Saturday, December 20, 2008

Siapa peduli akhbar Melayu?

Mingguan/Utusan Malaysia sekali lagi menyiarkan artikel berkaitan akhbar Melayu. Sekali lagi Utusan sengaja tidak mahu menonjolkan kesilapan besar kepimpinan United Malays National Organisation, parti Melayu yang berjiwa Inggeris dengan mengekalkan nama Inggerisnya.

United Malays National Organisation terus memperlekeh bahasa Melayu dengan bodoh sombong untuk mengekalkan pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris. Sesudah berkuasa 53 tahun, masih lagi bangsa, bahasa dan akhbar Melayu ketinggalan walau pemimpin pelbagai peringkat United Malays National Organisation menjadi kaya raya dengan menyalahgunakan DEB dan slogan ketuanan.

Kesemua akhbar perdana Melayu dimiliki oleh United Malays National Organisation...kalau mahu orang Melayu mahupun bukan Melayu memperdulikan media Melayu, bebaskan cengkaman akhbar dari United Malays National Organisation, dan hentilah dari memperbodohkan orang Melayu, dulu, kini dan selamanya.

Siapa peduli akhbar Melayu?
Selepas Pilihan Raya Umum ke 12 (PRU 12) Mac lalu, kedudukan politik Melayu kelihatan sedikit tergugat. Berikutan dengan itu beberapa isu yang melibatkan soal kepentingan orang Melayu seperti kedudukan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa rasmi turut dipersoalkan. Kelantangan pihak tertentu mempersoalkan banyak perkara yang berkaitan dengan orang Melayu semakin bertambah selepas PRU 12 dianggap sebagai indikator kelemahan politik Melayu.
Kita boleh memberikan apa saja alasan untuk menafikan hujah di atas. Tetapi pada masa yang sama kita terpaksa menerima hakikat bahawa politik Melayu adalah teras kepada sosio-politik negara ini. Bergolaknya politik Melayu, kesannya akan kelihatan kepada banyak perkara lain yang mempunyai kaitan secara langsung dengan politik dan kedudukan orang Melayu.
Bahasa rasmi negara ini dipelekehkan oleh pihak tertentu bukanlah perkara baru. Bahasa Melayu bukan bahasa orang Melayu tetapi bahasa rasmi yang sewajarnya digunakan oleh seluruh rakyat. Tetapi disebabkan ketidakupayaan politik Melayu menjadi teras sosio-politik negara ini, bahasa Melayu dilihat hanya bahasa orang Melayu. Dalam kalangan orang Melayu pula dipecahkan lagi apabila ada sesetengah Melayu elit yang mendakwa kedudukan mereka tidak sesuai dengan bahasa Melayu.
Media Melayu menjadi indikator paling jelas untuk melihat situasi sebenar kedudukan bahasa dan politik Melayu. Media Melayu khususnya akhbar mendepani masalah yang sangat serius berbanding akhbar bahasa Cina dan Inggeris. Pendapatan iklan oleh akhbar Melayu secara kolektifnya jauh lebih kecil daripada kolektif akhbar berbahasa Cina. Masalah yang dihadapi oleh akhbar-akhbar Melayu sewajarnya tidak berlaku apabila bahasa Melayu menjadi bahasa rasmi yang memerlukan semua rakyat, tidak kira apa bahasa ibunda mereka akan menggunakan bahasa Melayu sebagai alat perhubungan. Tetapi malangnya teori ini tidak berlaku sama sekali.
Baiklah, cuba kita lihat dengan sewaras yang mungkin beberapa perkara yang sepatutnya meletakkan akhbar bahasa Melayu di barisan depan di segi pengaruh.
Bahasa Melayu telah diberi kedudukan penting dalam Perlembagaan sejak setengah abad lalu sebagai bahasa rasmi. Dengan kata lain tidak ada seorang pun yang mengaku rakyat negara ini tidak faham bahasa Melayu, selepas setengah abad diangkat sebagai bahasa rasmi. Secara teorinya kaum pendatang generasi pertama sudah tiada lagi. Generasi selepasnya dilahirkan di negara ini dipayung oleh Perlembagaan sebagai rakyat negara ini. Dan dalam Perlembagaan menyebut bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa rasmi.
Kita lihat pula Dasar Pendidikan Kebangsaan yang sudah lebih 30 tahun dilaksanakan. Antara yang mendukung Dasar Pendidikan Kebangsaan ialah pengantar dalam bahasa Melayu dan subjek bahasa Melayu menjadi teras dalam peperiksaan. Ini juga menyokong hujah kita bahawa bahasa Melayu mesti difahami oleh semua peringkat dan kaum. Hujah ini ditambah pula dengan satu bancian yang menunjukkan negara ini dihuni oleh 13 juta orang Melayu.

