***additional galleries: the zabaleen of garbage city
Moqqatam is one of the most extraordinary and hellish suburbs on earth. It is home to a people known as the Zabaleen, said to be the world's greatest waste recyclers. The Zabaleen, which means plainly enough, "the garbage collectors", pick up around 4000 tons of Cairo's waste each day. American researchers have shown that the Zabaleen recycle 85% of this garbage into something useful: a higher rate than anywhere else on the planet. The men do two shifts leaving about four in the morning and again around nine. The rubbish is taken back to Moqqatam for the women to sit in and sort through. The organic waste is fed to livestock, the rest sorted for recycling. The future of the Zabaleen is uncertain. If the Cairo authorities get their way, this community of 25,000 Coptic Christians living in a Muslim country will be gone, and with it their unique, astonishing lifestyle.