Manshiyat Naser is a home to 262,050 people. It borders Nasr City to the east, central Cairo districts to the west, and Khalifa ward to the south. It is famous for the Garbage City quarter which is a slum settlement at the base of Mokattam hills on the outskirts of Cairo. Its economy revolves around the collection and recycling of the city’s garbage. Although Manshiyat Naser has streets, shops, and apartments as other areas of the city, it lacks infrastructure and often has no running water, sewers, or electricity.
Cairo’s garbage is brought to the Garbage City in Manshiyat Naser by the Zabbaleen, which literally means “garbage people” in Arabic. In cultural contexts, the word refers to teenagers and adults who have served as Cairo’s informal garbage collectors since approximately the 1940s. They supported themselves by collecting trash door-to-door from the residents of Cairo for nearly no charge. Notably, the Zabbaleen recycle up to 80 percent of the waste that they collect, whereas most Western garbage collecting companies can only recycle 20 to 25 percent of the waste that they collect.
The Slums are spread out among seven different settlements scattered in the Greater Cairo Urban Region, the Zabbaleen population is between 50,000 and 70,000. The largest settlement is Mokattam village, nicknamed “Garbage City,” located at the foot of the Mokattam Hills, next to Manshiyat Naser. The Zabbaleen community in Mokattam Village has a population of around 20,000 to 30,000, over 90 percent of which are Coptic Christians.
To commemorate the struggles of this community which is otherwise perceived as dirty, marginalized and segregated, the talented Tunisian calligraffiti artist eL Seed, with his team and the help of the local community, created an anamorphic piece that covers almost 50 buildings, and only visible from a certain point of the Mokattam Hills. The piece of art uses the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Coptic Bishop from the 3rd century, that said: ‘Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.’
‘إن أراد أحد أن يبصر نور الشمس، فإن عليه أن يمسح عينيه’
photos by Hannah Porter