Garbage City

Manshiyat Naser, also known as Garbage City, is a slum settlement at the base of Mokattam Hill on the outskirts of Cairo.

Its economy revolves around the collection and recycling of the city’s garbage. Although the area has streets, shops, and apartments as other areas of the city, it lacks infrastructure and often has no running water, sewage, or electricity.

Coptic Christians were originally the predominant inhabitants of Manshiyat naser, though in recent decades the area’s Muslim population has grown. The Christians are well known for herding swine within the city, which are fed edible pieces of garbage and marketed across Cairo to Coptic Christian establishments. However in the spring of 2009 the Egyptian government, in response to the worldwide threat of swine flu, embarked on a massive program to cull the herds of pigs in Manshiyat naser. The Cave Cathedral or St Sama’ans Church, used by the Coptic Christians in Garbage City, is the largest church in the Middle East, with seating for 15,000 people.

The city’s garbage is brought to Manshiyat naser by the Zabbaleen, or garbage collectors, who then sort through the garbage to attempt to retrieve any potentially useful or recyclable items. As a passerby walks or drives down the road he will see large rooms stacked with garbage with men, women or children crouching and sorting the garbage into unsellable or sellable. Families typically specialize in a particular type of garbage they sort and sell — one room of children sorting out plastic bottles, while the next of women separating cans from the rest. Anything that can be reused or recycled is saved by one of the numerous families in Manshiyat naser. Various recycled paper and glass products are made and sold from the city, while metal is sold by the kilo to be melted down and reused. Carts pulled by horse or donkey are often stacked 2.5 to 3m (8 to 10 feet) high with the recyclable goods.

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