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Moqattam, or Garbage city is an entire settlement populated entirely by the Zabbaleen, who are garbage collectors that gather and sort waste from… Read More
Moqattam, or Garbage city is an entire settlement populated entirely by the Zabbaleen, who are garbage collectors that gather and sort waste from Cairo. Egypt has been commended for its extremely efficient and comprehensive recycling because of the work that is done by Zabbaleen men, women and children. Photos taken in April 2011, just after the revolution and removal of Hosni Mubarak. Read Less
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 Zabbaleen 
A population of around 65,000 Egyptians who collect 
and sort garbage for a living. (Egyptian Arabic)
زبالين
Moqattam, or Garbage city is an entire settlement in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt that is populated entirely by the zabbaleen and their families. Zabbaleens are garbage collectors, who gather the waste from Cairo and haul it to their city in large bales stacked high on the backs of small trucks.  Zabbaleen families work together to hand sort, disassemble and distribute waste- primarily paper, glass or metal, and even the tiniest of children are taught how to contribute their skills.   

Like much of Cairo, the narrow dusty roads of the city are lined with hookah bars, small shops selling goods and foods and homes. The city is built from hastily erected modest brick buildings, that seem to be constantly growing vertically, and seeming ready to topple over at any moment. Except these shops and homes are filled with garbage, and herds of pigs and goats roam the streets and are even kept on rooftops, fed on scavenged food trash. Because it is a slum, the government has turned a blind eye to the fact that there is very little infrastructure to provide running water, electricity and sewage to the locals.

Egypt has been commended for its extremely efficient and comprehensive recycling because of the work that is done by zabbaleen men, women and children. Even though they are extremely poor, the work they are doing has caught the attention of UNICEF and environmentalists across the world, and several NGOs and schools have emerged that aim to educate and help the Zabbaleen have a better life, while also learning how the rest of the world can adopt some of the practices the Zabbaleen have developed.
If you are interested in learning more about the lives of the Zabbaleen and their future, then check out Mai Iskander's incredible documentary Garbage Dreams.