A few days ago, I was in our flat (big surprise; I never get out much in Egypt) when I saw billowing white smoke wafting through the air through the balcony doors. I went onto the balcony (I just love having one,; you get to spy on people without them knowing it) and saw that, along one of the low walls of the “courtyard” someone had lit a pile of rubbish on fire.
Really, I just sighed when I saw this. If I wanted to be cruel, I could easily call Egypt one big “rubbish dump,” to use the British term for ‘garbage’ which they also use here. Cairo is littered with litter: even on the poshest street corners say, in Zamalek near the American Embassy, one will find garbage strewn across the ground. For someone who loves nature as well as beauty and cleanliness (my mother might laugh at that one, but dirtiness does give me the heebee-jeebees!) the site of all this rubbish just makes me scream.
The Egyptians, it appears, don’t care. If they did, they wouldn’t litter in the first place. Litter is just an accessory to Cairo’s, er, great sandy boulevards and weathered, eroding sidewalks and dusty evergreen plants. Whilst sitting on my balcony, I’ve seen rubbish fly by me; usually scraps of paper or cigarette ash, but there also happens to be a black belt and a dirty sock hanging in the tree which stands eye-level with my balcony. On the ground, I can spot a lone hanger, Chipsy’s bright-coloured bags, styrofoam delivery cartons and of course cigarette boxes.
Whenever I lecture my husband and his friends on this, they just laugh. My husband has no qualms about tossing rubbish out the car window onto the street, and neither does anyone else I’ve met. On occasion, I’ve taken the empty Pepsi cans and put them in my purse to throw away in our garbage at home. I don’t see why anyone would want to live in rubbish; after all, they do have garbage collectors here, it’s not like they don’t! I suppose the many alley cats enjoy the rubbish heaps as do the pigeons, but overall, the lack of care over the environment is pretty sad and non-existant here in Egypt.
Speaking of a lack of environmental concern, fireworks are also legal in Egypt. And although it was kind of nice one day last summer when people set them off in the courtyard, they pose a severe threat in a city that is parched and, well, a desert! They are also not cool when you can’t see them, as was the case the other night. I heard a series of huge booms, and when I stepped onto the balcony I noticed the sound of everyone clinging shut their doors. Perturbed, I went back inside, only to realize that a smell of rotting eggs-sulfur-had filled the apartment. I seriously thought that a bomb had gone off, or at the very least some type of nerve gas, which was only compounded with my fear that one, I don’t have a cellphone to call my husband, who was out and two, I started to have difficulty breathing. Later, I found out that they were only fireworks, but seriously, in Egypt you never know if it’s going to be fireworks, fire or just a burning pile of rubbish!
Note: Although the environment and safety issues in Egypt disturb me at times, I still find the country a beautiful, intriguing place and I am not trying to insult anyone with this post!