Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yesterday was about experiencing opposites apparently, first through visiting two distinct areas of the city, and second, by attending a game between the two biggest football clubs in Egypt.

In the morning, I took a cab to an area in southeast Cairo, which is located directly adjacent to the Muqattam Hills. These hills are large sandstone formations which have been quarried for centuries (apparently, stones for some of the pyramids were quarried here). I came to visit one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city and also its most unique. The area is known in Cairo as Al-Medinat Al-Zabaleen, or the city of garbage collectors, or more succinctly Garbage City.

The inhabitants (a largely Christian community called the Zabaleen) of this area play a special role in Cairo by collecting a large percentage of the cities waste, sorting it, recycling and selling what they can, and (previously) disposing of the organic matter by feeding it to pigs, which they then slaughter and eat themselves. (Muslims arent supposed to eat pork, so the same cycle wouldnt work if this community wasnt composed of Christians.)

Anyways, all this happens within the streets, roofs, shops and empty lots of the neighborhood. The neighborhood had performed this role for years until it was outsourced to various waste management corporations in the early 2000's. But these corporations soon outsourced their waste removal right back to the Zabaleen, but for less money than before.

I am not sure about the future of garbage collecting for this community, however, as all of their pigs were ordered to be slaughtered by the Egyptian government during swine-flu fears. Despite the fact that the pigs werent passing the virus. Garbage really started to pile up then, according to articles I read about the area prior to visiting. Im not sure how it compares to what I saw yesterday. Were the piles of trash I saw larger than normal? Or just right?

I didnt see any pigs though, so who knows how the cycle has changed. Except for the piles of trash being sorted, the community looks exactly like most of the rest of outer Cairo: concrete frames with red brick infill, with the desert slowly taking over the streets.

After visiting Muqattam, I visited a new suburban city outside of Cairo, called New Cairo. This is a very wealthy area on the outskirts of the city, and where all of the foreign universities are moving their campuses. Surprisingly, it was like downtown Cairo but with 6 lane highways instead of single lane streets. Filled with cars and people walking precariously between them. Traffic jams and blaring horns.

Anyways, Ill fill in more tomorrow and discuss a bit about the football game then as well.

1 comment:

  1. very interesting. You are very lucky to be experiencing all this.. keep up the good stuff