Friday, October 24, 2008

Going Out With A Bang


Although they are illegal and quite dangerous, Egypt has a thriving fireworks industry at a cottage level. Small factories make what we used to call cherry bombs (wads of paper with explosive powder and a bit of grit in them that explode when thrown against something), rockets and firecrackers, all of which are part of traditional festivities on the feasts and at weddings in the rural areas. The people who work in these industries suffer injuries fairly constantly and the users of the noisemakers also are injured with great regularity. So when the police get the chance to impound fireworks they do...but one could truly wish that they'd do a better job.

A couple of days ago one or two truckloads (depending on to whom one is speaking) were seized by the police in the area near Shubramant. Concerned that they might be explosive...I would imagine that they would be...the police rather haphazardly hosed down the cargo with water and then dumped it. Where was it disposed of? In the desert, most likely near the Giza Municipal Dump just up the road from us. Day before yesterday, innumerable grain bags of illegal fireworks were appearing all over the area between Abu Sir and Zawia/Shubramant to the delight of the children of the area. After all, most of the garbage in the dump is checked over for recycling, so why not recycle it, right? From about 4 pm on Wednesday to the present the air has crackled with explosions fairly constantly. The first night it went on all night, with a lot of very crabby adults wandering around the next day.

Of my ridiculously high dog population, probably 90% are terrified of the noise of fireworks, so I have about a dozen dogs running in circles all day barking at the unseen threat or running for shelter under my legs, in my bedroom, in the shower, in the kitchen...wherever. After two days of this nonsense, they are no longer barking at explosions more than about 300 metres away, thank heaven, but a neighbour estimates the supplies at sufficient for about two more days of this lunacy. Who knows, maybe this will get them so overloaded with fear that they will stop being frightened? I'd rather not be using the technique however.

Of even more concern with the vast quantities of these fireworks being used is the fact that children are being injured by them in the villages. I saw one boy not more than about seven years old clutching a round cluster of rockets in his fist and showing them to friends with delight. Heart-stopping. My housekeeper confirmed that there had been injuries to children in the Abu Sir area and the local omda did try, although unsuccessfully, to stop the spread of the illegal bounty at the beginning of the siege. But there were simply too many to collect and they were already too widespread. One would truly wish that when the police do something for the public good, it really would be for the public good. Frankly, it would have been better to send those trucks on their way than to spread these things around the villages the way they did. Unfortunately, until a child is injured, the fireworks are seen as being relatively harmless by most parents who grew up with their use.

copyright 2008 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani

13 comments:

Leila said...

Is this related to the Eid celebrations? I was in Lebanon for the end of Ramadan and Eid this year; there were plenty of fireworks, including the shooting star kind.

I was dismayed to see young boys with realistic looking guns patrolling Saida, as well; two of them actually stopped a car I was in and pantomimed a whole checkpoint/search the car skit that was frighteningly realistic.

Rami Zurayk blogged this phenomenon in Beirut at Land and People. He says that leadership in the Muslim communities had been discouraging the purchase of these guns - they set off real firefights in Gaza - but many children got them anyway as part of the Eid festivities.

I was just relieved that none of the explosions were gunfire. In the old days in South Lebanon people shot off all manner of guns including machine guns to celebrate anything - getting a diploma, birth of a son, wedding; also grief over a death - I was eight and living with my relatives when Nasser died, and the camp next to our village exploded in gunfire. I still remember it.

The possibility of injury or even death makes the whole fireworks business all the more disturbing. I hope this passes soon.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

An alternative story that I heard this morning was that the police had raided a fireworks factory in a nearby village and hauled the goods off to dump in the desert...six of one, half a dozen of the other. The production is definitely for the Eid el Adha. Fireworks are traditional for those celebrations.

I tried to avoid buying guns for my son when he was young but I found that even if I didn't he'd pick up sticks and pretend that they were pistols. At the age of four all little boys turn into Rambo.

The Cairo Wife said...

We've suffered with firecrackers since the beginning of Ramadan in Cairo. All hours of the day and night. It makes my poor dog crazy. In my particular neighborhood in USA we had the same problems with firecrackers and fireworks. Apparently they were legal in my state and amazningly to me, parents allowed their kids to play with them. I cant imagine where the parents minds are.

Leila said...

My son creates swords and other weapons out of sticks, Lego, anything that looks like a gun in his imagination. He goes through phases of this (not interested this month). We just tell him that he must use his weapons responsibly as any knight or soldier does: no pointing at people, no waving "swords" close to eyes, or touching people with weapons. Boys will be boys but even in their weapons play they can learn to behave responsibly. Oh yes and we have bought him plastic swords and Star Wars light sabers.

You're taking their play seriously, which is developmentally a good thing, if you insist that when they do play at weapons, they behave like serious professional soldiers or hunters.

Allowing boys to pantomime a checkpoint stop in the street is not a good idea. What if my Lebanese friend were not a sensible mom but instead a jumpy bodyguard, and decided to do something aggressive in self-defense? This question is not hypothetical in South Lebanon.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

I have to agree with you one hundred percent. A toy gun in a Toronto suburb is not a toy gun in a Beirut suburb. Kids there don't really know what peace is..a whole generation of Lebanese have grown up knowing only intermittent periods of order. We also had rules about who you could point weapons at. The favourite toy for little boys here is a cap gun and I'd love to melt them all down into lawn furniture.

Connie said...

I am not against guns and swords as toys, but my kids are taught to never point these toys at anyone's face, and never outside the house. I also warn them to never touch a gun elsewhere - there is no way for them to know if it real or not.

One thing that blew me away here... my son rec'd a cap gun for a birthday present once. At school. From a teacher!

Barb said...

A sad story in Pennsylvania this week, lends a different perspective to your aforementioned banter...A young boy, accidently shot and killed his twin brother, using his father's hunting rifle. In the states, we don't experience gun play with the same sence of reality that other countries may experience. Never do children witness guns being carried openly in public.
Firecrackers are fun to watch when they are set off by trained professionals, on holidays.

Cairo Typ0 said...

Those fireworks always make me start since they sound so much like guns. Properly constructed fireworks are potentially dangerous. Ones made with little to no oversight are simply death traps.

BTW, has anyone ever mentioned that your RSS feed doesn't work. Is it me? *puzzled*

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Thanks for telling me. I checked the settings and I suspect that changing my email a couple of times in the past five years has confused some things. Hopefully, I've fixed it, but one never really knows. I will keep checking on it til I figure it all out.

Cairo Typ0 said...

Whatever you did totally worked! After seeing that your last update was "10 months ago" for the last several weeks, all your blogs since then suddenly appeared in my reader!! yay! :)

richies said...

Here fireworks are available legally two weeks before the fourth of July, and again for a couple of weeks before New Years, as long as the fireworks stand is outside of the city limits. It is illegal to set the fireworks off inside the city limits.

An Arkie's Musings

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Those are welcome words to an amateur techie.

mostafa said...

Ooh the good old (bomb)!!! I remember playing with these when I was a little boy and very very silly. I remember that we used to get tens of them and unwrap them, stuff all the contents in a shoe polish tin and hey, presto, a mini nuke!!!
I would have thought that they are banned by now though?? Now I am frightened from the fireworks when it goes off every year!
I guess I am getting a bit soft :-)