Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Bas Princen, Mokattam Ridge (Garbage City)
Regine Debatty, 27 Nov 09

Last Thursday i went to see Open City: Designing Coexistence, the main exhibition of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) at the Netherlands Architecture Institute. It's one of the most exciting and satisfying exhibition i've seen this year. Proper report will follow in an hopefully not too distant future. Until then here's one of the striking images by photographer Bas Princen i discovered in the exhibition:


Bas Princen, Mokattam Ridge (Garbage city), Cairo 2009

I first thought tPrincen's photograph was fake. How could this be real?

Looking online for the location of the photo, Mokattam, i discovered that the image is authentic. It's a hilly suburb of Cairo called Garbage City. The Zabbaleen, a community of mainly Coptic Christians, live there. Since the '50s, they have been making a living by collecting, sorting and disposing of Cairo's waste.

The Zabbaleen generally perform this service very cheaply. Waste food is fed to livestock, mainly pigs; what cannot be repaired or reused -steel, glass, textile and plastic bottles- is sorted by hand and sold as raw materials; some material is burnt as fuel. It is claimed that Zabbaleen reuse or recycle 80-90% of the waste they collect (a figure that the most modern waste management systems can only dream of), however this must be put into context of the fact that the Zabbaleen concentrate on wealthier areas.

In 2003, waste management was privatized. Foreign multinational companies won rights to collect garbage in Cairo, cutting the Zebbaleen out of the trash business. Ironically, due to a government financial restrictions, the firms ended up outsourcing to the Zebbaleen. But for much less than they had made before.

Earlier this year, the Egyptian government responded to the threat of swine flu with a massive program to get rid of the pigs living in Garbage City. This appears to have been a bad idea. Still, this doesn't prevent the slum to be a popular touristic destination.

More images of Garbage City: Light Stalkers and Market place.

This piece originally appeared on We Make Money Not Art.

Bookmark and Share


This is absolutely amazing! Great article. Great picture.

"I am here to serve."

The Window Man

Posted by: The Window Man on 28 Nov 09

Post A Comment

Please note that comments will remain open for only 14 days after the article is posted. While previous comments will remain visible, attempts to post new comments after this period will fail. This helps stop comment spam, so your forebearance is appreciated.

The Worldchanging comments are meant to be used for further exploration and evaluation of the ideas covered in our posts. Please note that, while constructive disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting. We will also delete at will and without warning comments we believe are designed to disrupt a conversation rather than contribute to it. In short, we'll kill troll posts.

Finally, please note that comments which simply repost copyrighted works or commercial messages will be summarily deleted.

Yes No







MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg