By Mazen Aziz
Egypt is one of the most modern countries in the Middle East and Africa. Cairo is the capital city of Egypt, which has some of the finest hospitals, shops, restaurants and all the trappings of modern life in the area. However, Egypt has a lot of hidden secrets that no one talk about either from officials or tourists because it’s never shown to them. Egypt and particularly Cairo got so many mega slum areas that are actually ranked in the top 10 most populated areas in the world. Manshiet Nasser or the “Rubbish City” is one of the top mega slum areas in Cairo with about 600,000 to 1 million people.
Cairo has a population of 16 to 20 million people living in it. A survey shows that 200 US dollars is the average income a month but found that 68% of those canvassed made less than 143 dollars. Moreover, the extremely poor make less than 20 dollar a month. In Manshiet Nasser, 50 dollars a month is the average and many wage rates much lower with gradations of poverty. Egyptians call Manshiet Nasser the Garbage City since the Coptic Christians who works as garbage men (the Zabbaleen) in Mokattam area collect the majority of garbage all over Cairo and bring it back beside their homes. The Zabbaleen children and mothers will then try to go through the garbage all day and find pieces they can resell. Those people consider lucky, as they are able to make some sort of subsistence living. However, by the years, with all that amount of garbage beside the houses got spread all over the area and became uncontrollable.
Ezbet Bekhit is another typical neighborhood in Manshiet Nasser. The average income is 50 dollars and the average gross floor space per person is 6.2 square meters. You will be lucky to have a cook stove or a bed, although few do. There is little light or electricity and even less drinkable water. Moreover, officials said the attitude to the slums is summed up by a response to some in a better area complaining about no drinking water. "Hussein Fadl, vice chairman of the municipal water department in Cairo’s Giza district, says such an expansion is planned, but delivery of the treated water will remain a problem. As a stopgap measure for Saft al-Laban, the neighborhood will be temporarily connected to adjacent districts by sets of new pipes by November." “You won’t hear them crying after that,” said Fadl. “These neighborhoods grew up by themselves, like cancer cells, and we are trying to keep up.”
Aribar we Noz, which means “4 ½” is a darker and more poverty-stricken area in Manshiet Nasser. Its called Aribar we Noz as a reference to its size of the inner slum of slums in Manshiet Nasser. Aribar we Noz is where the Sudanese ended up after escaping the Darfur genocide. The Egyptian government couldn’t stop them from coming in but they do stop any services reaching them but also putting them in a 4 ½ square kilometer space. Egyptian tour guide Carlos said, “The Zabaleen are very poor. Many here are in poverty but they are able to at least maintain their poverty with their jobs. The poorest of the poor are the Sudanese refugees. Most of them have nothing. Actually, I have a friend who works with them.”