Rise of recycling firms has led to friction with the Zabaleen, the city’s informal garbage collectors

“People do not just fight over garbage here, I have seen them fight to the death over garbage,” says Samaan Girgis. “There are no rules in this job.”

Girgis is one of the Zabaleen (Arabic for “garbage people”), Cairo’s army of informal workers that collects refuse for conversion into valuable raw materials. Girgis lives with his family in the suburb of Manshiyet Nasr, nicknamed “Garbage City”, which is home to Egypt’s largest and most influential Zabaleen community.

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