Saturday, 2 February 2008

New York Times: Cairo

Image Copyright © Shawn Baldwin/NY Times -All Rights Reserved

I haven't visited Cairo for more than 4-5 days since 1988, so I'm always interested to see recent photographs of its neighborhoods. Cultural, political, societal and economic upheavals have reshaped the character of this ancient city from a hub of Mediterranean influences to an amalgam of Islamic traditions and Arab culture mixed in with a hefty dose of Americanisms. Neighborhoods with Greek, Italian, French and British characteristics have now been "Egyptianized", with new gated communities springing up looking more like those of Scottsdale, Arizona than anything else.

As recently as 1988, few women in the posh neighborhoods of Cairo wore veils but now, it's the norm rather than the exception. One thing hasn't changed though: the photograph of a man riding a bicycle navigating Cairo's traffic with a ladder-sized tray of baladi bread balanced on his head, is a scene that will last forever. What if he falls or drops a few loaves of bread you ask? Ah, well...he puts them back on the tray and continues his delivery as if nothing happened.

The slideshow of photographs by Shawn Baldwin is worthwhile seeing to appreciate the "older" Cairo...the Cairo I recall. For instance, one of the photographs is of the famed El-Feshawi cafe where I had my very first (and probably the last) sheesha or water-pipe.

The NY Times' Weekend In Cairo

The accompanying article.