El Mansheya
15 January 2019



Garbage City, known colloquially as Manshiyat Naser or “El Mansheya,” is an informal neighborhood situated at the base of Cairo’s Mokattam Mountain that is often mislabeled as a slum. El Mansheya is an ongoing photographic essay exploring the life and environs of a group of Coptic brothers from the Momtaaz family. Manshiyat Naser, whose population is estimated to be approximately 400,000, is a microcosm of Egypt’s untold sectarian coexistence and is divided nearly equally between the Mohammedans and the Nazarenes.

As a body of work, El Mansheya (which simply means “community” or “village”) explores the remarkable trust and cohesiveness that is characteristic of Egyptian society and works to portray larger anthropological truths that are common to many of the world’s streets. It investigates life as a teenager, family customs, and religious traditions in this community of economic migrants. In many ways Manshiyat Naser is not only a picture of coexistence but a most veracious depiction of the Egyptians’ quest for modernity seen through the phenomenon of Saidi (Upper Egyptian) migration to Cairo, a circumstance which has led to Cairo’s near unregulated growth in the past several decades. Manshiyat Naser effectively illustrates this reality as most of the families there are originally Saidis who migrated to Cairo to find work. El Mansheya, as a long term project, helps to supplant the primitive and classist designation of Garbage City as a “slum” and reveals it to be something much more nuanced; a locale where peoples’ contentment is at odds with their circumstances; a community of religious and economic refugees who have found peace in their own unusual way. ☗