Traveling to Egypt: Garbage City – Day 3.5 (2021-01-23)

Garbage city is truly remarkable. It covers 5.54 square kilometers, was home to 262,050 people in the 2006 census (up 100,000 people 10 years prior). It has the highest population of Zabbaleen (garbage collectors) whose livelihood is based around collecting the resident’s garbage on trucks and donkey carts, hauling it back to their home, sorting it based on what is useful and then selling it back to middlemen or feeding the organic scraps to pigs and goats that live alongside them. As we passed by, we could look in on large rooms with people sitting on concrete slabs sorting through garbage. Everywhere you turn – in the buildings, on the streets, even on the rooftops, there are bags of garbage and the people here going through the bags and sorting it out.

To make matters worse there is limited availability of sewer, electricity, and water. It is hard to fathom. As we walked through we were greeted and followed by the kids who wanted to know our name and then smile and greet us. Remarkably, unlike in the bazaar yesterday, they weren’t begging us to buy anything. They were just friendly and excited when we greeted them back. After about 1-1.5 hours zig-zagging our way through Manshiyat Naser we ended up against the hillside where the road merchants disappeared as did the garbage associated with the commerce there. We walked through a gate and suddenly found ourselves in a quite clean area of sanctuary from the hustle and bustle that preceded. We continued our walk and ended up at St Simon (the Tanner) Monastery. It was surreal to walk into such tranquility after the “slum” area. Here there were numerous Christian rock carvings and two churches hidden in the overhanging rock. The acoustics were incredible and there was certainly a calm. I would love to attend a service. There is also significant school and accompanying children’s programming here as evidenced by the zip line and a small turf soccer field with a youth practice in session. I was impressed with what it offered and fascinated to know more – both about the church and the favela type living around it. I would love to spend time here and see how I could serve.

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