THE EGYPTIAN ZABBALEEN, JOBS LOST AND GAINED … and therein lies a Wednesday Writing Prompt for you

THE POET BY DAY

A Group of Boys at Moqattam Village A Group of Boys at Moqattam Village

It is – unfortunately – not news that in some places (including First World countries) children and adults dig through trash cans or garbage dumps looking for something to eat or for cast-off goods that might be used or sold. There is no story, however, that quite compares to that of the Egyptian Zabbaleen or “garbage people” for sheer industry and inventiveness. From the 1940s these people ran 120 micro-enterprises that collected and recycled Cairo’s garbage. This was the Zabbaleen’s creative solution to the need for jobs and income when farming ceased to be a viable for them.

There was as you might imagine a downside: social stigma, subsistence and disease. Garbage collecting did, however, offer something of a living to an estimated 60,000 – 70,000 people and what these people did was quite remarkable. In fact, it was unique in all the world. They recycled 80-85% of the garbage…

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