We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Pig flu fever, part 2

Egypt's goats can't keep up with all the garbage (photo from NY Times)

Egypt's goats can't keep up with all the garbage (photo from NY Times)

H1N1 hysteria continues to sweep across Egypt. Last week, the government postponed all schools until early October; many Egyptians schools were already set to open late, after Ramadan, which just ended last night. But they also went ahead and suspended classes for schools that were already in session. Giggle is on holiday for Eid el Fitr, the holiday after Ramadan ends, and was supposed to be back at school on Tuesday. But now classes are cancelled for two whole extra weeks. This is in a school which so far has had no cases of H1N1.

A lot of people in Egypt travel for Eid el Fitr, some to Saudi Arabia and Europe, where there have been higher incidents of H1N1. Apparently (?) the government is worried that people will bring back flu from their trips, so they’ve delayed school to give people time to recover.

Except now more people are traveling and many of those already traveling have extended their travels.

And, lots of kids are missing school, like Giggle, who has been learning so much in first grade. The teachers sent home lots of activity books and reading books for the break, but the work at home can’t replace the great things they’re learning in the classroom.

The H1N1 panic has another terrible consequence. In May I blogged about the government’s early reaction to swine flu fear: the slaughter of all of Egypt’s pigs, who were an integral part of the city’s waste system. An article in today’s New York Times discusses the results of this: garbage in the streets. The garbage collectors used to collect all organic waste to feed to pigs, who then became meat for the garbage collectors to eat or sell. Now, without any pigs, the Zebaleen aren’t collecting organic trash, and it’s piling up everywhere.

The New York Times says,

What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for the Arab world’s most populous nation.

It has exposed the failings of a government where the power is concentrated at the top, where decisions are often carried out with little consideration for their consequences and where follow-up is often nonexistent, according to social commentators and government officials. …

Cairo’s streets have always been busy with children and littered with trash.

Now, with the pigs gone, and the schools closed, they are even more so.


20 September 2009 - Posted by | our life in egypt


  1. Hello,
    I just returned from 2 days in Cairo and loved the crowded frenetic atmosphere. Your post answers the question we had about all the garbage and children in the streets. But what is the reason for dumping dead animals in the canal on the way back to Cairo from Memphis? I located your blog while questioning adoption in Egypt. We met a group of children on an outing with an orphanage at the Carrefour Mall in Cairo and made fast friends with all. All 4 couples donated what money we had on us to one of the adults in the group hoping to be seen in a positive way as strangers from America with a culture of caring and generous hearts.

    Comment by Pamela | 20 September 2009

  2. Pamela, unfortunately, even at the best of times, the streets of Cairo have garbage. It’s been piling up terribly in some parts of town this summer, though.

    The animals in the canal were either dumped there or died there. I’m not sure which.

    The kids always play in the streets–with no public parks, it’s the only open space they have.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 20 September 2009

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