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 – XXXVI. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Cleaning (3 of 3)


Every Friday night, in winter, we took a hot bath. This again was a complex operation.

A big can was filled with water and placed on a primus. When the water boiled, the primus was turned off, taken away,  and the can left in the bathroom. At this point, each one of us took his bath, and the order was determined by speed.

Taking a long time while the water in the can was cooling left you way down on the priority list. The fastest was Nisso (my dad’s nickname) and he therefore was the first to go in. I was the slowest and, accordingly, was the last to go in. Even my grandmother was faster than me! But I didn’t mind, the water was still hot, and I wasn’t continually pestered.

Fine, I am now in the bathroom, what happens next? First, with my tassa (a small copper basin), I carefully take hot water and place it in a small tocht (a medium-size brass container, but smaller than the one used for laundry); next, I add cold water to the tocht until the water temperature is just right. I then sit on a small stool and fill the tassa with the lukewarm water; next, I soak the loufa in it and rub it against the soap until it’s adequately sudsy (the soap used is the brown soap, supposedly a notch better than the one used for other cleaning operations, but I have always had my doubts about that!). When I have completely soaped myself, I fill the tassa with water, and pour it over my head until I rinse away all the soap.

Next, come my hair. And, no, there is no such thing as shampoo, it hadn’t been invented yet. I washed my hair with the same brown soap, and it came just as clean as when I wash it today with shampoo. I could save money and avoid the chemicals in today’s shampoos. Unfortunately, I am conditioned to the “better” cleaning products we presently use. Only in 1964, when I came to Canada, did I use shampoo for the first time in my life. I was 28.

Brown soap was not the only option. There were “luxury” soaps on the market: Lux and Palmolive. Eventually, a very fine soap became available: Camay. People, however, rarely splurged on such toiletries, they waited to receive them as gifts.

There came a technological advance whereby a propane cylinder heated the water in a small water tank; thus a hot shower became possible. But we never bothered with this new technology. First, it was expensive, and second, the tank was so small, it provided a hot shower for one individual only, and a fast person at that.

In Israel, people heated their water using a Solar Water Heater System. This technology required the installation of Solar Panels on the roof. Here again, this was for us an expensive solution. Only when I came to Canada, was I able to take hot showers.

Back to Egypt. The operation I have described happened on Friday, and in the winter only. What about the rest of the week? What about the summer?

For the rest of the week we took sponge baths. With cold water! In winter! It wasn’t pleasant, but there was no choice in the matter.

In the summer, we took a cold shower every day. Considering how hot and dusty Cairo was, there were no other options.

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