CAIRO: All people know her in the area of Bein El Sarayat as well as in the neighboring districts. Even if you happen to visit her workshop only once, you are not likely to forget its owner.
She is one of few female tire menders in a profession dominated by men. The job fits the stereotype that keeps women at bay; it requires physical strength, the stamina to work in hot weather while dealing with all sorts of workers and drivers.
But the 30-year-old Usta Mona, who has been in the profession ever since she was 11, is proof that women are capable of vying with men in doing jobs as rough as mending and changing tires and coping with all difficulties that come up.
Usta Mona has earned the respect of her clients as well as the nearby shop-owners, who continue to admire her persistence.
Dressed in blue overalls and a cap, she is hard to miss as she carries the big black tires and hangs them on the wall of her workshop or changes tires with perseverance and dexterity.
She is all ears and eyes, monitoring what is going on around the place: the clients, their orders and even side conversations.
“I never meant to take up this job although I became fond of it as a young girl who accompanied her father everyday to his workplace, recalled Mona.
“I used to be there just to keep him company. But being there on a daily basis, I came to know how he worked. Gradually, Mona picked up the secrets of her fathers profession and started helping him with the workload.
But the turning point came when her father developed arthritis and couldn’t do the work properly. At the time, her father could not afford to keep the young men he hired to help around the workshop; he could only pay meager wages.
“He would have closed down hadn’t I made use of my knowledge of the profession and offered to take charge of our small workshop. We badly needed the revenue it had generated to raise my sisters.
“Being the older child and the more capable of helping my father, I saved no effort to take his place. By the grace of God some of my sisters have completed their education, got married and are now working.
Mona is always surrounded by her family, especially during the summer when her nephews and nieces are on vacation.
“I love my aunt very much, said her nephew Islam as he managed to track down a hole in a bicycle tire by dipping it in bowl of water.
“I enjoy being with her and I am slowly learning how to do things. There is no shame in acquiring a skill that might be of use one day even if you get your school or college degree, added Islam.
“I really love Mona, said her sister Om Islam. “But I also pity her. She’s done a lot for the family and never thought of herself. She has been caught in this career. It’s too late to ask her to change her lifestyle. She’s bound to this profession.
The neighboring shop-owners respect her for her challenging nature and integrity. They even trust her with their shops if they need to leave them unattended.
“What can we say? noted Sabri. “We understand that it is unusual for a woman to do this job but we all respect her for her initiative, he said.
One of her clients, who came to repair his bicycle tire, said, “Everyone is bound to remember Usta Mona, being the only female doing this job. Hers is the only tire workshop in the area. But apart from this, she offers a proper service at affordable prices. This is why everyone goes back to her.
Looking at the future, however, Mona doesn’t have great expectations.
“We’re poor people and I can’t see any future for this small business other than catering to the needs of vehicles and bikes passing by, he explained.
“I have no intention of quitting or getting married. So many proposed to me but I really can’t imagine any kind of life for myself other than this. Better live your life day to day and don’t think of tomorrow. Leave it to God, the Al Mighty.