Dihujah
Faktor-faktor yang dihujah di atas tadi menunjukkan tidak ada sebab akhbar Melayu tidak mampu menyaingi akhbar bahasa Cina misalnya untuk mencatat market share yang lebih besar dalam pendapatan iklan. Jualan akhbar Melayu secara kolektifnya (Mingguan Malaysia, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Minggu, Berita Harian, Harian Metro dan Kosmo) mencatatkan sekitar 1.4 juta naskhah sehari atau purata pembaca sebanyak 8.5 juta sehari. Sementara akhbar berbahasa Cina yang terdiri daripada Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau, Kwong Wah Yit Poh, China Press dan Guang Ming Daily mencatatkan purata edaran lebih kurang 900,000 naskhah sehari atau 2.5 juta pembaca. Tetapi adakah kalangan politik Melayu sedar bahawa kolektif akhbar Melayu hanya mencatatkan market share pendapatan iklan hanya lebih kurang 13 peratus daripada peruntukkan lebih RM2.3 bilion untuk media cetak?
Pertanyaan saya, selebihnya ke akhbar mana? Di mana kekuatan politik Melayu apabila akhbar Melayu dianggap kelas tiga di negara yang meletakkan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa rasmi? Media bahasa Melayu khususnya akhbar memikul tanggungjawab sosial yang sangat besar, bukan saja kepada orang Melayu malah semua kaum supaya menggunakan bahasa Melayu dalam kehidupan seharian. Tetapi tugas besar ini tidak mungkin dapat dilaksanakan sekiranya tiada kesedaran daripada kalangan Melayu dan bukan Melayu untuk melihat bahasa Melayu melampaui bahasa semata-mata.
Untuk pengetahuan, bahasa Cina bukanlah bahasa rasmi atau bahasa kedua. Bahasa Cina tidak diperjuangkan kedudukannya dalam Dasar Pendidikan Kebangsaan. Lalu, di mana peranan 60 peratus orang Melayu yang bertutur dan membaca dalam bahasa Melayu dalam konteks pengaruh akhbar Melayu? Pengedaran kolektif akhbar bahasa Cina jauh lebih kecil berbanding kolektif akhbar Melayu, begitu juga jumlah pembacanya. Persoalannya kenapa akhbar Melayu belum mampu menyakinkan pengiklan tentang pengaruhnya yang besar apabila hanya mencatatkan market share 13 peratus daripada peruntukkan kepada media cetak?
Di mana peranan kalangan politik Melayu untuk melihat permasalahan akhbar-akhbar Melayu secara mikro khususnya daripada perspektif sosio-politik? Kurangnya pengaruh akhbar Melayu kepada pengiklan memperlihatkan kurangnya pengaruh politik Melayu di negara ini. Akhbar dalam konteks perbincangan sosio-politik negara ini bukan lagi sama seperti produk sabun basuh atau pencuci lantai. Maka apabila akhbar Melayu tidak mampu memperlihatkan pengaruh menjadi agenda setter dalam ekonomi misalnya, kegagalan ini bukanlah ditanggung oleh syarikat yang menerbitkan akhbar berkenaan semata-mata. Ini sebahagian daripada kegagalan kuasa politik Melayu untuk meletakkan sesuatu yang ada kaitan langsung dengan kedudukan bahasa Melayu dalam Perlembagaan.
Peliknya sesetengah pihak pula mudah percaya dengan dakwaan para pengiklan bahawa akhbar-akhbar Melayu hanya dibaca oleh orang Melayu, terlalu Malay centric dan lebih malang lagi akhbar Melayu majoriti pembacanya orang kampung, atau dalam kata lain sifatnya kekampungan. Maka hujah mereka, akhbar Melayu tidak sesuai dengan urbanisasi yang menjadi sasaran pengiklan.

