Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CIX. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Strolling Through The Streets of Cairo (5 of 5)

I close this part with a story I have labeled in my mind as “The Case of the Horny Donkey.”

During one of my walks, I came across a bouza shop. It was like a coffee house except that bouza (more on that drink later) was served. This one catered almost exclusively to carters. The men there were in the light transport business; they each owned a two-wheelers pulled by a donkey. The shop has provided them with a large parking space to park their carts and donkeys.

Bouza was served on a large clay plate with a depression in the middle (more or less like a soup plate). The drinker brought the vessel to his mouth and slowly drank the bouza; when finished, he expressed his delight with the superior bouza. He was also sure to order a second and probably a third serving of bouza.

But more than the men looked forward to their bouza. At a certain point, one or more donkeys started braying; this was the signal the men were waiting for. They took the bouza to the donkeys and they (the donkeys) drank it with gusto!

A parking area filled with donkeys; grown-up men drinking bouza and sharing it with their donkeys; what more can a child ask for? And indeed I loved the bouza shop and walked by whenever I had a chance.

Before I go any further, let me explain what bouza is.

There are many ways to prepare bouza. The method commonly used today in Egypt follows.

Coarsely grounded wheat is mixed with water and a dough is prepared. The dough is then cut into thick loaves which are baked very lightly. Some wheat is set aside to germinate, dried in the sun, and coarsely grounded. It is then mixed with the bread loaves and soaked in water in a wooden barrel. Some bouza from a previous brewing is also added. It is then left to ferment for 24 hours at room temperature, passed through a sieve to remove the solid material, and diluted with water as required. You now have a 24-hour bouza.

For a 48-hour or 72-hour bouza, fermentation will be allowed to carry on for 2 or 3 days. Note that it should not exceed 3 days, for beyond that, it becomes an alcoholic drink, and drinking alcohol is forbidden to Muslims.

Back to the bouza shop. I am reasonably sure that the bouza the men (and donkeys) drank was a 72-hour bouza.

In time, many of the men and the owner got to know me. I was often asked to share their bouza. The owner even went as far as offering me a small serving of bouza bebalash (free of charge). But whether on the house or not, I had no intention of taking them (the patrons and the owner) up on their offer for many reasons, not the least of which was because the donkeys had drank from the same vessel!

One day I passed by the shop, exchanged salamat (greetings) with the patrons and carried on. I had just arrived at the end of the street when I heard a big commotion. I ran back to the shop and witnessed a strange – for a child – scene.

A jack (male donkey) was determined to mount a jennet (female donkey) it fancied. But since both donkeys were hitched up to their respective carts, the laws of physics precluded that; but the jack was at this time beholden only to the laws of biology!

The men came running and tried to control the jack before he caused great damage; first two men and then three tried to hold the beast down, but it was out of control. Another man then filled a bucket with cold water and threw it on the jack’s head (the equivalent of a cold shower!). It took three buckets for the jack to calm down; finally resigned, it let out a long and plaintive cry.

When the dust finally settled down, one man said jokingly to the owner of the horny donkey, “I told you not to give him so much bouza!”

When I asked for explanations, they provided them, while taking my young age into consideration. What they said, I no longer remember; but even if I did, rest assured that it is not printable!

* * *

This brings to an end my years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra; the special memories associated with the home of my early years. But it is certainly not the end of my narrative regarding Egypt. There is a lot more to come. I am not going to Italy yet. My next stop is much closer: Alexandria.


1) Al Ahram Weekly. No strength in numbers. Egypt’s rapid population growth is crowding up development. Maged Osman (The writer is Chairman of the Information and Decision Support Center, the Egyptian Cabinet)

2) Cairo’s Population

3) SpringerLink. The protein nutritive value of bouza and its ingredients. S.R. Morcos, S.M. Hegazi, and S. El-Damhougy. Food Science and Nutrition Research Department, National Research Centre, Dokki, Cairo, Egypt, September 4, 1974.

4) www.californiastatehorsemen/enviro/ENVIRO-poop.htm

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