Cairo: Hundreds of Egyptians Tuesday paid farewell to Dr Mohammed Al Mashali, nicknamed the “doctor of the poor” who had died earlier in the day in a Nile Delta province aged 76.
For 45 years, Al Mashali ran a clinic in the province of Gharbia, around 60 kilometres from Cairo, where he charged patients for 10 Egyptian pounds (Dh2.3) and treated the poor for free. He was a specialist in internal diseases and fevers.
His fame went far beyond Gharbia, making him a national icon in recent years.
His death was attributed to a sharp drop in blood circulation. Hundreds of people in his hometown in Beheira, another Delta province, attended his funeral later Tuesday.
His death triggered an outpouring of tributes inside and outside Egypt. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, eulogised him, calling him a “different hope maker”.
“He spent 50 years of his life for treating the poor. He is a model for doctors and an example for the great ones. May God have mercy upon him,” Sheikh Mohammed said in a tweet.
Born in 1944, Al Mashali, a son of a teacher, attended the medical school in Cairo. He credited late Egyptian president Jamal Abdul Nasser for becoming a medical doctor.
“President Abdul Nasser changed my whole life when he ordered free education [at the university level],” Dr Al Mashali said in a television interview. “I grew up in a modest family. When I got the general secondary school certificate, my father found out that fees at the medical school were too high. By Allah’s will, on that evening President Abdul Nasser decreed free education. Without this decree, I would not have been able to get my studies.”
During his career, Dr Al Mashali acted on his father’s advice to him to take care of the poor. Dr Al Mashali used to work for 12 hours, mostly taking care of the poor. “Medicine is a humanitarian mission, not a job to amass money,” he once said.
Dr Al Mashali’s death was widely mourned online. A hashtag reading in Arabic the “doctor of the poor” has become trending with his photos and portraits at its centre.