Statistik
Tetapi persepsi itu tidak benar sama sekali kerana statistik menunjukkan tidak sampai 30 peratus edaran akhbar-akhbar Melayu di kawasan luar bandar. Ini bermakna sekurang-kurang 70 peratus pengedaran akhbar Melayu di bandar terutama di Lembah Kelang. Urbanisasi yang bagaimana lagi dimahukan oleh pengiklan?
Penguasaan akhbar Melayu di kawasan bandar tidak boleh dinafikan lagi. Malah kalangan pembaca akhbar Melayu mempunyai profil sebagai kuasa pembeli yang tinggi. Tetapi pengiklan seolah-olah tidak yakin akhbar Melayu boleh menyampaikan mesej kepada khalayak tentang produk mereka.
Sebenarnya ini bukan perspektif perniagaan tetapi politik. Kalau daripada perspektif perniagaan, para pengiklan pasti memilih akhbar-akhbar Melayu sebagai keutamaan mereka kerana akhbar-akhbar Melayu memenuhi apa yang diperlukan pengiklan. Untuk menyebarluaskan produk yang hendak diiklan, pengiklan akan memilih media yang mempunyai edaran yang besar, pembaca yang banyak dan profil pembaca yang terdiri daripada mereka yang mempunyai kuasa membeli yang tinggi. Sayugia diingatkan kolektif akhbar-akhbar Melayu mempunyai semua perkara yang diperlukan oleh pengiklan. Tetapi pengiklan tetap juga memilih akhbar berbahasa Cina dan selebihnya Inggeris. Kenapa?
Maka jelaslah nasib akhbar-akhbar Melayu bukan saja tanggungjawab penerbitnya. Dilema akhbar Melayu mencerminkan keadaan sosio politik yang pengaruh Melayunya tidak menonjol. Malah seolah-olah kesulitan yang diredah oleh akhbar-akhbar Melayu tidak dipedulikan oleh sesiapa. Kita tidak mahu tragedi "penutupan" Utusan Melayu, satu-satunya akhbar aksara Jawi enam tahun lalu berlaku kepada akhbar Melayu aksara Rumi.
Sekiranya setiap pejabat kerajaan dan sekolah di seluruh negara melanggan dua naskhah akhbar Utusan Melayu Jawi setiap hari, jangka hayat Utusan Melayu pasti lebih panjang. Tetapi siapa peduli Utusan Melayu? Siapa tokoh politik Melayu yang berfikir tentang satu-satunya akhbar aksara Jawi itu di negara ini akhirnya terpaksa mengalah kerana tuntutan perniagaan?
Akhbar Melayu pula yang selalu dilihat dengan penuh prasangka apabila memperjuangkan isu-isu yang melibatkan kedudukan orang Melayu. Padahal perjuangan itu hanya menegakkan hak dalam Perlembagaan tanpa mengambil hak kaum lain. Tetapi ada pihak dengan mudah melabelkan akhbar Melayu sebagai perkauman apabila akhbar Melayu memperjuangkan Melayu yang tertindas. Tetapi akhbar Melayu tidak pernah mempersoalkan Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB) walaupun menerusi DEB orang bukan Melayu memperoleh ekuiti lebih tiga kali ganda daripada orang Melayu.
Kalangan ahli politik bukan Melayu tidak mempersoalkan akhbar bukan bahasa Melayu yang menyemarakkan sentimen kaum misalnya apabila RTM memendekkan siaran Berita Mandarin baru-baru ini. Dalam perkara ini orang Melayu juga mesti berubah sikap, jumlah penerbitan akhbar bahasa Cina jauh lebih besar dari akhbar Melayu dan mencatatkan pengedaran yang juga besar. Kita sendiri boleh bayangkan sikap sesetengah orang Melayu hingga satu akhbar aksara Jawi pun tidak mampu dipertahankan. Ketika Utusan Melayu ditutup, terbit sebuah akhbar bahasa Cina yang baru, Oriental Daily. Orang Melayu perlu menyalahkan diri sendiri bukan syarikat yang menerbitkan Utusan Melayu.
Politik Melayu mesti meletakkan dirinya sebagai agenda setter, bukan saja menyelesaikan kemelut akhbar Melayu tetapi yang penting semua yang melibatkan Melayu seperti dalam Perlembagaan. Media dan politik mesti berjalan seiringan untuk membetulkan persepsi serong bahawa apa saja kaitkan dengan "Melayu" hanya untuk orang Melayu. Sekali lagi pertanyaan saya, siapa yang mengendahkan semua ini?

