I apologize for the long periods between blogs but it doesn’t seem like we are having much down time. At the end of my last blog Cynthia was off to ‘the Khan’ and I suggested that I was a little nervous about her use of that magical little plastic card that pays for just about anything, including fabric. Well, I didn’t have to worry because a spot in the car became available and I was able to go along to moderate her obsessive fabric behavior. Actually, although there were kiosks everywhere none of the fabric suited her quilting needs.
Since that last blog we have spent four days in El Gouna where I was doing some work at the International School and are now in our third and final day in Alexandria. I am writing this blog from our room on the sixth floor of the Sheraton that looks out on the aqua marine Mediterranean. That is another story!
One of the responses to my question about which Cairo experience to blog about pertained to Garbage City which is the common name for Manshiyat Nasser, an area of Cairo. The 60,000 people who have lived in Garbage City for many years are mostly Coptic Christians who are known as Zabbaleen, which I am told means ‘garbage people’. Although Metropolitan Cairo has population of 20 million people an efficient ‘modern day’ garbage collection system such as we might find in North America hasn’t been established. The Zabbaleen therefore pick up garbage from area around the city and transport it to Garbage City by donkey carts and trucks.
When I walk early in the morning I see, what is often a mother and a couple of kids, making their way around Maadi in these donkey carts. I don’t like to stare for too long but I have noticed that they are selective in what they pick up. As the busy morning traffic begins the carts are less noticeable and are replaced by trucks that are driven and ‘staffed’ by men. These collectors pile the trucks ridiculously high with cardboard, scrap wood and other things so that each long trip to the Garbage City counts.
When driving through Garbage City one discovers a way of life that we can’t even imagine. There is trash inside of buildings, on top of buildings, in alleyways and in streets with men, women and children systematically sorting through it. Once sorted, Zabbaleen follow their ‘recycling program’ by reusing or reselling whatever they are able. Food scraps and ‘edibles’ are fed to the cattle, sheep and goats that are raised for food in a sort of an ‘urban farm’.
Obviously Garbage City wouldn’t be high on the list of tourist places to visit in Egypt. I think however, it is a ‘must experience’. We, in North America are ‘over consumers’ who produce enormous amounts of waste that is not only put into local landfills but ends up in sites all over the world including our oceans. Once we put our garbage and recycling bins out at the end of our driveways once a week we think that we have done our part and the rest is up to whoever takes it away.
I am only including a few of pictures with this blog because I didn’t want to poke my Nikon out the car window to document this as a tourist attraction. Both Cynthia and I felt uncomfortable in Garbage City, not because we were at risk in any way but because it made us ‘think’ …
Oh, did I mention that I read that almost 90% of their garbage is recycled? I wonder what the rate is at home?