Joel Christiansen

Hammad Haider: The Zabbaleen of Manshiyet Nasser

March 2, 2024

Jan-Carlos Kucharek, The Zabbaleen: what Cairo’s Garbage City could teach the West, The RIBA Journal, Jan. 10, 2024:

Cairo’s ancient City of the Dead has found its graveyards put to new, contingent use by the living, as the local poor appropriate their grounds as home, adding new skin to the bones below. While analysing the site for his MArch project at Sheffield School of Architecture, Hammad Haider discovered nearby Garbage City, whose ‘Zabbaleen’ (garbage collectors) process the city’s waste – stripping back, separating and collating it, then selling it on for profit. These 60,000 residents are mainly Coptic Christians, whose pigs efficiently consume the organic lowest level of waste. The Zabbaleen reportedly recycle 80% of city refuse, far in excess of Western norms. Perhaps it was this virtuous circle that French Tunisian artist eL Seed alluded to in 2017 when he created his massive mural here, taking in several housing blocks.