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The Eggs

by Monika Anselment and Ali Habib

Hamid has invited three colleagues from the university to tea. They sit together and again discuss the economic embargo, for even relatively well-paid university professors no longer earn nearly enough money to survive. Many colleagues have already left Iraq. Others have been waiting for months in Amman for a visa. Leaving the country is no longer an option for Hamid and his three colleagues. Because so many courses have had to be cancelled of late, university instructors are no longer permitted to emigrate. If not for the money they saved during the prosperous years, none of them would be able to support their families today. Due to inflation, these savings are literally melting away. A heated discussion ensues. Mahmoud, a professor of economics, suggests they invest their last savings. If the return is good, he argues, they might not lose any money in real terms. Hamid proposes his idea about the eggs. They discuss the pros and cons and agree to try their hand in the egg trade. Through one of Hamid's childhood friends, they can buy eggs at a good price in a Baghdad suburb, a carton of thirty eggs for 600 dinars. A brother of Mahmoud will sell the eggs at his grocery store. The four go by the store every day and check the price of eggs. As they expected, the price rises. On the eighth day, when a carton of thirty eggs cost 1200 dinars, there is news that the Iraqi government is about to finalise negotiations with United Nations representatives about the sale of a small amount of petroleum. The price of eggs falls instantly – a carton now costs 700 dinars. The colleagues telephone hurriedly with each other and agree to meet at the grocery store of Mahmoud's brother. Hamid wants to sell the eggs immediately, so as to lose as little money as possible. Mahmoud is convinced it is all a rumour. "I am sure that they will deny the news tomorrow. Eggs do not go bad that quickly."

They decide to wait it out. The next evening, they meet again in the grocery store. The price of eggs has now dropped to 500 dinars. They sit together with long faces. Hamid drops his head and whispers almost inaudibly, "We'll lose all our money."

Mahmoud puts an arm around Hamid's shoulder and tries to cheer him up.

"If these damn negotiations fail, then the price of eggs will rise again."

After a brief pause, "Hopefully the embargo won't be lifted!"

Translated by Tom Lampert