Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Egypt Day 4: Garbage Mountain

During the course of two days filled with touring, we spent a lot of time visiting with our guide. She is a Coptic Christian and is devout. Both our family and our friends who traveled with us are Mormons. We had a few religious discussions. Because of those discussions, our guide wanted to take us to a very different part of Cairo, Garbage Mountain. I don't know if that is really the name of the place, but as a descriptor, it is accurate.

There is a section of Cairo where the poorest Christians live. All the garbage collected in the city is taken to this place, and, in order to survive, the residents of Garbage Mountain sort through mountains of garbage and recycle usable items. For a long time, the residents also raised pigs, until fears of the swine flu a few years ago. The swine flu gave the government (mostly Muslim) the excuse to order the slaughter of all the pigs. This  area of Cairo was notorious not only for its filth and garbage, but also for drugs and prostitution. The people were without hope, until a very charismatic preacher came to the area and began preaching the gospel to the people in the area. Under his direction, the area changed. The drugs and prostitution were abandoned and the people, while still living with the garbage, have a different sort of hope in their lives. On top of the mountain, these people have built a monastery inside the cliff. This is where they worship.

We had to first drive through the narrow, steep streets where we saw hundreds of locker storage style sheds filled with bags of garbage. Inside people sorted through the garbage. This was poverty such as I have never seen before. The stench was awful. Animals, garbage, and people are seemed to compete for the very air we breathed.

As we came to the top of the mountain, we discovered that a large festival was taking place. Loud Christian music blared from speakers. People mobbed the street. Children, men, and women were shining and clean, wearing their best clothes. As we stepped out of the van, we attracted quite a bit of notice. We walked to the monastery and sat for a few moments in a pew reflecting on what we had seen.

After resting for a bit, we walked back up the hill to the festival. Loud American Christian Rock music played from a platform. Apparently, a Christian Rock band from the U.S. had come to Egypt to play at this festival. Honestly, it was kind of bizarre to run into an American Christian Rock Band in Egypt of all places.

While we were looking around the festival, a few beautiful little girls came to us and tried to speak to us in English. They were darling. Each of the girls was carefully dressed and carrying little purses. Soon they took out cell phones and asked to take pictures of our kids. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by a crowd of Egyptian children, eager to take pictures of my children.

Bubba J, with his blue eyes and blonde hair attracted a lot of attention, which he found overwhelming. Eventually, my husband put Bubba J on his shoulders out of reach. After talking to the kids for awhile, we finally broke free of the crowd and went to our van. It was kind of an overwhelming experience to see such poverty, but yet to see how happy, kind, and sweet the people were. It is a place I don't think I'll ever forget. 


  1. My family and I are considering a move to Riyadh. Your blog has been really helpful and we've noticed your religious affiliation. We are also LDS and would love to be able to find out more about how things work over there. Is there any advice you can give me?

    1. Hi Gary, is there a way that I could send you an email? I'd love to answer your questions, but would prefer to do so privately.