Redundant - Jobs NOT People

Been there, done that.

I started my career as a penganggur terhormat and later was made redundant. The last day of my working life in Malaysia, on last Friday of the year, the HR big boss through his secretary called me and informed by 5 pm as I was about to leave the office, "Isnin tidak payah datang kerja, pulangkan kereta dan semua harta syarikat dengan segera!"

It was a moment of truth that changed the direction of my life forever. Blessing in disguise. I was actually ready to face the consequences and had already made some prior arrangements. My CVs were already all over the world, literally through Internet. The same fateful Friday afternoon, I was asked forcefully to write a resignation letter on the spot.

I came the following Monday to take my belongings and return company's asset like laptop and car. The guard did not let me in due to 'security reasons' as a directive from the big boss.

I was flabbergasted. As an immediate reaction, I kept the car for a while.

Looking back, I knew it was coming. Alhamdulillah, whatever reasons, life must move on and no regrets. I have moved on and taken new challenges in different work scopes, new sets of skills, expertise, attitude as well as continue learning in various fields that I would have not dreamt before. Positively, change is part of life and there are always opportunities in different situations.



Useful counsel: Jobs may become redundant, people don't
In these days of economic turmoil we will all have to learn more and more to live with change and the only certain thing about change is that it will continue! As a business moves through various stages to survive in constantly changing markets it will have to continually review the jobs that make up its business operations. This can lead to jobs becoming redundant as business, for example, declines or needs to reform to meet the challenges of the marketplace.
For people who lose their jobs it is often a shock and can bring with it stress and anxiety. The first thing to remember in this situation is that the job is redundant and not the person. There is no reason for a person to feel ashamed that they have been made redundant.


  • Stay in control by becoming financially aware and prepared. It all starts with a sound budget. How long would your money last, based on your current spending habits? How soon do you think you could find work again in your field? It is always a good idea to set aside three to six months' income for a rainy day. Make sure that your savings earn as much interest as possible in diversified holdings.

  • Begin now to make it a regular habit to get out of debt and practice frugality. That may be easier said than done, but it's absolutely essential. If your job is in doubt, now is not the time to go on holiday or purchase anything that is not necessary!

  • If you have existing payment protection insurance, check its terms and conditions to verify which situations it covers.

  • Carefully review all of your insurance cover. Are you covered if you lose the life and private medical insurance that was provided with your job?

  • If you are made redundant and receive a lump sum redundancy payment, your financial adviser can help determine how it is best to invest this money for the future, use it to pay off your present debts, or use the money for daily income needs. Normally a waiting period sets in before you receive your redundancy or lump sum benefits, so this must be factored into the budgetary equation before making any final decisions.

