The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Sights & Travel

Solar Cities: Cairo’s Green Project

Solar Cities: Cairo’s Green Project
    written by
    Naila Haris

    One city’s trash is a sub-community’s treasure. The Cairo area of Manshayet
    Nasser, also called ‘Garbage City,’ is home to the Zabaleen community that
    recycles and reuses upwards of 80% of Cairo’s waste.

    Green energy is sprouting up in Garbage City
    through Solar Cities, an internationally acclaimed project recognized by National
    Geographic that is dedicated to helping poor communities in Darb El Ahmar and Manshayet
    Nasser to build solar water heaters and biogas generators out of low-cost,
    locally available materials.

    Solar Cities in Garbage City
    and throughout the region is led by Hana Fathy, the coordinator and trainer of
    Solar Cities’ ‘Green Collar Jobs’ Project in Egypt. Fathy has been interviewed by international TV
    channels BBC, CNN and NPR and most recently by Brazilian and Taiwanese TV
    stations. His success with Solar Cities has sent him to Kenya, Uganda, Germany,
    Poland and the USA.

    On average, fifteen
    to twenty people work with Solar Cities, constructing and training within Manshayet
    Nasr and beyond, while contributing writers update Solar Cities’ blog. Fathy
    is always scouting for new helping hands; he is concerned about the general
    lack of environmental awareness in Egypt, but he is also concerned for Garbage
    City.

    Despite some online
    sources reporting that Manshayet Nasser has a horrible stench, Garbage City is
    very organized with minimal smell. The Zabaleen are productive and focused
    workers committed to their profession. Already seventeen systems are present in Garbage City
    alone, with another ten to fifteen solar and biogas system units pending.  

    Fathy leads the tours of Garbage City, sometimes working with
    Backpackers, a micro-tourism company that contributes to Solar Cities.

    He begins each tour
    with a warm welcome into his home where visitors learn about the bio-gas
    generators, solar panels and their potential. Afterwards, the actual solar
    heating and bio-gas tanks heating his home are shown.

    Fathy uses red
    copper as a conductor for his rooftop system, among others. Most materials are
    obtained from internal recycling businesses, but size- and shape-sensitive
    items like glass must be paid for. Foreign companies and embassies fund costs
    for parts and, in a rare case, entire systems. Hazard is a concern, such as
    overheated shower water and rusty pipes, but Fathy proofs systems from gas
    leaks and burns.

    The tour of Garbage
    City continues to a plastic recycling plant, then to a textile shop that
    partners with the Egyptian Association for the
    Protection of the Environment. A trail of huge biblical scenes that are hand-cut
    into stone lead visitors to St. Simeon Church, a
    tremendous cave sanctuary. The miracle of St. Simeon is that of a humble man
    skilled in crafts who literally moved the mountain.

    Bring extra money
    to buy souvenirs from the shop, which is filled with recycled paper products,
    rugs and accessories. The taxi driving you there will want to stop outside the
    entrance before leaving, but Fathy will get you a taxi at the highway near the
    community. Wear closed-toe shoes.

    Over the past
    decade, the Egyptian government has obstructed the Zabaleen’s efforts to improve
    themselves, burying them with heavy fees. The Zabaleen previously received
    charity assistance from Orascom Construction. Free transportation collected
    upwards of 85% of reusable, organic waste from the city to be processed and
    used in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna.

    Then,
    the government shut down the project and implemented its own waste management
    system, charging for huge trucks of foreign companies to collect various waste.
    The paid government workers only disorganized the meticulously sorted waste by
    the Zabaleen. ‘They destroyed our efforts and charge us for it,’ Fathy explained. The government workers no longer collect from Garbage City.

    Garbage City is not a dump; in fact, it is a well-organized
    community in Cairo,
    where renewable and recyclable resources are meticulously ordered according to
    the smallest details; their quality, composition and potential. Paper is reused
    for gift items and office supplies, while cardboard is separated for
    construction and packaging. Plastic containers are reduced to plastic chips for
    exporting to manufacturing plants.

    To tour Manshayet Nasser,
    or to volunteer with Solar Cities, contact Mr. Hana Fathy at hanafathy@rocketmail.com. Visit their blog for more
    information.

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