A Mansion in a Dump Yard

“Haven’t you noticed how there are no bins around?” She asked.

It was close to 7pm and we were making our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral in central London. The streets were lively with people bustling to get home after working until stupendous hours (yes, 7pm is stupendous!) in the City. We’d just cleared a ricebowl each from Itsu, and the next step would have been to free our hands of the empty containers. Littering was not an option. Not because you can be fined if caught doing so (a redundant, rarely enforced law, I tell you!) but because it simply isn’t right to do so. Therefore I couldn’t understand why in the world we couldn’t find a single bin in which to dispose of our trash. Not one!

At that moment I had a ‘back in Cairo’ flashback, and found myself walking along 2asr el 3ainy street, with the smell of fuul bubbling and ta3miya frying to only then kick into empty containers and wrappers that had been thrown out of car windows or carelessly dropped by pedestrians. Why? Not just because there are no bins on the streets – this is the scene I was faced with in London; not because there wasn’t anyone to sweep the mess – the poor men clad in dirty, ripped orange jumpsuits literally break their backs to sweep up rubbish from the streets; but simply because of the mentality of the people. In my humble opinion, it really is as simple as that.

I can recall the many occasions when I challenged Egyptians about their rubbish problem, many were quick to blame it on the poor, for they make up the vast majority of the population. Many also found it easy to put it down to lack of formal education of the masses, however I honestly do not believe that a person needs to read and write in order to understand the concept of caring for one’s environment.

When you step into an Egyptian’s house, it is fragrant and pristine – clean in every corner with not a speck of dust in sight. If one’s home can be kept in order, what of the space outside one’s home? Who in their right mind would care to visit a mansion that’s been placed in the middle of a dump yard? This may seem like a harsh comparison, and in some ways it is, but the truth still remains.

Back in London on that chilly night I looked around and burned a mental image of that clean London street at the back of my mind as it jostled with memories of some of Cairo’s streets.

“One can only hope that it’s the mentality of the people in the area that’s keeping this well-populated place clean like this,” I said to my friend.

“One can only hope,” was her reply, and I echo the same prayer for the streets of Cairo – that the mentality of the people will transform for all its streets to also be just as pristine.

– LaYinka S. (The Londoner)

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About LaYinka Sanni

Editor & Writing Coach -- "... connecting dots, one sentence at a time..."

Posted on November 7, 2011, in Ruminations about Cairo, Thru The Londoner's eyes. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. good point and i’ll say it’s accumulated carelessness over the years that led us to throwing garbage right on the ground, we sometimes aim at the ground we’re throwing at! great writing as usual 🙂 thanks for the visuals and the sincere feelings.

  2. I’ve always found London clean, but I’m surprised that many european bloggers who visit London describe it on their blog as dirty. Then I wonder what they’d say if they visited Cairo! Missed reading you:) x

  3. I totally agree… it’s our own people problem … but I am wondering how come you never challenged me about that issue.. I can’t remember it if you did .. did you! :))… I think an educated person behaviour’s change needs less time unless you’re dealing with one of those curvy thinking “Who is smarter!!” kind of style…

    Actually… It’s a point of argument.. would you ask a hungry, hopless, lonely, and dirty human to clean up and smile instead of everything!! would you !!

    We are stressed as a nation .. I think that includes all our social levels.. so yeah ..!! who should be hold accountable for that…!!

    • I think you may be right. Someone who is worried about how to feed his kids will not have issues surrounding cleanliness of environment as a priority, but surely it’s got to start somewhere. If only the affluent and educated disposed of their trash responsibly, that wouldn’t be enough, because over 50% of the nation are below the poverty belt.

      So in terms of making change (and let’s not just think of the rubbish issue here), the real challenge starts at the root… at the base of our triangle.

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