This isn't garbage city. This is a mosque that Thomas and his friend Alexander built out of blocks.
This isn't garbage city either. This is the British School's "Festive Production" from last December. It was the Wizard of Oz. The Pre-K kids were the flying monkeys, Thomas' class were the munchkins, and the year above were narrators and speaking parts. It was excellent. Especially the munchkins.
(Thomas is on the very far right of the picture, standing up on his knees, with a cone hat, red tights, and his hands in the air. One thing I've noticed about the British is that they seem to be much more accepting of little boys wearing tights and nothing else than I think an American school would be. This probably explains a great deal of the differences between grown-up Brits and Americans.)
This also is not Garbage City, although it's close. These are the cave churches above garbage city. The Zabaleen, who live in garbage city, are Christians. But it's very hard to get a permit to build a church in Egypt. So the Christians had been holding services in caves in the hills above the city. Eventually they just blasted these huge caverns, and have these enormous, elaborate churches at the end of tunnels. This all happened in the 1990s, not ancient history. It feels very weird to all this christian iconography gaudily displayed above Cairo. I'm really not sure how they get away with it.
Ten Commandments, in Arabic:
OK, this is Garbage City. The Zabaleen go all over Cairo and collect household garbage. They bring it back to this neighborhood and sort it. Then each separate clan/family is responsible for one type of garbage-- one for plastic, one for cardboard, one for fabric etc. There are workshops everywhere where the garbage is being sorted, taken apart and put back together to make various new things that the family sells to someone.
I'd heard garbage city was smelly and gross, but it wasn't really. Maybe it's worse in the hot months. To be honest, it made me feel better about throwing away my garbage.
We came to a small workshop filled from floor to ceiling with plastic bottles, many of the kind of milk we buy. It was amazing-- we all kind of startled in recognition, as if we were coming face to face with our own bags of garbage all the way across town.
In between the workshops there are cafes, and even schools, and apartment buildings. We even came to one corner cafe that smelled deliciously of garlic.
On the rooftops some families keep cows and goats.
There's a company that runs walking tours through the area, and we went with them. They are called Solar Cities and they evidently have some small-scale solar projects going on in this area.
We were with Greer and Joanna and John, who'd come back to Cairo to see us for a few days and say goodbye to the city.
This was their last day in Cairo, ever, at least as Egyptian residents. I loved that they spent it going to garbage city.
Moving on, some people have been curious to know more about the nature of Golden Book awards. Here is a picture of such an award below.
It is a trophy in paper form. I have no idea what specifically Thomas did to earn it. I think pretty much improve dramatically in all areas from the beginning of the year until now.
And below is a photo of my finger, because I'm an idiot, and also of a rally at AUC last week in honor of one of the students who was one of the 70+ people killed at a soccer game last week. The police evidently did nothing to stop the mayhem, or to keep the place secure ahead of time. The students are calling for a nation-wide strike next week. At this rally, they showed a film of this young man's life interspersed with damning footage of the ruling military council. All around other young men marched holding plain black flags. It was stirring, in a dark kind of way.
One of my students asked me if I planned to hold class or not next week because of the strike. I asked her for how long it was planned. She said, Indefinitely, until the SCAF meets their demands to transition to civilian rule. In that case, I told her, I would not be canceling class.