In the Egyptian Arab Zabaleen means “Garbage People”. It is actually used to refer to people informal garbage collectors around Cairo. Zabaleen are a strong and closed Community mainly composed of Christians from Upper Egypt who had migrated to Cairo looking for job. They are settled in an area just outside Cairo City where they are counted in about 70/80 thousand people that every day collect garbage from the city to bring it in what is now called The Garbage City. Zabaleen collect garbage door to door recycling more than 80% of the waste they collect. Most of them use donkey pulled carts or truck to transport the garbage to Mokatam Hill, (the main place where Zabaleen are now located). Here Zabaleen separe the several materials from organic to plastic, from iron to paper and they stock in their own stores/houses, to sell them to the recycling market. usually the roles are distributed based on gender: men collect the garbage at its source and work in the recycling phase, women and children separate the waste manually, without any protection. After the waste sorting, they sell it to the recycling companies. Paper is payed on the market, 70 £ per Kilo, Glass 10 £ per Kilo, Plastic 1,5 £ per Kilo, Alluminium 15 £ per Kilo. This allow to a Zabaleen family to gain about 3000 £ per month, about 150 €. Zabaleen’s life condition is extremely poor, they live among the garbage, some of them raise pigs that are feed by the organic waste. The Zabbaleen community is under threat due to the Government decision in 2013 to award annual contract to three multinational garbage companies. This caused protests between the Zabbaleen and the authorities. Zabbaleen are not payed from the Municipality for the great work they do to maintein the city clear. From San Simon Monastery is clear seen the extension of the neighborhood, where El Sid, a Dutch artist, painted some graffitis, visible on the houses, representing the sun colors to remind that over the garbage there is the beauty of life.
Click on the photo to enlarge and scroll the slider. All picutres © Antonino Condorelli 2020