For years, visitors to Cairo have been have been awed by the wonders of an ancient civilization and the chaos of the modern one. In particular, tourists and residents alike have complained about litter and the general unkempt state of the streets. With the protests in Tahrir Square, however, came a new sense of community spirit, and youth have taken the lead in cleaning up the capital.
Among them are 18-year-old Marwan and 20-year-old Ali Anwar, two brothers who — along with a group of their friends — set out to clean graffiti off walls in Maadi, Zamalek and Mohandiseen. They used their own money to buy supplies but were pleasantly surprised to find additional aid from a number of other sources, including passersby, motorists and even foreigners.
“We were happy when the foreigners were cooperating with us, that they felt for us,” Marwan says. “We were able to come together in unison.” Talking about music in the same breath as politics, the three know that besides having fun with friends, it will be their generation enacting change from the ground up.
After the last customer has left Ahmed Medhat’s leather boutique in Maadi, a dozen young men in uniforms ensure the store is to the liking of the self-admitted clean-freak. While one teenaged employee sweeps the inside of the store, another crouches, using a small dustpan and brush to clean the curb. Another waters the finely manicured green grass after hosing down the walkway. The 52-year-old Italian-Egyptian boutique owner says the outdoor chores have gotten a little easier.
“After the January 25 Revolution, everyone changed — people began helping one another,” says Medhat. “People were not throwing things out of their windows anymore; people were changing by not only realizing they have to clean, but also to first not be dirty.”
As for foreign tourists, what they’ll soon notice is a nation that takes as much pride in its present as it does in its past.
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