10 stunning images show life as an Egyptian limestone worker

Published January 4th, 2017 - 04:02 GMT

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Egyptian architect and photographer Ezzat Hisham has captured scenes of the daily life of workers in the limestone quarries of Minya, in Egypt's southern desert.  He spoke to Al Bawaba about what motivated his stunning series of images that depict one of the most dangerous jobs on earth.

Winter snows do blanket parts of the Middle East, but in the desert quarries of Minya, workers toil in a year-long blizzard of lethal white stone dust. Hisham, who is pursuing a career as an event photographer, posted the otherworldly images on his Instagram page. The pictures went viral, drawing immediate and widespread attention to the under-reported plight of Minya’s quarrymen. Take a look, and realize you have no complaints about your own day job. 

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Considered one of the deadliest jobs in Egypt, workers use machinery with sharp blades to cut through limestone pits. The jobs carry high risk of electricution, limb loss, and respiratory, eye and skin disease. Hisham posted his otherworldly images on Facebook, which went viral, drawing immediate attention to the plight of Minya’s quarrymen.
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Image 1 of 9:  1 / 9Considered one of the deadliest jobs in Egypt, workers use machinery with sharp blades to cut through limestone pits. The jobs carry high risk of electricution, limb loss, and respiratory, eye and skin disease. Hisham posted his otherworldly images on Facebook, which went viral, drawing immediate attention to the plight of Minya’s quarrymen.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

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Inspired by photojournalist Ali Zar'ey, a friend who visited the quarries in 2015, Hisham travelled to where the day workers gathered and shared his plan to photograph the works. Blending in with the workers, he bypassed problems with quarry owners. Despite having seen Zar'ey's work, 'It was a shock to see the actual quarries,' he told Al Bawaba.
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Image 2 of 9:  2 / 9Inspired by photojournalist Ali Zar'ey, a friend who visited the quarries in 2015, Hisham travelled to where the day workers gathered and shared his plan to photograph the works. Blending in with the workers, he bypassed problems with quarry owners. Despite having seen Zar'ey's work, "It was a shock to see the actual quarries," he told Al Bawaba.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
“I wanted to go to Minya and take some photos because it's not a situation that the most people are aware of,” he said. “Some workers said that it's going ‘to show how we work hard and suffer’. Maybe I'm not the first one to go there, but I was happy to see people viewing my album. Giving the workers some attention may get them help.”
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Image 3 of 9:  3 / 9“I wanted to go to Minya and take some photos because it's not a situation that the most people are aware of,” he said. “Some workers said that it's going ‘to show how we work hard and suffer’. Maybe I'm not the first one to go there, but I was happy to see people viewing my album. Giving the workers some attention may get them help.”

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
Hisham described how the quarry provided jobs - for workers as young as 15 - for as long as their bodies held up. 'It's the main way to get money for living for most of them,' he said. Pay hovers at $4 USD (and a free falafel sandwich) per day that begins at dawn. They work without protective gear, withour insurance, and earn no pension.
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Image 4 of 9:  4 / 9Hisham described how the quarry provided jobs - for workers as young as 15 - for as long as their bodies held up. "It's the main way to get money for living for most of them," he said. Pay hovers at $4 USD (and a free falafel sandwich) per day that begins at dawn. They work without protective gear, withour insurance, and earn no pension.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
More than 45,000 people work in over 1,500 quarries, chopping stones to clad buildings across the Middle East.  The material is also bought by pharmaceutical and ceramic companies around the world. An injury means they no longer support themselves or their families, and further set back by medical bills. And yet they still show up for work.
Reduce

Image 5 of 9:  5 / 9More than 45,000 people work in over 1,500 quarries, chopping stones to clad buildings across the Middle East. The material is also bought by pharmaceutical and ceramic companies around the world. An injury means they no longer support themselves or their families, and further set back by medical bills. And yet they still show up for work.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
Mistaking him for a bona fide photojournalist, workers confided their grievances. Hisham told us, 'I don't consider my album as a story because a full story should cover all sides of their life and my album didn't show that.'  He added, 'I'd like to go again and stay longer so I can explore some things that I missed on my first visit.'
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Image 6 of 9:  6 / 9Mistaking him for a bona fide photojournalist, workers confided their grievances. Hisham told us, "I don't consider my album as a story because a full story should cover all sides of their life and my album didn't show that." He added, "I'd like to go again and stay longer so I can explore some things that I missed on my first visit."

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
Medhat  Kalliny, a professor of community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, who has researched Egyptian mines, told WIRED, 'In Egypt, we lack industrial hygiene. Workers inhale a lot of dust which contains high levels of silica that can cause silicosis.'  Silicosis affects the lungs, reducing breathing capacity.
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Image 7 of 9:  7 / 9Medhat Kalliny, a professor of community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, who has researched Egyptian mines, told WIRED, "In Egypt, we lack industrial hygiene. Workers inhale a lot of dust which contains high levels of silica that can cause silicosis." Silicosis affects the lungs, reducing breathing capacity.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
'I want to make my photography my career. It's my passion and what I love, but it's not also easy due to a lot of things specifically here in our country. But as they say, no pain no gain, so I'm going to keep fighting for my passion and my dream.'
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Image 8 of 9:  8 / 9"I want to make my photography my career. It's my passion and what I love, but it's not also easy due to a lot of things specifically here in our country. But as they say, no pain no gain, so I'm going to keep fighting for my passion and my dream."

