Open Letter to Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi

Dear Mr. President,

I am a Protestant Christian, and a burden I bear all my life is what’s called the “Protestant work ethic.” I was just in your wonderful capital city, and my work ethic drives me to make a suggestion.

Because I care about Egypt very much, I feel I must say that Cairo is in such a shambles that it’s in danger of demoralizing caring people, killing any civic pride that still exists, and even driving your best citizens to emigrate to a country where abandoned cars don’t block streets and sidewalks for months on end. While arguably just a cosmetic problem, this is also very bad for your tourism industry — which could use a little help.

You command a big military. I understand that all men serve (the uneducated for three years and the educated for one year). Consider this move, which could well inspire Cairo to be proud of itself: Shut down the city for three days. Declare war on the junk clogging your city’s veins. Mobilize everyone. Send in the army. Tell everyone that anything left on the street will be taken away. And then flush out your great but crumbling city. Clear out collapsed buildings, remove abandoned and stripped old cars, tear down broken and vandalized phone booths, truck away the broken chunks of concrete, and pick up all the trash. While you’re at it, replace the crumpled and rusty dumpsters with nice new ones with city slogans on them (as in London). Challenge your citizenry to use the dumpsters, and pay to have them emptied every week.

In my travels, I’ve seen firsthand how a similar approach has succeeded in both Istanbul and Tangier, Morocco, in recent years. You’ll quickly recover your investment in increased tourism revenue, and your people will think of you as someone who can get something done that impacts their lives in a positive way.

Good luck!

Rick Steves

Some great cities are people-friendly. Rather than people-friendly, it seems Cairo is garbage- and abandoned car-friendly. But that can change.
Some great cities are people-friendly. Rather than people-friendly, it seems Cairo is garbage- and abandoned car-friendly. But that can change.



10 Replies to “Open Letter to Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi”

  1. I was recently in Cairo also and came away with the feeling that it was the dirtiest and cluttered city I have ever seen in all my travels. This is gutsy and courageous of you to speak up and I am proud to see that someone is letting the government know how much more pride people will have and how it will affect tourism if the garbage is cleaned up. kids playing on top of mounds of garbage was shocking. My hat is off to you!

  2. Dear Rick: I certainly hope he gets to read your suggestions. I have not been to Egypt but would like to go some day. Under no circumstance would I feel SAFE in Cairo. There must be a grave health issue well.

  3. Splendid letter, Mr. Steves!
    Last year I was in Prague for a week and noticed how clean it was. I never saw big street sweepers, but one morning, early, on my way to the Charles Bridge, I saw three young women with brooms and buckets sweeping the sidewalk. I was impressed. I am sure that Cairo would benefit from a major cleaning action in as much as people would, once again, take pride in their city, once the heavy duty trash was removed.

  4. Where are the garbage collectors? Visit “Garbage City” to see what happens when / if trash is actually picked up from the streets of Cairo. It’s another world.

  5. I wonder if your message would be more effective without comparing and contrasting religions.

  6. Karen – I, too, thought the reference to religion unnecessary.

    Rick – maybe you should send a similar letter to Dr. Manmohan Singh in India. Don’t remember any abandoned cars there (plenty of hole in the wall places to fix them) but besides the trash there are the cows and the men using the sidewalks as urinals.

  7. I know that the place you come from is a generous concern for the world as a whole. But due to the continued distruction that has come to our own country this week, and still a dead lock of “sides” it is hard to read your plea to the president of another country.

  8. I would like to address this comment to Mimi. Mimi, I’m a single woman, living and working in Cairo, in a suburb called Heliopolis. There are indeed some dangers in Cairo (no more or less in other large, urban cities). I have been here 18 mos and still feel quite safe. However, I DON’T do foolish things. I would feel LESS safe in parts of my own large city-Phoenix, AZ. If you choose to come and I hope you do, find a reliable tour operator and you will be very safe.
    And yes, there is trash. :( But I saw this in Cambodia and parts of the Philippines. So that part of the Mr. Steve’s letter still stands.

  9. one thing I noticed while I was in Egypt 3 years ago. they treat their monuments like a pissor and garbage dump. EVERYWHERE there were men pissing on the ancient buildings and monuments, temples and Historic sites. The trash was shocking, NO recycling and no concern what so ever. this was only surpassed by the bribes I was expected to give to the police, shopkeepers, EVERYONE had their hand out for “what you will give me.” it was surprising and sad. you could get into any closed area simply by giving the guard a bribe. lord help you if you didn’t have toilet paper because 3 sheets cost you 1 egyptian pound at all places other than hotels. I loved being there and had a wonderful time. but they really need to take care of their history and get rid of the corruption.

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