 pound will not wake up the fortune in children because they receive  far more than 1 pound every day.  From mothers, fathers, grandpas and grandmas… They do not make money by their own work as a poor girl in Alexandria.

I still keep the handkerchiefs I bought from the little girl in Alexandria. I will keep it always. It is my most beautiful souvenir from the land of Pharaohs because it reminds me that Angels are around us. We just need to carefully look for them.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2010 2:52 pm

    wow sasa! that is a very powerful piece that let many many emotions run through me. It made me feel both sad and happy. Sad that children pay the price of the bad things that we do as adult and that they are the ultimate victims of poverty. But happy because children have this power of being happy even when their situation is really, really bad.

    Your story reminded me of a visit I took last year to Georgia, where the poverty and unemployment is very high and social support and welfare is almost non-existent. It was a difficult trip and each night as I lay my head down on the 100% cotton pillow in my hotel room I could see the faces of the poor children that I was interviewing for stories. It was heart-breaking. On my last day in Tbilisi I walked up the main street and just handed out all the Lari I had left in my purse to the beggars that were posted all along the street.

    I suppose that is all we can do for these people, make them feel like there is someone who cares.

    In your story, I especially liked the way you highlight her attempt to actually work for her money. That is wonderful, heart-warming but no child so young should have to work like that…

    keep ur stories coming Sasa….

  2. Lucy Chumbley permalink
    February 28, 2010 10:27 pm

    Lovely story Sasa. Children will break your heart every time. They really are angels. I just wish they ALL had parents who could appreciate that.

  3. March 1, 2010 5:01 am

    Hello dear Sasa!
    You are right children are really angle and more than them .I know your feeling because you don’t know about this realities. It is bitter truth but it is the real story not mth, of every eastern country. It is your greatness that you feel pain in your heart and sympathy for that kid. They are innocent and don’t know what are they doing but some one behind them and force them to labor .I know one pound is nothing it not enough for his future ,But it is child labor .The Government of Egypt should be take notice over it and provide them education, bread and butter and special fund .I know that you meet with that angle child but what it his/her future.
    I appreciated your feeling as well your lovely story.

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