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge
Hisham told Al Bawaba, 'I don't like to keep myself in one theme. I want to explore all photo categories and styles because a good photographer should be ready able to get good results at any time or situation. My next  project will be about the camel market here in Egypt, and I will return to the limestone quarries.' Follow him on Facebook.
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Image 9 of 9:  9 / 9Hisham told Al Bawaba, "I don't like to keep myself in one theme. I want to explore all photo categories and styles because a good photographer should be ready able to get good results at any time or situation. My next project will be about the camel market here in Egypt, and I will return to the limestone quarries." Follow him on Facebook.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

Enlarge

1

Considered one of the deadliest jobs in Egypt, workers use machinery with sharp blades to cut through limestone pits. The jobs carry high risk of electricution, limb loss, and respiratory, eye and skin disease. Hisham posted his otherworldly images on Facebook, which went viral, drawing immediate attention to the plight of Minya’s quarrymen.

Image 1 of 9Considered one of the deadliest jobs in Egypt, workers use machinery with sharp blades to cut through limestone pits. The jobs carry high risk of electricution, limb loss, and respiratory, eye and skin disease. Hisham posted his otherworldly images on Facebook, which went viral, drawing immediate attention to the plight of Minya’s quarrymen.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

2

Inspired by photojournalist Ali Zar'ey, a friend who visited the quarries in 2015, Hisham travelled to where the day workers gathered and shared his plan to photograph the works. Blending in with the workers, he bypassed problems with quarry owners. Despite having seen Zar'ey's work, 'It was a shock to see the actual quarries,' he told Al Bawaba.

Image 2 of 9Inspired by photojournalist Ali Zar'ey, a friend who visited the quarries in 2015, Hisham travelled to where the day workers gathered and shared his plan to photograph the works. Blending in with the workers, he bypassed problems with quarry owners. Despite having seen Zar'ey's work, "It was a shock to see the actual quarries," he told Al Bawaba.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

3

“I wanted to go to Minya and take some photos because it's not a situation that the most people are aware of,” he said. “Some workers said that it's going ‘to show how we work hard and suffer’. Maybe I'm not the first one to go there, but I was happy to see people viewing my album. Giving the workers some attention may get them help.”

Image 3 of 9“I wanted to go to Minya and take some photos because it's not a situation that the most people are aware of,” he said. “Some workers said that it's going ‘to show how we work hard and suffer’. Maybe I'm not the first one to go there, but I was happy to see people viewing my album. Giving the workers some attention may get them help.”

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

4

Hisham described how the quarry provided jobs - for workers as young as 15 - for as long as their bodies held up. 'It's the main way to get money for living for most of them,' he said. Pay hovers at $4 USD (and a free falafel sandwich) per day that begins at dawn. They work without protective gear, withour insurance, and earn no pension.

Image 4 of 9Hisham described how the quarry provided jobs - for workers as young as 15 - for as long as their bodies held up. "It's the main way to get money for living for most of them," he said. Pay hovers at $4 USD (and a free falafel sandwich) per day that begins at dawn. They work without protective gear, withour insurance, and earn no pension.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

5

More than 45,000 people work in over 1,500 quarries, chopping stones to clad buildings across the Middle East.  The material is also bought by pharmaceutical and ceramic companies around the world. An injury means they no longer support themselves or their families, and further set back by medical bills. And yet they still show up for work.

Image 5 of 9More than 45,000 people work in over 1,500 quarries, chopping stones to clad buildings across the Middle East. The material is also bought by pharmaceutical and ceramic companies around the world. An injury means they no longer support themselves or their families, and further set back by medical bills. And yet they still show up for work.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

6

Mistaking him for a bona fide photojournalist, workers confided their grievances. Hisham told us, 'I don't consider my album as a story because a full story should cover all sides of their life and my album didn't show that.'  He added, 'I'd like to go again and stay longer so I can explore some things that I missed on my first visit.'

Image 6 of 9Mistaking him for a bona fide photojournalist, workers confided their grievances. Hisham told us, "I don't consider my album as a story because a full story should cover all sides of their life and my album didn't show that." He added, "I'd like to go again and stay longer so I can explore some things that I missed on my first visit."

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

7

Medhat  Kalliny, a professor of community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, who has researched Egyptian mines, told WIRED, 'In Egypt, we lack industrial hygiene. Workers inhale a lot of dust which contains high levels of silica that can cause silicosis.'  Silicosis affects the lungs, reducing breathing capacity.

Image 7 of 9Medhat Kalliny, a professor of community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, who has researched Egyptian mines, told WIRED, "In Egypt, we lack industrial hygiene. Workers inhale a lot of dust which contains high levels of silica that can cause silicosis." Silicosis affects the lungs, reducing breathing capacity.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

8

'I want to make my photography my career. It's my passion and what I love, but it's not also easy due to a lot of things specifically here in our country. But as they say, no pain no gain, so I'm going to keep fighting for my passion and my dream.'

Image 8 of 9"I want to make my photography my career. It's my passion and what I love, but it's not also easy due to a lot of things specifically here in our country. But as they say, no pain no gain, so I'm going to keep fighting for my passion and my dream."

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

9

Hisham told Al Bawaba, 'I don't like to keep myself in one theme. I want to explore all photo categories and styles because a good photographer should be ready able to get good results at any time or situation. My next  project will be about the camel market here in Egypt, and I will return to the limestone quarries.' Follow him on Facebook.

Image 9 of 9Hisham told Al Bawaba, "I don't like to keep myself in one theme. I want to explore all photo categories and styles because a good photographer should be ready able to get good results at any time or situation. My next project will be about the camel market here in Egypt, and I will return to the limestone quarries." Follow him on Facebook.

(Source: Ezzat Hisham )

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