From Cairo’s narrow downtown streets and alleys to the affluent residential areas in the outer reaches of the city, nothing escapes the attention of the ever-vigilant doormen.
Sitting at the entrances of apartment blocks in Cairo and Alexandria – and often mindful of the chance to make a quick buck – the “bawabs” have been an integral part of the social fabric of Egypt’s big cities for decades.
This Al Jazeera World documentary celebrates the men, their history, their job and their influence.
Of course, the bawabs are often much more than doormen. They are the all-seeing eyes and ears of the buildings they live and work in, observers of residents’ “moral practices”, as well as plumbers, electricians, security guards and keepers of personal secrets.
But today’s doormen are disappearing. As a new wave of construction takes place in Cairo, Egyptian society is undergoing profound change. Many of today’s doormen have become security guards, with smart blue uniforms replacing traditional galabeyas in what many see as the sad loss of a unique social group from Egypt’s 20th century.