Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Little Egypt : A Love letter in pictures

I arrived in Cairo well before the political crisis, in April of 2010. Egypt did indeed seem like a beautiful and rich country, wracked by decades of abuse. Spectacular but crumbling architecture, ancient and modern. Verdant but unkempt parks and countryside. Jubilant but dirty markets. Wonderful food, much of it out of reach of many people.
A famous museum whose walls were in need of paint. You could see the decline in the ruins of once lavish apartment buildings, a decaying infrastructure that can’t keep up with garbage collection. For two weeks I avoided the obvious tourist sites, the museums and pyramids, preferring to spend my days wandering through the safe streets of Cairo, talking to friendly, welcoming people, sampling their food, taking in the ambience. I loved them and I loved being there. They deserve better. ¡Viva la Revolución!

One of many mosques that grace the urban landscape.

This is near where the protests are happening

relaxing in an ancient mosque

watching a football game in a café, Cairo

A typical street market

The old and the new

Youngs vendors of fuul (beans, a common steet food).

The hazardous crossing of streets

Enjoying sheesha in a street café

Breads cooling

Cooking ta'amiya (aka felafel)

Pigeons stuffed with rice and wheat, one of Egypt's most beloved dishes

Koshary, Egypt's favorite comfort food, is pasta and wheat and chick peas bathed in a spicy, fragrant sauce and garnished with browned onions

A typically beautifully decorated pushcart

Egyption desserts

Gay life in Egypt is underground. But ironically, pairs of men and women,
not necessarily gay, can often be seen holding hands or walking arm in arm in public;
just not with each other!

A typical street in a poorer area of downtown Cairo

Horrific piles of garbage spill out of alleys and down stairs.
Even the 'nice' neighborhoods are unkempt.

Many people live in dreary, unfinished looking housing blocks like these.

This strange place is called 'City of the Dead'. It is a cemetery where squatters cohabitate with their ancestors. Not for desire to commune with the past, but for lack of better housing.

A decaying Art Deco cinema

A forlorn manequin waits in vain to be gussied up in an almost empty but still funcioning and once-grand downtown department store.

Laughing in spite of it all.

Night falls over the old Muslim quarter

Oum Kolthoum (1898-1975) was the Egyptian singer/diva par excellance. Although she sang non-political love songs, she was a heroine of the people a symbol of 'Egyptian-ness', and would have been proud of what's happening now. Here I am in a café dedicated to her and featuring her images and non-stop music.

Oum even has her own museum. Her famous diamond studded glasses are on display.
Not even Streisand has such dedicated fans.

Here I am relaxing on the Corniche in Alexandria

And I did, finally, make it to the Pyramids of Giza

It's time for change!


  1. Thank you so much. Pictures are beautiful. Was the interior shot in a mosque or what? Wonder how your Cairo guide is faring. Sounds as if situation is going to get worse...

  2. Lovely, Nick. Full of feeling. Impossible to find the right words to speak to this situation, at least at this moment. Such a precarious situation, so volatile and uncertain....

  3. I, too, love Mexico City. And, I fell in love with Cairo on a vacation 2 years ago. It is an inviting city that has so much potential. Thank you for these lovely pictures of a place to which I will return. -anthony

  4. The photos were absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for sharing these pics. I lived in Egypt for a couple of years as a kid and still miss it terribly. Did you know that koshary is actually a Jewish dish?