On the outskirts of Cairo (Egypt), a city of more than 16 million people with no organized trash removal system lays the world’s largest garbage village, Manshiyat Naser, better known as The Garbage City. A slum settlement founded to store garbage in 1976 at the base of Mokattan hill.

The village is home to around 60.000 Zabaleen – Arabic for garbage people. At least 90 percent of them are Coptic Christians while Egypt is a Muslim-majority country. Its economy revolves around the collection and recycling of Cairo city’s garbage. It lacks infrastructures and often has no running water, sewers, or electricity.

The Zabaleen are born into the trash trade and grow up in a ghetto located on the outskirts of the city. Behind the mountains of rubbish one start to see the order, discipline, diligence and the strong sense of pride the Zabaleen have in their work. Families work together and earn a living; at dawn every morning, young Zabaleen members of the community start their daily journey to Cairo in horse-drawn carts and trucks in order to collect rubbish from the city’s apartments and businesses. By lunchtime all the rubbish collected has been brought back into the slum settlement where every member of the family; children, parents and grandparents set to sorting it.

The Zabaleen community recycles more than 80% of the trash they collect, a ratio much higher than the European average.

Manel Quiros

Manshiyat Naser, Cairo, Egypt, Apr. 2014.