  • Now having put these things in place it is time for reflection. Consider, is the loss of your job an opportunity? Were you really happy doing what you did? Be creative and think of other areas where you can apply your unique skills and expertise.

  • A simple project to help you here can be to take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side write down the things that you enjoyed about your working life and on the other side those things that you did not enjoy. This enables you to make a judgment on your next job by identifying those things you want more of in a job and those things you want less of!

  • Consider what you can do to make yourself of more value to a future employer. What could you learn, what new skill could you develop? Think if there is a training course you could attend or start a correspondence course which all indicates to a prospective employer that you are an individual who constantly develops themselves.

  • Update your CV or resume. Broadcast to everyone who will listen that you are in the market for a new job. It is said that some 90 per cent of people finding a new job find it through their network.

  • Your financial adviser is on hand to assist you to implement a sensible financial plan that helps protect you and your loved ones and enables you to be best prepared should you have to face redundancy that can occur in everyone's life.

  • The one critical thing in seeking a job is to maintain your belief in yourself. Remember it was the job that was redundant and not the person!

2008 - Year of MAD(off)NESS

Back in December 1987, I was camping with friends on stunning Paihia beach, a town in Bay of Islands, northern of New Zealand to see the rise of 1988 sun on the horizon. New Zealand is among the first to celebrate new year. While still unsure whether to stay on or return to malaysia then, I remember, among others, 1987 was another significant year in world's financial turmoil history.


I worked in a New Zealand government office while waiting for my graduation. Money was good enough that prompted me to plan of working in NZ rather than facing unemployment in Malaysia. But I decided againts my own wish by leaving NZ to Australia for a vacation then flew home to be a penganggur, a bit of regret but that's life.

Black Monday October 19, 1987 will be remembered as the largest one day drop in the history of the New York Stock Exchange overshooting the collapse of October 28, 1929, which prompted the Wall Street crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

In the 1987 meltdown, 22.6 percent of the value of US stocks was wiped out largely during the first hour of trading on Monday morning... The plunge on Wall Street sent a cold shiver through the entire financial system leading to the tumble of the European and Asian stock markets...
Throughout history, it has not been unusual to see major frauds come to light after bubbles have burst.

All this decade, from 2000 I have been 'growing' in Dubai and part of its mega development. It was like nothing would happen as Dubai moves forward in great strides and quantum leaps. Trillions poured in and cranes becoming the sight of the day.

While the going is good, cheap money, accommodating counterparties, and the general rise in asset prices help to keep all sorts of shaky ships afloat. Later, when circumstances turn sour, the miscreants' luck runs out and things start falling apart.

