NileGuide Expert Says:
The Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour is one of the most meaningful and inspiring things that you can do in Cairo.
Whitfield Dr, Dundee, United Kingdom
NileGuide Expert tip:
Wear clothes you don't mind getting mucky on the Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour, especially if you are visiting the Zabaleen; it's also best to wear shoes, not flip-flops.
Since 2005, the Solar CITIES project has been helping poor communities in Darb al-Ahmar and Manshiyat Nasser ("Garbage City") to build solar water heaters and biogas generators out of low cost, locally available materials. The project has received numerous grants, and has been recognised by National Geographic.
It is based on a participatory, bottom-up approach to development, which taps into the collective intelligence and expertise that is already embedded within the community.
On the Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour you will meet Hanna Fathy, a young man from the Zabaleen community of garbage collectors, who has been involved with the project since the beginning. He will guide you through the communities with which Solar CITIES works, where you can meet locals that have benefitted from the project, and witness first-hand the impact it is having.
The Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour is divided into two halves, reflecting the two communities the project works with.
The Darb al-Ahmar portion will begin at Bab Zwayla
. You will be able to explore the Street of the Tentmakers
, before walking through the streets of this fascinating area of Islamic Cairo
, stopping to visit some of the houses that have solar water heaters and biogas generators installed. There will also be the chance to visit the Aga Khan Foundation, and see their rooftop garden. The tour will finish in al-Azhar Park
– former rubbish tip and now one of Cairo's most inspiring green spaces – where you can grab some lunch. More specifically, Hussein El-Farag from Solar CITIES in Darb Al Ahmar, will give urban Eco-Tours of his family's historic Islamic neighborhood at the base of Al Azhar park. As Hanna Fathy's colleague on the other side of the City of the Dead, Hussein also shows the solar hot water and biogas systems that he and Hanna and Solar CITIES have built in his neighborhood, ending the tour with biogas heated tea on his roof in sight of the ancient mosque. Hussein's tour is the Islamic equivalent of the Coptic Christian Solar CITIES tour that Hanna gives outlined below.
The Manshiyat Nasser section of the Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour will explore Garbage City, where the Zabaleen live. The Zabaleen are a Christian community that are responsible for collecting and recycling, by hand, most of Cairo's rubbish. You will have the chance to learn more about this process, and visit families that are involved in this work. You will also visit Hanna's house, to see the solar water heater and biogas generator that he has installed. You can visit some of the other NGO's that are working with the community, such as the APE and Roh al-Shabab, and to visit the Coptic monastery, which offers spectacular views over the area.
The Solar CITIES Urban Eco Tour is most suitable for people who have an interest in urban planning, development, or sustainable technology issues. A word of warning – you are visiting deprived areas of Cairo, and so may see things that you are not that comfortable with. Manshiyat Nasser, in particular, is a real eye-opener, with garbage literally everywhere. Having said that, seeing the inspirational work that Solar CITIES is doing is a real privilege, and could easily be the most memorable and meaningful part of your trip to Cairo.
Each tour will take around 4 hours, and costs 100 LE per person, or 150 LE if you do both tours. You can get a discount if you book as a group, but bear in mind Hanna can't take more than 5 people at once. To make sure he is available, you should book a week in advance.
Finally, these tours are very flexible, and you can get in touch with Hanna to discuss your own particular requirements.