THE WHITE HELL - MINYA, EGYPT
2018. 4:30 am. Minibuses spill men in djellaba by tens. In less than an hour, the crossroad is crowded with people. All expect the same thing: the arrival of the pick-ups that will take them to the limestone quarries. In Al-Minya, it is the main source of work. Almost all men of working age in the region go there 6 days out of 7.
The arrival on the quarries is surreal. A purplish light dyes the sky and the immaculate white landscapes that surround us. Sparks splash the night. At the first light of day, men sharpen the circular saws. This is the beginning of a well-honed ballet where everyone knows his place and what he has to do. Set up the rails and shift them after each cut, maneuver the machines, move the bricks out of the ground and start again. The air is unbreathable and the light is blinding. Clouds of particles envelop the ghostly silhouettes. At each inspiration, the silica rushes into the lungs of the workers. They try to protect themselves with scarves and cloth hoods. But, this does not stop the disease: pulmonary embolism and cataracts, among others, are very common.
Men know it. The health risks and the accidents are numerous on the careers. All it takes is a saw that slips or a blade fragment that breaks loose to lacerate the flesh and cause irreparable damage. The bare wires snaking on the ground are causing many electrocutions. And to top it all, most of these workers are uninsured. Career owners can not get the licenses that would guarantee their employees a pension and health insurance. The army only delivers sparingly the famous sesames. To get it, owners have to abide by very strict rules and pay exorbitant taxes, often much higher than the real profit of these companies. For 5 or 6 euros per day and despite the risks, men in the region continue to produce limestone and to expose themselves to the worst.