To Paul Krugman, though, the recent discovery of one of the biggest scams of all time has more significance than its tabloid appeal. We have heard some scams or frauds in Dubai madness period, albeit smaller scales and under control, so far.
In an Op-Ed for the New York Times, "The Madoff Economy," the Nobel Prize-winning economist asserts that the fraud was an apt reflection of an era of greed and hubris.
The revelation that Bernard Madoff — brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community — was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend.
Yet surely I’m not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff’s tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?
The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation’s income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it’s not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people’s money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole.
Let’s start with those paychecks. Last year, the average salary of employees in “securities, commodity contracts, and investments” was more than four times the average salary in the rest of the economy. Earning a million dollars was nothing special, and even incomes of $20 million or more were fairly common. The incomes
of the richest Americans have exploded over the past generation, even as wages of ordinary workers have stagnated; high pay on Wall Street was a major cause of that divergence.
But surely those financial superstars must have been earning their millions, right? No, not necessarily. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion.
Consider the hypothetical example of a money manager who leverages up his clients’ money with lots of debt, then invests the bulked-up total in high-yielding but risky assets, such as dubious mortgage-backed securities. For a while — say, as long as a housing bubble continues to inflate — he (it’s almost always a he) will make big profits and receive big bonuses. Then, when the bubble bursts and his investments turn into toxic waste, his investors will lose big — but he’ll keep those bonuses.
O.K., maybe my example wasn’t hypothetical after all.
So, how different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair? Well, Mr. Madoff allegedly skipped a few steps, simply stealing his clients’ money rather than collecting big fees while exposing investors to risks they didn’t understand. And while Mr. Madoff was apparently a self-conscious fraud, many people on Wall Street believed their own hype. Still, the end result was the same (except for the house arrest): the money managers got rich; the investors saw their money disappear.
We’re talking about a lot of money here. In recent years the finance sector accounted for 8 percent of America’s G.D.P., up from less than 5 percent a generation earlier. If that extra 3 percent was money for nothing — and it probably was — we’re talking about $400 billion a year in waste, fraud and abuse.
But the costs of America’s Ponzi era surely went beyond the direct waste of dollars and cents.
At the crudest level, Wall Street’s ill-gotten gains corrupted and continue to corrupt politics, in a nicely bipartisan way. From Bush administration officials like Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who looked the other way as evidence of financial fraud mounted, to Democrats who still haven’t closed the outrageous tax loophole that benefits executives at hedge funds and private equity firms (hello, Senator Schumer), politicians have walked when money
talked.
Meanwhile, how much has our nation’s future been damaged by the magnetic pull of quick personal wealth, which for years has drawn many of our best and brightest young people into investment banking, at the expense of science, public service and just about everything else?
Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.
Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible? How, for example, could Alan Greenspan have declared, just a few years ago, that “the financial system as a whole has become more resilient” — thanks to derivatives, no less? The answer, I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing.
After all, that’s why so many people trusted Mr. Madoff.
Now, as we survey the wreckage and try to understand how things can have gone so wrong, so fast, the answer is actually quite simple: What we’re looking at now are the consequences of a world gone Madoff.

Cairo’s Souq al Gomma - A death on the Nile



While on the way to Pyramids in Gaza, we were passing a Friday souq - Al Gomma. The souq was held in the cemetary!
According to an article (we did not know the souq was famous, otherwise we might stop over, but then again, we might not as the souq was crowded and notorious Cairo is known for petty crimes), Cairo’s Souq al Gomma is one of the world’s most unforgettable shopping experiences. But planned government changes will spell the end for this ancient, vibrant “mother of all markets”.


Originally, the Friday Market was just one of seven markets held on each day of the week in the area around the Shafi mosque. Today, only the smaller Tuesday market, and this, the mother of all markets – Souq al Gomma – remain to exploit the country’s long mercantile tradition. But all that may change if a Dh3.4 million plan to relocate the market to an “improved” site goes through. The proposed spots are located well outside city limits and include the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, and a tract of land in a satellite city near Cairo Airport.
The government plan, announced in 2004, is an attempt to curtail the rampant selling of stolen goods that has earned the market its nickname “Souq al Harameya,” or the “Thieves’ Market”. But anyone who has visited the market realises there is a lot more on show than a few stolen mobile phones. It’s hard to imagine a space that could fit as many stalls and tables and rugs into so many corners and streets as naturally as City of the Dead.
“If they take away the market many people will suffer and find nothing to eat,” says Ms Mustapha, an opponent of the plan.
“They won’t find an adequate area to relocate it. Everything is here.”
She is not alone in her fears, but others are doubtful that a government plagued with ineffectuality will ever put the plan into action.
Ahmed al Abyad, an antiques dealer who has been at the market for more than 40 years, will believe it when he sees it.
“If anyone knows about this market, its Uncle Kamel, he’s been here for ever. He says he’s 90, but he’s a liar – we all think he’s well over a hundred,” says Mr Abyad.
A bit of guidance is appreciated in the hectic sprawl that is the Friday Market. Stretching for miles throughout the labyrinthine paths of City of the Dead, the stalls of Souq al Gomma are a mixture of colourful textiles, Chinese goods and a lot of smells — some exotic and some unpleasant.

