Salwa Mohamed Elhamamsy (سلوى الحمامصى) is an Egyptian writer who writes short stories, travel literature and opinion articles in national news papers . She belongs to nineties generations of Egyptian writers, she is interested in social issues, also tried to revive the old heritage of Egyptian contemporary writing in a new and socially reformist way.
She started writing short stories and editorials since late eighties. Graduated at the Faculty of Mass Communication , Cairo University , she worked as a journalist at Al Ahram Newspaper from 1989 to 1994. Her first short stories collection “Dreams Restrictions” was published in 1993 by the biggest Egyptian Publishing Organization , the Egyptian Book Association.
She started writing opinion articles on various social issues and problems from 1995 in several newspapers and magazines in Egypt and some Arab countries and in 2006 Al Ahram Newspaper , the largest Egyptian Newspaper, published Salwa’s first opinion article.
Salwa writings usually tackles some of the social problems in the Egyptian and Arab societies.
In 2004 , she co- authored a book about Egypt in English with an American writer . The book “Egypt , the valley of Life” shed light on various aspects of Egyptian contemporary daily life as well as a briefed history of Egypt throughout ages.
Salwa’s short stories writing continued to a higher level when she wrote her second and most published collection “The forties desert “ which appeared in 2005. With this collection Salwa managed to touch upon some of the deepest and most sensitive human feelings in a new way and link them to daily situations.
The collection was republished in 2006 and brought the writers name to a nominees short list of one of the most important and highly regarded literature Egyptian awards.
Salwa’s fourth book was “ Diaries of an expat in Singapore” in 2008. The book was her first attempt in travel writing.
In 2010, ”A Bride from Russia“ was Salwa’s fifth book and her third short stories collection.
One of the short stories in that collection, A Patriotic Citizen, was awarded as one of the best 10 stories in an International competition organized by “Biscuits Publishing House“ Britain.
In all her work, she tried to explain how people from different cultures are more similar than what we think. They all almost share the same fears and carry the same hopes in their hearts.
She is now writing a novel (National Flowers). The main theme of that novel is sacrifice and victims and martyrs who lost their lives because of the Egyptian revolution in 2011.
Salwa is one of the writers who believes that the writing and literature in Egypt and other Arab Spring countries are not yet up to the level of the big earthquake that those countries have witnessed over the last 2 years.
She think that the writers of those countries have to carry out many responsibilities not only in reflecting the sufferings and hopes of their societies, but also shed light on the much needed social and cultural reform there.
The Bambooty (The Boat Merchant) - A Short Story.
Written &translated from Arabic by: Salwa ELhamamsy
Translation Revision: Kareem Mostafa
By the gate of the three floored house, there were some kids sitting on the steps, one of them moved towards me, he was nearly 8 years, who do you want? He asked me.
-“The Bambooty’s wife.”
-“My mother? And who are you madam?” He said that while looking at me and the camera in my hand, it seemed that he understood my identity.
-“A journalist”, I said.
-“Please follow me”, he said it at once and moved forward to show me where their flat is.
I noticed that he was not surprised when I told him who I am; it seemed that he used such visits to their home after the accident. As we were going, I said to him:”your father was such a good man and everyone is always mentioning his good deeds.”
-“There were no better than my dad. He loved me, and he used to buy me the candy and many other things. He promised also to buy me a big bicycle, he then looked down, but now, he is gone to God.”
We reached the flat door. It was already open, and a little girl welcomed me and asked:
“Do you want my mother?"
-“She is in her room, you can come in.”
I looked at that pale face with wrinkles of sorrow and sadness were digged in it.
She was wearing a black long dress, and a light black head cover.
A light small smile shined from the baby girl in her arms, I smiled back at her.
-“Who are you? Why did they send you here?” said the Bambooty’s widow.
-“I am a journalist, I came here myself for the sake of your late husband.”
-“Enough journalists and enough that hassle. The Bamboty was killed, criminals killed him, and what did he do to be killed?”
-“That is why I am here, talk to me about him.”
-“The Bambooty Mohamed was so kind, he intended to send me to the hospital to do an operation in my leg, as you see it was swollen and I can’t walk on it. He hoped to buy us a small flat; it was hard to live in his parents’ place anymore with all his brothers.”
-“What did he tell you in the last time before he passed?”
-“He was polishing some Egyptian Copper plates, he had new good that he did not pay for yet.” ”Wish me luck today and pray for me, there will be some American ships.” He said,” it seemed that God will bless us, will gain a large profit today.”
-“Why did he say so?”
