There are plenty of contenders for the worst town in England. But none would quite match up if it came to a global battle, the UK is pretty chilled, relatively.
Mokattam in Egypt however, looks like one of the maddest places to live on earth. Although not technically a town in its own right (it’s a suburb of Cairo) it would defo be in the top 10 of the world’s crappest places to live, the weirdest places to live and, strangely, one of the greenest places to live (although not in regards to colour).
The Zabaleen, meaning “garbage people“, pick up around 4,000 tonnes of rubbish per day in central Cairo, and take it back home to Mokattam. Around 85% of this junk is then recycled and reused, which is a higher percentage than anywhere else on earth. In the West, only 20-25% is recycled or reused.
The men who do this work are not wealthy people, of course; the work is hard and the days are long. The men collect it and bring it home, the women sort it and repurpose it.
Organic stuff is used to feed their pigs, and whatever is recyclable is recycled. The Zabaleen of Mokattam are doing sterling work, but they aren’t appreciated by the Egyptian top brass. Around 90% of Mokattam’s residents are Christian, and, in the Islamic country of Egypt, that just won’t fly. This community of 25,000 could be facing imminent removal, or worse.
Images All VIA
The Egyptian government, in 2003, awarded massive rubbish collection contracts to three big businesses. The knock-on effect is that this poor community are having a pretty hard time surviving. Their main source of income is gone, or dwindling. As another kick in the balls, in 2009, the Egyptian Agricultural Ministry ordered the culling of all pigs because of fears of H1N1 Influenza (swine flu).
Observers noted that as soon as the pig cull had been carried out, the amount of rotting organic matter on the streets of Cairo increased dramatically. Although the Zabaleen have been working hard for the city of Cairo since the early 1900s, this might soon be coming to an end. Cairo are planning on removing them to another patch of ground 50 odd miles further from the centre of Cairo, making their daily work virtually impossible.
It’s already a tough life for these hardcore guys and gals, and it’s set to get worse. Photographer Peter Dench visited a few years back and took some photos giving a fascinating glimpse into this heavy life of theirs. Check them out: