Garbage In Egypt: One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure

If you’ve ever been to Egypt, then you must have noticed two things: the deafening roar that fills up the atmosphere everywhere you go, and the trash that lies like crippled men on no man’s land post war in low class communities. Unfortunately, garbage is inevitable and has made news in Egypt numerous times. It creates obstacles for pedestrians, drivers, and is very unpleasant to the human eye. But like everything in life, there are always two sides to a story, to an argument, to a theory. Garbage cannot be completely classified as harmful or as a problem. On the contrary, the same garbage that you and I trash, others who are less fortunate, see it as an infinite garage sale waiting to be scavenged and picked through for gold treasure.

Garbage In Egypt

A pile of garbage or a pile of shoes for sale?

As a photographer, I learned to see garbage as riches at a flea market waiting to be found, as abandoned children waiting for shelter. Once my head had learned how to create a flow of harmony with everything, my world was never going to be the same again. I started noting all the color arrangements they were grouped into, the different patterns of items that were trashed together, the object’s age, and pictured its story of how it got there when it was once beautiful. If there’s anything Egyptians are famous for, its for their persistence and talent in giving objects a second life. It is in their nature to generate ideas and get their hands dirty. They may not be aware of their talent, but poverty and hunger have taught them how to salvage and save something that was headed for doom and turn it into jewels.

The Garbage City in Egypt is home to a minority of Coptic Christians who are widely known as Zabaleen. These people go through the city’s garbage collecting, sorting, selling, recycling, and dumping what’s left and completely of no use-all for a living. They are a beautiful example of how talented Egyptians recycle garbage for their own benefit creating what is rarely known as unintentional design.

About Ayah Moustafa

I'm Ayah, a media designer/blogger at Tour Egypt with a deep passion for design (graphic & motion), photography, and creative writing. I pixelate the world around me with no artificial ingredients added-its beautiful just the way it is. I am Egyptian in blood, but born and bred in the Bay Area. I love peanut butter chocolate, Quentin Tarantino & Martin Scorsese movies, and I especially love the NBA (mad Lakers fan).