Thursday, October 30, 2008

Concealed Shelter

This is not a model of a rocket but a folded umbrella out in front of the mosque of Hussein in Khan el Khalili. The shape models a minaret and when opened the umbrellas provide shelter for the overflow from the mosque during prayer or for people in the plaza below. The umbrellas are a modern addition to a very old mosque but somehow don't violate the design.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pyramid Housekeeping

I was riding by the pyramids of Abu Sir not long ago and found a work crew cutting the grass and bulldozing the sand in front of the pyramid. Long ago this area was a lake bed where the water from the inundation would collect and stay over the winter, so tough grasses grow in the low land in front of the pyramids. I guess someone important is coming to visit. I rather liked the grasses myself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Family Home

In the villages a house is rarely a single family dwelling and if the Cairenes, or at least the older generation, are given a choice, they will build their children apartments in the same building as the parents. Visitors often remark on the many unfinished buildings in Cairo and Giza, and this multigenerational living is one of the reasons for them. The upper floor is often left unfinished until the son marries, and then it is finished for him and his bride. Daughters will often go to an apartment in the groom's parents building.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just A Cupboard

The ingenuity of Cairenes never fails to impress me. This gentleman has a lock and key shop that is literally only a cupboard against a wall...but then how much room does a locksmith really need?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Leading By Example

Crawling along in traffic, it really warms one's heart to be passed by one of Cairo's finest giving a friend a ride on his motorcycle while smoking a cigarette with the one helmet on the bike hanging off the handlebars. Sigh.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Baron's Palace

Around the turn of the century...the last one, that is...a Belgian Edouard Louis Joseph Baron Empain bought six thousand feddans of land from the ruling family of Egypt to establish a new city outside of Cairo. Heliopolis (meaning City of the Sun) is commonly called Misr Gadeeda or New Cairo/New Egypt locally. It was a luxurious suburb of Cairo, then separated from the city by desert, but now closely connected by rapid transit and roads. He commissioned a French architect to build him a palace designed after a Hindu temple, although the rest of the area had a quite distinctive architectural style. The palace was nationalised after the revolution, and recently was retrieved from some foreign buyers by the government to renovate and use as a public building, perhaps a museum. It has always been one of the odder landmarks on the main road into Cairo from the airport.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

That Time Of Year

Each fall they open the canal between the Nile River and the lake at Dahshur to flood the lake bed for the migrating waterfowl. It isn't entirely altruistic as the military have duck blinds on the lake that are rented out for totally exorbitant rates, but the rest of us and the birds that are lucky enough to avoid the hunters do appreciate it. The village boys are probably less thrilled since their goalposts are clearly visible on their now very soggy playing field. The lake bed will slowly dry over the winter.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Night Traffic

I lost my little Sony camera that is so handy for my daily photography and a friend who was in Dubai for a business trip picked me up a new one. The big camera is great when photography is all I'm doing, but multi-tasking photography is better with a smaller camera. So as I was out doing various errands all day in Cairo, I was trying out the new toy, and coming back to Giza across the Moneeb bridge after dark I played around shooting the traffic out the front window. No, I was not driving at the time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Old And The New

An elderly Egyptian gentleman enjoys a cup of tea and the autumn sunshine at Fishawy, my favourite coffee shop in Cairo, next to some young tourists. Fishawy has been the classic Cairo coffee shop for many decades and at one time he probably would meet his friends there for a tea, some conversation and time out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disturbing The Bath

Water buffalo, known as gamoosa in Egypt, are called water buffalo for a very good reason. Imported here from India by Arab traders, they are a mainstay of farm life providing high quality milk, butter, and cheese for farm families, as well as providing disposable income from the sale of the extra milk. Young male water buffalo are usually sold for meat, which is lower in fat than beef and very tasty. It's sold in many grocery stores and butcher shops. In the countryside the animals come out to the fields with the farmers to eat fresh forage all day and then return to a room that is built next to the house in the village at night. But a nice swim on a hot day is always appreciated.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't Drop It

Glassmakers in Cairo make some lovely objects that drive people crazy when they are buying souvenirs. How can you carry these things home without breaking them, bubble wrap or no bubble wrap? Tiny tea cups, wine glasses, perfume bottles, Christmas ornaments...the glass stores just suck you into them like black holes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Felafel Man

There is a tiny hole in the wall foul and ta'ameya (felafel) shop in Khan el Khalili, down a narrow alleyway from Hussein Square on your right as you are headed for the famous coffee shop Fishawy. I usually go upstairs on some of the world's steepest and smallest stairs to sit at one of the four tables above the shop for lunch, but today I was with a friend and we decided to sit outdoors with our sandwich. The menu is limited but the output is delicious. The patties of ta'ameya are fried in oil in a deep copper pan at the ground level of the restaurant. In the winter this warms the entire passageway, though it isn't so great in the summer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Just Above The Road

Visitors to Khan el Khalili are usually so overwhelmed by the millions of tiny shops filled with everything from toys to jewelry that they don't look up from the walkways and roadsides. But the buildings in the area are wonderful old creations with marvelous features. These old wooden balconies over look the square in front of the mosque of Hussein. The odd little roofed room on the roof may well be an air vet letting the hot air of a Cairo summer escape from the rooms before.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stocking Up

With the northeastern Sahara out the front door, sweeping sand out is a national pastime in Cairo and Giza. In the cities people buy their brooms from a shop but out in the farm areas the shops come calling. We were driving back from town and saw the broom seller riding his bicycle along the road, so we stopped to get a couple of palm branch brooms for the garden.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Bad Angle

I've had computer problems at the worst possible time lately. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a roughly four or five day holiday, Eid el Fitr (the Feast of Fastbreaking...known in our household as the Cookie Feast), and woe betide anyone who needs a computer tech as it starts. So my good laptop got very ill and I'm using an old one for daily emails...but my photos all upload sideways. I'm off to the Apple folk today.

If you can figure out how to get the direction correct (and I can't despite spending hours and hours beating my head on the keyboard) this is a photo of the sunrise prayer, the special prayer done on the first day of the feasts under the open sky near Abu Sir. Children play in the desert while older brothers and fathers pray.

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