Thursday, January 31, 2008

Getting it Done

Sometimes you find yourself going the wrong way, and what can you do? This horse and cart took the easy way out as we were headed for Bab el Zuweila the other day. They just cut across the median. Most of the time drivers are careful not to hit the animals in the roads here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rainy Window

We've had the worst weather I've seen in Cairo for some time. First the frosty mornings of a week or so back, and now rain, wind and falling mud for a while. The weather looked better from the inside of a warm dry living room yesterday.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Waiting Out the Rain

On a wet afternoon in Cairo a group of men play dominoes at a coffee shop while waiting for a shower to stop. Visitors sometimes wonder what is smoked in the waterpipes at the coffee shops, but as a rule it is a fruit flavoured or honey flavoured tobacco.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Maghreb Prayer

At dusk the artisans in Khan el Khalili gather in prayer on a rooftop near their workshops.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Lucky Black Cat

Egypt and cats have a long history. Bastet was the cat goddess, a guardian of the household and family. Most Egyptians, even if they don't invite it in, will feed a stray cat. You see them everywhere in Cairo. This one was hunched against a wet, chilly wind on top of an ancient Coke cooler in old Cairo.

Monday, January 21, 2008

At Least The Smiles Are Warm

I have friends from Canada staying with me right now. We are all complaining of the cold weather and they keep laughing at us...with good reason I suppose. But it has been colder here than I ever remember in Cairo. For about four mornings in a row, there has been frost on the grass early in morning and my ordinarily green lawn is a dull beige where the grass shoots have died from the frost. We went out riding in the area yesterday and one of my friends took this photo of some of the village children as we rode by. In the chilly weather, the children have layered on their clothing with pretty colourful results....yet they still wear their sandals.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Clang, clang, clanga-clang-clang. A noisy percussion announces the butagas bottle man as he makes his way around the neighbourhood. In the city, homes have access to gaslines, but in the countryside the bottles keep our kitchens cooking. Some of the butagas men have pickups like this one, others use horse-drawn carts. The replacement bottle is about 6LE or roughly a dollar. One bottle lasts me almost a month...but then I'm only cooking for one.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Is This White Stuff?

It's been cold in Egypt this winter and out here near the desert is colder than the city. This morning I woke up early to see a dusting of white over my lawn. I grabbed a heavy coat, some shoes and the camera to see what was going on. A heavy frost lay over the grass in the area around the house. As I was shooting the frost, all the dogs came out of the house ready to relieve themselves on the grass, but most of them refused to set foot on the white stuff. So most of them crowded into the flower bed near the house where there was no frost, or on the border of grass closest to the slightly warmer house. Guess Egyptian dogs aren't that tough.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Resting Place

Cemeteries can tell you a lot about a society. Technically speaking, a Muslim should be wrapped in a white cloth after death and buried in an unmarked grave in the desert. With a history of pyramid and tomb building, one can imagine that this particular tradition didn't sit too well in Egypt. So now we have tombs that are small rooms or small houses...not terribly Islamic, but very Egyptian. Near the cities, tombs are often small rooms or houses built of brick, but in the countryside they are very small structures as a rule with only enough room for a body.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Puzzling Question

So I'm riding along with some friends and in the middle of a trail that is nowhere near a home or a village, we see a shoe. Just one shoe with no laces. If someone was walking or running and lost one shoe, surely he/she would notice, right? Even if you are walking carrying a pair of shoes and one falls, you would notice, right? It's one of those Egyptian questions: where do these single shoes come from anyway?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Old Style

The Constitutional Courthouse on the Nile in Maadi echoes pharaonic elements in its architecture. It was built quite recently but it looks a lot like a temple.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Lunchtime Nap

It's pretty hard not to give in to the urge to nap in the sun on a bright winter day. This gentleman is probably not homeless, more likely he's taking advantage of a break in his work as a watchman or cleaner. Nevertheless, no one bothered him or broke his dreams.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spinnin' Tales After School

I was on my way back from town and stopped in our nearest village to buy some bananas. Through my open car window, I heard the older boy telling the younger one stories about the people passing by on foot or by car. Boys never change.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Stairway to Heaven

Architects such as Ramses Wissa-Wassef and Dr. Hassan Fathy went back to the traditional designs for houses and refined them, creating spaces of extraordinary beauty. These stairs are at the Wissa-Wassef Art Center in Harania, a recipient of the Agha Khan award for architecture.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Time Out Of Time

I'm not a great celebrator of New Year's Eve....too many years spent working them as a college student with a night job in hotels and restaurants, I suspect. But New Year's Day I took a visitor to the lake in Dahshur on horseback to experience the villages and desert. On a day when time is on our minds, sometimes the very old things are a good reminder.

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