“The old souq was the start of trade around here,” says Mr Kamal, who turns out to be a sprightly 76. “[Now] it’s got everything: furniture, clothes, watches, rings, everything you want is here. Downtown shops are going bankrupt because of Souq al Gomma.
”The market is nestled in a dusty patch beneath a flyover in the southern cemeteries of City of the Dead just beyond the Citadel, erected by Salah al Din and now a popular tourist attraction. At the foot of the Moqattam hills, the five square miles of mausoleums are almost as old as the city itself, and have never been as quiet or as macabre as the name suggests. Tombkeepers, watchmen and their families were the first residents, but as Cairo continued to draw in migrants, many of the country’s rural and urban poor moved in among the tombs.
It’s a fitting location for the Souq al Gomma; “gomma” means both “Friday” and “gathering.” And Souq al Gomma is the unintentional collaboration of many different communities - the tomb-dwellers and the Zabaleen – Cairo’s rubbish collectors, who pick up most of the city’s trash by hand and provide almost all of its waste disposal. Zabaleen, a community of Coptic Christians, roam the streets of Cairo removing rubbish door-to-door for a meagre fee. Much of what they gather is recycled, sold or fed to their livestock. But some of it finds its way into the Souq al Gomma.
As one seller empties bag after bag on to the ground he says he purchases many of his items from the Zabaleen. He meticulously arranges individual piles of rotary phone parts, empty hairspray bottles, sandals and broken nintendo controllers for display. It’s hard to imagine anyone is interested in a collection of used batteries, but as he nods at a potential customer rummaging through a pile of doorknobs the seller says there is enough profit from selling “used parts” on Friday mornings to support his wife and two children.
Down the path from him is an area of tables offering old magazines, movie posters, postcards and family photos from the 1960s. The seller says he replenishes his stock somewhat haphazardly – buying it from men who scour the city street by street, shouting out from the pavement offers to buy family heirlooms from anyone willing to sell. There’s a decent profit to be made out of buyers interested in Sadat-era propaganda brochures and those with a perverse curiosity for the contents of unopened letters.
Not far from Moqattam is Zamalek, an upper-class and expatriate haven, where colonial villas dot the leafy green streets. Throughout the area signs are stapled to fences and trees saying call the phone number listed on it. If called, there’s a decent chance one of the men from the Souq al Gomma will answer.
The past few years in Egypt have not been easy. Wages have stagnated while inflation has risen and the market has been flooded with imports. For antiques dealers like Ms Mustapha and Mr Abyad it means that fewer people are interested in buying antiques and that cheap goods are attracting a different kind of clientele.

“Before, the customers were rich. They used to come out here looking for brands. Now the customers don’t have that much money,” says Mr Abyad.
“Let me tell you something: would you compare a customer who is coming to buy a piece of fabric or a pair of pants with one who is looking for an antique? There’s one who buys an antique book and one who buys anything, something simple. There’s a huge difference between the two.”
Still, it isn’t easy to tell the real from the replica. When looking at plates engraved with image of Saad Zaghoul, the leader of the Wafd party its hard to imagine anyone would want to make fake artefacts commemorating a politician who was prime minister for a mere 10 months in 1924. But buyer beware. Anything is possible at Souq al Gomma.

A lone set of German tourists in safari shorts withcameras hanging from their necks wander into Mr Kamel’s stall to admire a well-preserved gramaphone. Mr Kamel deftly offers an opening bid: 400 egyptian pounds (266 Dh).
Immediately the tourists scoff. Feeling an affinity for Uncle Kamel and thinking they may not have grasped the exchange rate properly, I venture a hopeful “That’s a pretty good deal.” Glaring at me, they shoot back with, “Yeah, if it was the real thing,” before moving on.
If you’re only coming to Souq al Gomma in the hope of stumbling on a Tiffany lamp, you miss out on the real find - the open and hospitable people and insight into a way of life that if the government has its way, will be a ‘now, for a limited time only’ deal.