Cairo's Garbage City

Cairo has many, many delightful little locations that might not be seen by a "normal" tourist. But everyone knows BYU Arabic students are anything but "normal tourists." :)

This being said, one of the places in Cairo near the top of all of our lists was "Garbage City," also called Manshiyat naser. I might not get the history all right, but it is a small city started by the Coptic Christians. They collect and sort much of Cairo's garbage, and they do it in their homes and in their streets, thus giving themselves the name of "garbage city."

So of course two of my friends and I had to go. We took a taxi in and were almost attacked by children when we drove in. (Note to self: next time just walk in to the city...) They all wanted to touch the hands of these strange foreigners and get their picture taken.

We then had the good pleasure to run across a very nice "guide," who when he saw us step out of the taxi immediately ran over and offered to give us a tour of the city. Fearing a scam and figuring he would ask us for money at the end of the tour, we refused many times. But he, offended that we thought he was trying to hit us up for money (everyone else in Egypt was!) told us, "I'm a Christian! You are Christian! Christians do not take money from Christians!"

And then he gave us a tour of the "cave churches" in the city, which were built long ago into the caves. They were pretty awesome, and even though we didn't understand half of what the guide said, it was great practice for our Arabic.

This is a picture of our "guide."

And here is a carving on the rock just outside one of their churches.

Well, when he was done with the "tour" a little girl in the city attached herself to my side and became our tour guide for the rest of the time. She showed us where the bathroom was (which was quite clean; I was impressed) and kept all the other little kids from mauling us.

All in all, it was an awesome visit to garbage city. I was, however, quite shocked when I saw their daily life going on inside and around all this garbage!

Our guide told us, though, that the Coptics live here and get the garbage from the city, sort it, and then take it back to be recycled. If I understood his Arabic right, he said that most of the people in the city had received sort of a "calling" to come to Manshiyat naser. He himself had come maybe 6 years ago from another part of Egypt, and they all came to help Cairo's trash situation. This explanation made me feel a little bit better about the way these people live...that they choose to live this way and are not forced into this lifestyle by utter poverty (which is what I thought the case was).

Here are just a few pictures walking through town:

This is a truck taking out the sorted cardboard.

Maybe the ducks help sort the garbage, too. (I read online that the city used to have pigs who ate the non-recycleable stuff, but I didn't see any while I was there.)

This is a street, with sorted garbage lining both sides.

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