Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Manshiyat Nasr: Garbage City

Manshiyat Nasr, or Garbage City, is a slum in the outskirts of Cairo home to a community of mostly Copts whose economic livelihood revolves around the collection and recycling of Cairo’s garbage.  The zabbaleen, or garbage collectors, sort through the city’s trash for items that can be reused, resold, or recycled.  Despite the collection’s informal nature, the community created one of the most effective trash disposal systems in the world, with around 80 percent of what they collect reused or recycled.  In contrast, most Western garbage collecting companies recycle 20 to 25 percent of the refuse.

Oftentimes families or individuals “specialize” in a certain type of trash—this was evident by the guy surrounded by piles of plastic bottles or the truck full of cardboard.

My strongest impression of the area was how genuinely nice people were. Usually when I walk around Cairo and someone talks to me, it’s a. a guy being a creeper; or b. I’m downtown and someone is trying to sell me something.  Here people ran up to Amy and I, introduced themselves, asked us how they were, and all the kids wanted to get their photos taken.  They genuinely just wanted to talk to these strange foreigners walking around their neighborhood.

The area is also home to St. Simon the Tanner’s Church, built into a cave overlooking Cairo.  It is the largest church in the Middle East with seating for around 20,000 and one of seven built into the Mo’attam Mountain. 

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