Monday, May 04, 2009

Man picks up trash at Great Pyramids

Oddity for the day.

With little more than a supply of black garbage bags and a pair of sturdy gloves, Hendersonville resident Bruce Benson recently spent 40 days in Giza, Egypt, picking up trash around the Great Pyramids.

No one asked him to go. Nor was he paid to perform the arduous work of filling bag after bag with discarded plastic bottles, candy wrappers, and other debris around the Sphinx and ancient tombs on the Giza Plateau.

“I’m impressed that he would go around and pick up trash without being intimidated by what people might say,” says Dick vant Hoff, a Hendersonville friend of Benson’s. “I’m impressed that he had the guts to do such a thing — for following his heart.”

From Feb. 2 to March 20, Benson stayed at a modest hotel within walking distance to the Pyramids. The self-appointed trash man spent a good eight hours a day making a circuit around the ancient site — picking up trash and sometimes even human waste — using only his gloved hands as tools.

“It may be the least prestigious job,” he says. “I was going for that.”

As he worked, Benson, 47, had to endure the area’s variable weather and relentless sunshine. He lost 20 pounds. “I forgot to pack a hat,” he says.

At one point in mid-February — after a bomb hit a crowded Cairo bazaar, killing a French woman — Benson was detained for a day by police who questioned his motives for being in Egypt.

At the end of the day, local officials permitted Benson to return to collecting trash with a few caveats: He was required to pay the $12 entrance ticket to the Pyramid complex each day he collected trash.

“They didn’t let me have a camera,” Benson says. “I think they were afraid of bad publicity.”

Though a trash-collecting agency is contracted to regularly clean the heavily visited Pyramid complex, a lack of garbage receptacles and public restrooms contribute to the filthiness of the tourist area.

See the above page for the full story.

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