After breaking his fast at his home in Cairo's Dokki neighbourhood, 27-year-old bank employee Yasin Mahmoud made his way to Musaddaq Street to meet up with 30 of his colleagues.
But Mahmoud and his cohorts were not lounging about and socialising after their evening feast. Instead, he and many other Egyptians went to collect garbage from the streets as per a new government initiative to clean up the country.
Launched on July 26th, the "Clean Homeland" campaign is a part of a 100-day programme introduced by President Mohamed Morsi that focuses on five high-priority issues: security, traffic, fuel, bread and cleanliness.
Morsi spokesperson Dr. Yasser Ali said in a press statement that the nationwide campaign, which has enlisted government executive agencies, organisations, citizens' groups and private institutions, has so far achieved a 60% success rate throughout the country's provinces.
He said 3,000 working groups from both the administrative arm of the state as well as a number of private organisations have participated in the campaign, with some 107,000 individuals volunteering.
Thus far, campaign workers have removed 203,000 tons of construction waste and disposed of 120,000 tons of garbage, Ali said.
According to government statistics, Egypt produces some 20 million tons of municipal waste annually. However, densely-populated Cairo is hit the hardest in terms of garbage accumulation, with some 12,000 tons of garbage produced every day.
Garbage collection became more problematic following the January 25th Revolution in 2011, when street cleaners went on strike to demand improvements in their financial and social conditions. And in April of this year, thousands of workers from the Cairo Cleaning and Beautification Agency went on strike for two weeks.
So far the campaign has succeeded in cleaning up some of the major neighbourhoods in the governorate of Cairo, the agency's president Hafiz Saeed told Egypt's Al-Ahram, with more than 8,000 tons of garbage removed. Also, hundreds of trees were planted along the main roads.
Typically, campaign work begins every day after iftar, running from 7 p.m. until midnight. After the end of Ramadan, the government intends to organise weekly campaigns in co-ordination with civil society organisations to help get rid of the garbage littering Egypt's streets and squares, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Salim Ali, president of the Nasr City district in eastern Cairo, told Al-Shorfa that large quantities of garbage have been removed from most areas in his neighbourhood.
The campaign also includes the general beautification of the city, like trimming trees along the main roads, repainting sidewalks and restoring street lamps, he said.
One of the most positive gains is that the campaign increases citizens' level of awareness and urges them to play an active role in resolving the garbage crisis, he said.
Volunteer Muntasir Abdul Khaliq said anyone can help clean up the country by picking up trash, donating cleaning products and tools, or simply making financial contributions.
"In the end, work is based upon local needs, as each neighbourhood's needs are different. We hope that our personal efforts will provide the seed for a national project to solve the garbage problem in Egypt once and for all," he said.
However, some citizens said that solving the garbage issue requires firm laws and regulations, as well as new institutions.
School teacher Omnia Murad, 35, said she thinks the problem will re-emerge as soon as the campaign is over. She said the next government should institute new laws to regulate waste disposal and garbage recycling while at the same time building an institution that would provide oversight.
Accountant Ahmed Khalil disagrees, saying that improving the conditions of cleaning staff workers and raising the standards of existing institutions are better solutions than legislating new laws or establishing new government bodies, as this process would consume large human and financial resources.