One of the sections of the Adham Center course I’m teaching in documentary filmmaking has decided to do a film about a nature protectorate just outside the Cairo suburbs. The Wadi Degla (Wadi is Arabic for valley) is a 30km-long canyon that became a national park in 1999. It’s a haven for wildlife — there are desert foxes and gazelles there. But it’s also a rustic natural area where people come to hike, bike and picnic on weekends.
Its jagged valley walls put one in mind of Utah, and there’s a area where the canyon narrows to a section that takes a little climbing over stones smoothed and shined by a natural lapidary of wind and occasional rain. The slipperiest parts are where all the hands and feet over the years have polished the limestone to a bright gloss.
But the path is littered with plastic bags that blow in from a nearby trash dump. There are regular cleanup campaigns, but it’s a Sisyphean effort as more bags blow in regularly from the dump. It’s too bad. They’re an eyesore and a nuisance to the wildlife.
Another threat to the park is development that is encroaching on the buffer zone surrounding it. Urban sprawl, marble factories and quarries, which have long supplied the stone that built Africa’s largest city, are moving closer and closer to protected territory.
The documentary class is profiling a ranger who is one small voice for the environment, trying to be heard above the din of monied interests who have the ear of government.