In Cairo, the Garbage Collector Knows Everything

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Those who work behind the scenes are often the ones who know the most about us. In this excerpt from New Yorker writer Peter Hessler’s latest book on the Arab Spring, the author writes about his stay in Cairo and “the lives of a neighborhood, seen through the trash” by the garbage collector Sayyid. A great long read.

Sayyid functioned as a kind of neighborhood lost and found. Whenever somebody moved or died, it was understood that the objects in the trash belonged to Sayyid, but otherwise he double-checked with residents if he turned up something suspiciously valuable. He alerted people if something seemed amiss in the neighborhood, and he was a reliable source of local information. 

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