Moon Dust

Mohamed Mahdy

Wadi El Qamar (Moon Valley) area is a residential area located in the west of Alexandria, Egypt, next to the Alexandria Portland Cement factory.

This area was found about 70 years ago where is inhabited now by nearly 60 thousand people and they have a historical documents to make sure that the area was founded before the factory since King Farouk was the tenth ruler of Egypt.

Number of people living in this area and infected from the dust of the cement factories are nearly 30,000 inhabitants, or about 50% of the population.

The problem is that the cement factories still till now work with coal and garbage. And the factory is just 10 meters away from the residential area, which caused more pollution and diseases in this area and in which affects the global climate changing and the percentage of air pollution in Egypt, where Egypt is one of the first and the largest countries in the percentage of pollution....

The problem is not only in affecting and changing the global climate, but also affects most of the working men socially, and because of the deteriorating of their health condition they don’t go to work and can’t support their families, and the greatest problem is the large number of the infected children with lots of disease such as asthma, lung cancer, eye, ear and throat infections, as well as the sensitivity of the chest.

People do not live there a humanity life; imagine that your child is born with asthma since the first day in his life. Cement, coal and car exhausting dust are inside the house where most of the houses are covered with dirt every 5 minutes.


A slanted birds-eye view of Moon Valley, a small city dominated by the Alexandria Portland Cement factory. Flat roof buildings stack up against one another and streets running between them create openings in the grid that appears. The picture was taken from the top of the concrete factory by a worker and attests to the proximity of the factory to the residential neighborhood that surrounds it. 


A wide shot of school-aged boys in jerseys playing soccer on the smooth parking lot behind the cement factory. Number 10 lunges in the center foreground as several players race upfield towards the ball. A thick concrete wall separates the small players from the large stout silo that dominates the background among the labyrinth of scaffolding and filterless chimneys that hang in the cloudy sky. Almost half of city residents have asthma due to the high level of air pollution in Moon Valley, so many children are not able to play sports like this. 


A wide-angle shot taken at the level of a rooftop shows the silos from the factory rising amidst the surrounding balconies and terraces of the adjacent apartment buildings. 


A street level long shot of a residential corner, just 10 meters away from the factory. An older man leans on the corner of a bare concrete apartment building that towers out of the shot. He is looking away from the camera, down a narrow dirt street lined with protruding balconies. The cloudy sky is almost completely obscured by the tubes and scaffolding that hang in the background.


A street photography shot. An old man appears in the foreground, at the bottom 3/4. He wears a white scarf wrapped around his head tightly and a large coat. He wipes dust out of his eyes with a tissue. Behind him, a thin tree reaches toward the sky. Its frailness stands in contrast to the thickness and roughness of the building in front of which it grows. This historical building attests to the presence of the neighborhood before the arrival of the factory.  


An interior image of a young girl, Amal, wearing an oxygen mask as she sits for one of her twice daily breathing treatments. She is looking at the camera as she leans back on the wood framed sofa in her living room. In the left corner of the image, her fathers’ hand appears out of focus in front of the thin tubes tangled around the breathing machine on the table in the foreground.  Amal came to the area when she was 3 years old and was diagnosed with asthma after just six months living in the area.


A medium shot shows a man on the right holding the frame of a window covered with dust, wiped away with circular motions just enough so we can see him through it. He looks to the left of the picture where a 6 or 7-year-old girl wearing a light-coloured hijab appears out of a darkened interior of a home. She looks straight at the camera with her head slightly tilted.


A close shot of Mostafa, a man with a thick white beard and light button up tunic sitting on a plush paisley sofa. Having lost the ability to taste or smell, he leans his chin in his fist as he ponders the circular tray filled with bowls of different strews, rice, and flatbread in front of him. The wallpaper in the background is patterned with rose vines that twist around the room. 


An x-ray of a child’s lungs appears in the middle of the shot. It is held up by two small hands on either side and covers the upper body and face of its owner. The child stands in a living room, in front of two chairs set side by side below draped curtains. The X-ray shows darkened areas in her right lung, manifesting the compression of lung tissue resulting from chronic asthma.  


An intimate shot of an interior wall, the paint is peeling in spots to reveal a bare concrete wall. Square stickers are pasted sporadically on the wall to cover the cracks caused by the vibrations of the nearby cement factory. Stuck to the paint is a large sticker of a cartoon cat gasping with his hand in his mouth. His eyes are looking at a large section of exposed concrete and he is acknowledging it. 


Two landscape-oriented pictures appear side by side. In the left picture, a broom pushes dust from a tiled floor revealing two different colours of flooring. Its handle reaches outside the left margin of the picture as the dust that has been pushed reveals a white surface. A barefoot has walked past the broom leaving its imprint. 

On the right, a darker picture stands in contrast to the one on the left. A carpet woven with intricate ornamental detail collects gray cement dust. We see the races left by a foot or a hand moving diagonally from top to bottom pushing some of the dust aside, revealing the carpet underneath. 


Two different family portraits juxtaposed on a white background. The scenery in each image is dominated by the monstrous industrial presence of the cement factory. 

The left image is of the Mostafa Family on the brick and tin roof of their family home. A man wearing dark glasses and a crew neck sweater sits on a bench beside a woman in a dark hijab. A young girl sits on his lap and a slightly older boy is standing behind the family. A metal silo in the background is obscured by the brick wall with a large opening that encloses the roof.

The right image is of the Kandry standing on the roof of their home. A preteen girl clutches a doll, her mother stands behind her in a light hijab, an arm around her husband, who is a tall bald man with a bushy white beard. The metal silo from the factory is no longer obscured and the corrugated metal fence slants up to the right enclosing their roof.


In the middle of the composition, a man lies on a simple hospital bed, creating a horizontal and slanted horizon. Lying on his back his arm is bent behind him and supports his head. He wears a long-sleeved shirt that is pulled up under his chin, revealing his chest, where his other hand rests delicately. His legs, one knee up, are covered by a sheet. The background of the picture is filled with heavy curtains, hanging only a few inches away from the bed. Woven from thick fabric, they reflect the light from the neons above and make the room appear narrow. At the right and left of the picture, medical material on hard and shiny surfaces engulf the small room.


Two landscape shots on a white background. 

In the left image, the camera points down toward Abdhul Akmad, a 33 year old man with short dark hair, sleeping face up on the dark carpets of a Mosque. His head is pointing towards the camera and the halo of overhead light illuminates the right side of his face, casting the left in shadow. 

In the right image, the camera points down towards a medium sized dog with dark fur and light paws. The dog lays curled in a patch of dirt, the head and body are leaning on the edge of a tiled patio, where barely visible tiles peek through the dust.  


The edges of a wooden window frame, 3 or 4 cm wide and painted white, flank the right and left edges of the picture. The frame holds a dusty windowpane in its middle. Residues of cement dust hold onto the sleek surface of the glass gathering in patterns shaped by past rainfalls and fingertips that have tried to wipe it away with horizontal back and forth motions. A few inches on the other side of this window, Abdul Akmad gazes solemnly beyond the frame of the picture towards the left. In his late thirties, he has a short beard a few days old, full eyebrows, dark eyes, and short hair.