There is probably a single issue that has put off far too many guests who visit this country for the first time, leaving them vowing that they will never return! Whether you call it:
- solid waste
- zebelah (arabic)
one thing is true: it is very much in evidence everywhere you go, and in a way that you know this country has a problem in this area. Guests often call it a “real disgrace” and many within the country think it is an “unsolvable problem”.
WHY IS IT SUCH A PROBLEM?
There is a variety of reasons, excuses and finger-pointing as to why it is such a problem. But having viewed this as an “outsider” it is interesting that there is a wide chasm between the tidiness and cleanliness within the home or the shop, and then the almost complete disregard for littering once you cross the boundary from personal space into public space. It has become the norm to litter; it is totally acceptable; public littering is tolerated, and even encouraged! One day a friend saw I was carrying an empty water bottle, so took it from me… and then threw it onto the street!!!
But inside the walls of your home or shop, things are clean and neat, well-cared for…. but as soon as you step out into the public areas, litter is everywhere:
- throw your trash off the balconey,
- sweep it out the door,
- throw it into the river,
- chuck it from the train
- toss it into the desert….
And before the poor and the uneducated get blamed for this, it must be said that you will find garbage being thrown from windows of lovely, shiny mercedes as well as from the the cheap local trains… By children from fancy private schools as well as those in small rural government schools… by old and young…. employed and without work….. in the cities and the villages:
It is caused by people at all levels of society,
it has become the norm.
Egypt is a beautiful country, with some breathtaking beaches, mountains, deserts and of course the Nile River…. but each gem that this country has to offer is disfigured by the trash that clutters every available space:
from train tracks, to beaches, to sea, to the corniches, to the pyramids themselves, even the canals that bring life to the desert, and out in the rural villages….
you will find the ever-present piles of rubbish!
HOW TO EVEN THINK OF SOLVING THIS PROBLEM….
This is a multi-leveled problem: it will need a national change of attitude towards it: from children, to teachers, to parents, to leaders, to government, to businessmen. We all need to re-program our minds: we need to set a new standard of behaviour. But there needs to be an infra-structure: more bins, more encouragement and enforcing of people to use the bins, more people trained to collect, sorting of the trash, re-cycling processes, and well-managed and maintained dump-sites…. and then of course a government that is encouraging the entire system.
Change is never easy… and before you get judgmental, remember that each country has its own problems: this one is just very visible.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Having acquired this knowledge, you will be anticipating this problem, so hopefully you will not be too shocked. But before you condemn and judge and criticise, perhaps think about being a role model while you are here: be careful with your own trash, people will be watching you. If you are asked what you are doing (not throwing your trash out the window or dropping it on the street), use it as a time to teach and explain to people the importance of keeping their country clean!
BUT THERE IS HOPE…
After the January 2012 Revolution, we saw the youth taking to the streets in vast numbers to clean up the roads and re-paint the side-walks…. so there is definitely a core of people who understand the need for change in this area, and want to work towards having a beautiful and clean country they can be proud of.
The new president himself, has been raising awareness about the disposal of trash and has launched a campaign for “A clean homeland”… so let’s work together on this!
Change on a national scale needs everyone to do their bit:
so please be encouraging and helpful while you are here!