Yes, there is such a place. When you throw something away in Cairo, it ends up in Garbage City.
Those ubiquitous plastic drinking cups? Yep:
Clothing scraps? Yep:
Cardboard boxes? Yep:
Plastic bottles (that's what these huge bags are stuffed with)? Yep:
Mystery items? Yep:
General grossness? OH YEAH:
Not pictured: a dead rat with flies all over it, lots of donkey poop with flies all over it, and trays of freshly baked bread cooling on an outdoor rack amid all the trash.
That huge puddle of nastiness was the worst part. I don't know what kind of liquid it was or what, exactly, the accompanying sludge is, but the smell was GHASTLY. It caught me off guard, too, because this was technically outside Garbage City as we walked to the main road to get a taxi home. I thought we were done with pointed olfactory assaults and then along came the mystery puddle. Ew.
Grossness aside, I enjoyed our visit to Garbage City more than I thought I would. I didn't even really want to go at first because there is a little bit of Garbage City on every street in Cairo, you know what I mean? I wasn't sure I really needed to see it in its concentrated form. But what made it such a neat place was the people. Here they were, living in literal filth, piled up to and beyond their doorways, and they were doing just fine. I saw a grandma sorting trash with some young children. Teenagers were driving donkeys and their carts down the streets. The boy a couple pictures up was eating a fly-covered bun as his parents worked on sorting trash deeper in the alcove.
And they all waved and said hello to us as we walked by. A little girl ran up and tried to grab Magdalena away from us to show to her family. A man took a moment off from his trash duties to give Magdalena a big kiss on her cheek. Some people even invited us in to see what they were working at. All this, when there were flies swarming everywhere and the stench of garbage was inescapable.
From now on, anytime we throw away something out of the ordinary - like my insulated water bottle that's on its way out, or our Camelbak with a leaky valve - I'm going to be really excited for the inhabitants of Garbage City. I almost wish I could see their faces when they find it. Almost.