A new movement has taken to the Alexandrian streets, with the hope of a cleaner, brighter Egypt. Mahmoud Azouz, a student at the Faculty of Music, decided that he will not stand idly as his city’s streets grows dirtier. Taking matters in his own hands, Azouz decided to clean Alexandria up, “I saw pictures of the Citadel area and it was full of garbage. This isn’t the real Alexandria”, he says, “I wrote a comment telling people that I will go to clean it up and asked for volunteers. When no one said they will join, I went alone”.
Azouz went with a friend of his and started cleaning up as much as he could. His friend took pictures of the process, and as expected, they spread like wildfire. Subsequently, volunteers started stepping up to the challenge, “just like some people belittle my work, many are getting in touch telling me they would like to help in any way they could”, he tells.
I wrote a comment telling people that I will go to clean it up and asked for volunteers. When no one said they will join, I went alone
Azouz has always been creative. Growing up, he drew a lot – a talent he continues to possess – and now he plays the guitar and is studying the piano and violin. This isn’t stopping him from dreaming big when it comes to is cleaning initiative, though. He wants to turn this into a full-fledged campaign, “I want to give this everything I can from my time and effort”, he tells, “I want to try and replicate what I did in Alexandria in Cairo, Mansoura, and hopefully all over Egypt”.
The overflow of garbage is a prevalent issue in Egypt, and it has been for years. It is surprising that only a few initiatives are coming up to fix it. And while tax payers’ money should ideally be spent on garbage disposal – among many other things – it is clear that this will not be fixed by the government any time soon. Azouz decided to not wait for anyone to fix it and took it upon himself to do everything he can about it, “I get told sometimes that this is the government’s job, but I want people to be more positive”, he explains, “if each one of us picked up a scrap of paper off the ground, Egypt will be cleaner”.
It is not just about being proactive and having a positive outlook, many Egyptians would naturally refrain from cleaning up the streets. Somehow, a particular job became something to be ashamed of. Azouz has experienced this, “I’ve received a lot of shallow responses, but regardless of that, I want to try and make things better”, he says.
This initiative doesn’t only provide a solution to the garbage issue, but also sheds light on the working conditions of cleaners in Egypt. Azouz makes sure to talk to them and find out about their struggle in what can only be called one of the most difficult jobs in the country.
A campaign like this might not turn Egypt into paradise, but if it can inspire Egyptians to want more for themselves and their country and work for it. Cleaning up the streets is great, and what is even better is starting a dialogue about what can be done to fix the conditions we are in.