The collaborative travel documentary project run in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society (RGS)
Deep into the Rubbish with Cairo's Zabbaleen
15 September 2006 11.02-11.30am
This year the joint BBC and RGS prize for the most adventurous and unusual dream travel idea - a Journey of a Lifetime - went to Jessica Boyd and Bill Finnegan.
Jessica and Bill made a journey to the largest slum in one of the largest cities in the world, Manshiet Nasr of Cairo, and into the rich culture of the Zabbaleen, a sophisticated community of 25,000 recyclers. The Zabbaleen - which means 'rubbish people' in Arabic - are an ethnically distinct community who inhabit the Manshiet Nasr slum. The Zabbaleen are the world's greatest recyclers, and they owe their living to the city's mountains of waste.
The Zabbaleen migrated from rural Egypt in the 1950s during a time of drought. Initially, these displaced farmers survived by collecting organic waste from households around the city to feed their pigs. But they soon found value in other forms of rubbish.
Over the years, they have evolved into a sophisticated recycling outfit - and they now recycle 80% to 90% of the rubbish they collect. Jessica and Bill's radio journey traced their route along the Nile from their traditional homeland, exploring a rich oral history rife with challenges.
They followed the Zabbaleen's daily routine of rubbish collection and sorting, and the final transformation of these raw materials into products useable by industry. Finally, Jessica and Bill looked at the future of the Zabbaleen. The community is currently under threat from plans to outsource the city's garbage collection to European firms, so the time was ripe for an exploration into its distinctive flavour and dynamic.
Fancy going on your own journey of a lifetime?
The RGS and the BBC are now inviting applicants for next year's award: it consists of a grant to cover the costs of your expedition and a guaranteed radio documentary to be broadcast on Radio 4.