Bawab in Khan El Khalili market

Who is bawab?

This is something to know, in case you are coming to Egypt for a long term stay. Everybody seems to talk about this guy "BAWAB" and you have no idea, why they all know him, but you. Never did I know, he would play a role in my life too.

Who Is bawab?

Bawab is a man, who takes care of an apartment building or a villa, in return for a place to stay for him and his family and a salary. Almost every bigger building outside of a compound, employs bawab. You can probably find him in an apartment on the ground floor, basement, or at the back of the building. He is around 24/7 and most of the time sitting in front of the building, ready to help. Villa owners, inside or outside of the compound might have one as well, but it's less common. 

Some of his most common tasks are:

  • handwashes the resident's cars
  • takes luggage up and down to car/taxi
  • carries up the grocerries
  • opens the front door, if you can't find a key
  • collects a package, if you are not available when courier comes
  • goes to a grocery store, when you realize you are out of something, while in the middle of cooking the dinner (this one is my favorite one)
  • washes the stairs and elevator area
  • changes the light bulbs in common areas and call the company in case there is a problem with elevator, water, electricity, gas
  • waters the garden
  • supervises people who enter the building, in case the front door is not locked
  • accompanies delivery men or money collectors, while they are inside the building 

Some interesting facts you might want to know about bawab:

  • compounds usually don't employ bawab
  • his wife is called Bawaba :) which also means "a gate"
  • some people address them as Aam (then his name) and his wife as Om (following with her first born son's name, so for example Om Ahmed/ Ahmed's mom)
  • He collects his salary from every apartment on monthly bases
  • Everybody in the building has his cell phone number
  • You can call him on his mobile, via building intercom, if he is standing at the street, he will hear you, or "old school" way- from the balcony
  • He knows everybody and everything. Be careful, cause this can be very useful, if you want to find out who are those new people, who have just moved in. BUT at the same time, you don't want him to see you coming home at inappropriate time, outfit or, God forbid, suspicious companion. It could turn against you big time in Middleastern culture.


That's all I know about bawabs so far. Please send me a message, if I forgot anything important. TTYL

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Made with love by Mika Elgendi. Please ask for permissin to copy my photos. Thank you