-“A long time ago, we were in difficulty, cost of life was increased, prices were high, my treatment coasted too much, added to kids needs.” She completed, “And from time to time they started to prevent the Bambooties from going aboard the ships, for security reasons that what officers said, although he has an official license to go aboard the passing ships in the Suez Canal like his father who used to have it years ago. And that day, our son ran after him, and said: “if you gain a big profit today buy me a bicycle and Bambooty then laughed and said to him: “maybe some candy first!” And the boy said: “candy and a bicycle!”
She broke down, her tears now joined with the crying of her hungry child.
I could not talk with her more than that; I silently left the place to give her a chance to feed her baby girl.
Outside the house some of his friends and relatives surrounded me, “Are you a journalist?”
-“Tell them the truth. Tell them that he was betrayed and was shot in his back.”
-“He was in his way back with the boat when he felt that he was not allowed to go aboard the American ship, and if it is a military ship, then officers should inform the boat merchants not to pass in the same time.”
-“Tell the government where his children’s right is? Are they going to pay his loans to the big merchants in Cairo?”
-“Tell them about his young children, his new baby girl, who was born one week before, to be an orphan.”
I went back to my office, tried to see what some newspaper and foreign news agents said about the Bambooty Mohamed:
It is said that he paid his life for his mistake.
The American ship crow thought that he might be a terrorist.
Some American officials apologized for killing the Bamboty.
900 Egyptian pounds as monthly pension for Bambooty family.
Doctor reports said that the Bambooty was shot by bullets which were internationally forbidden, which got through his back.
I took a piece of a newspaper that published his photo, I looked at the eyes that shined with hope. I looked at the brown skin, that clear smile. I saw him talking to me, as if he was inviting me to visit the place of the accident in the Suez Canal.
It was not difficult to reach that place, and to find the boat that he rented to carry his new goods to the American ship “the Global Patriot”, to sell them what he had.
A cold breeze touched my face, also shook the clear page of water, I felt as if Bambooty’s photo was shaped on it, and his sad features spoke to me:
“I did not know that this profession will cause misery to my family. I liked it since I was a child; I used to observe my grandfather jumping on his donkey after putting a big cloth bag on his back full of vegetables, fruits, cigarettes, some Egyptian souvenirs and push him by his ankle to run to the canal. He then take a small boat, after bargain the rent with the owner, and keep turning around the big ships that passes in the Suez Canal until one allow him to go aboard. And then my grandfather stayed with the ship until it reached the Suez port, and then he left them and came back to the café shop of Bambooties to sell what he had got from the ship in return of his Egyptian goods, cowboy hats, modern pants, shoes, modern shirts. He used to come back with foreign goods or money for the goods he sold them.”
“I was grown up, I was changed, and life changed around me, so there was a motorcycle instead of the donkey, there were license to get to the ships, and professions, every bambooty are specialized in a kind of ships, and I was specialized in selling for American ships which cross the canal. From Said port to Suez Canal I went yesterday to the station director office as usual, I knew from there that a big American ship will pass the coming day. I knew at what time exactly the ship would come, and its destination. The bigger it was the much I would gain, because of the number of its crow who would like to buy my goods. I carried my new goods of papyrus and Egyptians Souvenirs, light meals, fruits and I went in a boat after paying its rent. I went in the expected direction of the American ship; finally I found it, exactly as the station director told me. I was coming closer and closer to the ship waving with my hand, calling its crow to allow me to go up on its board to sell my goods. Oh God, you are great, you are generous. I thought that my gaining is in the way.”
-“When you get money buy me a bicycle.”
-“maybe some candy first!”
-“candy and a bicycle!”
-“Pray to God my son. Say, God willing.”
I heard the Bambooty laughing, and then he continued:
“I remembered my son’s words, this son was not like his sister, he always asks for many things, I knew that like father like son. I always wished a lot before, and I did not get too much, I was always waiting for God’s generosity to give me more. Finally one of the ship crow appeared on the ship’s board with a microphone in his hand, I smiled at him and waved with a white Egyptian shirt has Faros drowning, to allow me to go aboard. I did not hear what he was saying, but I noticed that another boatman asking me to follow him is there a problem? Let me see what is the matter, I should turn back to follow him and return to the American ship as soon as possible. I hold the hand drive of the boat and turn it to the left and the boat started to turn back. The water splashes touched my face, trying to catch the other boat and started to worry a bit. A solid thing then hit my back, a severe pain started to heart, some blended voices reached my hears, a high noise, a ship sound, a laugh of my son, a bicycle ring, a cry coming from far, was it from my child? “