A Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardener, Mohamed Abouzied, was cut off except for telephone contact, for 6 years but kept on with his job. A heartening story.
Location: Kantara, Egypt, Altitude: 7m, Rainfall: 25mm, Temperature: 9c – 38c
For six years CWGC gardener Mohamed Abouzied was cut-off from his colleagues. In that time he worked virtually alone. His only company at work were 2,000 war dead buried in the Egyptian desert.
Mohamed is the Commission’s resident gardener at Kantara War Memorial Cemetery. The site sits in the Sinai Peninsula, on the east bank of the Suez Canal. In 2013 a key crossing over the water was shut amid a rise in militant attacks.
Access for people coming in from elsewhere in Egypt was tough. For Mohamed, a citizen of the region, he was able to stay put in the live-in accommodation at our cemetery – a setup that’s not uncommon for remote war cemeteries.
Regular phone contact with his managers was still possible and once they were assured it was going to be safe for him to stay on, they agreed to his continued work.
And that’s exactly what Mohamed did. Quietly, and without ceremony, he continued his job. He did minor repair work, swept away wind-blown debris, re-leveled the sand and tended to the few plants that can survive the desert conditions.
He is one of many unsung heroes at the Commission. Within his care were the final resting places of war dead from more than 10 nations – allies and enemies from both World Wars. But none of them were forgotten.
While no one else could, he was there to remember and to tend.
Thankfully, things have since improved. In summer 2019, a new tunnel under the Suez Canal was opened, making access simple once more. Improved tools and supplies could be brought in and Mohamed received his first visitor in years: his manager, Baghdady Rashed.
And when Baghdady arrived, the site looked as if there had never been any problems at all.