I remember the first time I stood at the shores of the magnificent Nile River in Cairo. I have heard about the Nile River ever since I was a little girl, so much rich history is contained within the waters. As I stood there that day, what I saw was a river filled with garbage floating around. It was definitely not what I expected. I was in awe, not only that I was standing at the shores of the Nile, but shocked at how polluted the river was, and how dirty the streets of Cairo were. As I took a deep breath, my lungs were filled with the city smog. This just got serious!

“Cairo is one of the most polluted cities in the world.” The devastating pollution is silently killing the beautiful city of Cairo. Not only are the surroundings affected, but also, it’s taking a toll on the health of residents. Thousands of residents are dying from diseases related to pollution. This is a matter of life and death.

As I ponder the environmental crisis, it seems almost impossible. Impossible to clean the river, impossible to clean the streets full of rubbish, impossible to clean the smog that sits over a city that has millions of residents. If it’s utterly impossible, then there is no hope. But I know that there is always hope. We always hope for a better future; we hope that our children can have a better life than us; we hope that they can overcome the challenges that we face today. In the same way, can we hope for a better Cairo? I believe we can and we should!  

Amsterdam Canal in 1960

However, hope is useless without action. What can we do today that will make a better tomorrow for us, for our children and for the city of Cairo? This is up to us to decide. Our future starts with the choices we make today. Don’t be trapped into thinking that what you do won’t make a difference, we have to start somewhere and it starts with you!

First, let’s tackle the garbage problem. Our streets are filled with garbage that eventually makes it into the river, and that rubbish eventually makes it out into the ocean. Let’s start by teaching our children that litter goes into a bin, not on the streets. There is a school near my flat, and you always know when the juice cart was there because the children throw the little bags with straws all over the street. However, before you can teach the children, you have to set an example for them. It is your responsibility, as residents of this city, to always respect your surroundings and not litter the streets.

Next, let’s think about how we can reduce our waste. Do you buy bottled water? Instead, invest in a good filter and start filling reusable water bottles. Do you bring your own reusable shopping bags when you shop? They fit so much more and are more convenient to carry. Plastic bags produce so much waste. Did you know that plastic bags can take anywhere from 200 to 1000 years to decompose? Try to buy reusable products when possible. Invest in rechargeable batteries; they will save you money in the long run. Think about how you can use fewer resources in your daily life.

Start to reuse what you already have. I love saving bottles and glass jars and reusing them for storage. If something breaks, repair it instead of throwing it away. If you no longer have a use for something, donate it to someone in need instead of throwing it away. Find ways to upcycle, meaning, reuse old things and turn them into something of higher quality and value. If your neighborhood offers recycling services, be sure to participate in recycling your paper, glass and plastics.


Amsterdam Canal Now

I like to think that as we grow older, our earth will become a better place for our children to live. I like to think that our streets will be cleaner, our rivers will be free of rubbish and our air cleaner and our health better. Maybe I dream too much, but you can never have too much of a good thing. What changes will you make today to contribute to a more cleaner and more beautiful Cairo? We all play a part in it, and you too can make a difference!