If you had lived in Azmi street in the late seventies – early eighties, you can’t possibly not know Abou Arteen. He was one of the most respectful figures in the neighborhood who knew everyone living there with their relatives as well, everyone liked him.
The one legged butcher whose shop was the center of the street was one of the most important figures of my childhood. I saw him everyday, even if Tayta didn’t send me to buy something from him I would pass by with my sisters just to say hello. He loved kids though he didn’t have any & it always surprised me how he could look sweet and tough at the same time. It was said that he had lost his leg during a fight in the slaughterhouse so he went to Germany for a surgery and this is where he got the name Abou Arteen from.
I remember sitting on a high stool waiting for him to get my order. Inside the shop, he limped but he used a cane when he went outside. I used to think he was captain John Silver in disguise. I loved him so much that I wanted to be a butcher! To improve my skills, I’d gather all the play dough I have and shape it into a giant ball, then I’d get my plastic ruler and chop! Minced beef, steak, sausages, I’d sell them for a bunch of crisps to my sisters. I remember delivering dishes to him sometimes and some others a jar of olives or any home made sweet. He had no family except for a sister who lived far away.
Just before Tayta had moved from the Azmi house, he made a major change in his shop. He turned it into a coffee shop. It was a bit surprising but nevertheless made sense. He was too old to carry the heavy piles of meat so he replaced them with espresso machines and customers were lining to get in his shop, he already had a good reputation. I was always pleased with the fact that he was able to recognize me whenever I passed by no matter how long it’s been since I last saw him.
He passed away a few days ago and the news really stroke me… Ahmad Tamer, you will always be alive in my heart, my captain John Silver… RIP Abou Arteen…