The line started forming before dawn, as soon as the day’s first call to prayer had faded from the trash-strewn streets of the Egyptian capital’s Zelzal neighborhood. Men began pounding on the green metal shutters of the district’s sole bakery.
“Aish! Aish!” – Bread! Bread! – the stubble-faced men yelled, shouting through the grillwork at bakers laboring over a dented, gas-fired oven. Cursing and pushing, the men thrust crumpled currency through the spaces in the grille.
“Have mercy! Have mercy on us!” a woman in a dusty black head scarf and abaya yelled.
Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world’s most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak has ordered Egypt’s army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 – some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line. – fip