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The Monastery of Saint Simon, also known as the Cave Church, is located in the Mokattam mountain in southeastern Cairo, Egypt, in an area that is known as ‘garbage city’ because of the large population of garbage collectors or Zabbaleen that live there. The Zabbaleen are descendants of farmers who started migrating from Upper Egypt to Cairo in the 1940s. Fleeing poor harvests and poverty they came to the city looking for work and set-up makeshift settlements around the city. Initially, they stuck to their tradition of raising pigs, goats, chickens and other animals, but eventually found collecting and sorting of waste produced by the city residents more profitable. The Zabbaleen would sort through household garbage, salvaging and selling things of value, while the organic waste provided an excellent source of food for their animals. In fact, this arrangement worked so well, that successive waves of migrants came from Upper Egypt to live and work in the newly founded garbage villages of Cairo.

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Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia

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