With Egypt’s capital in turmoil, here’s photographic toast to one of the world’s most fascinating cities.
December 3, 2013
All the lousy news from Egypt of late has me thinking about my several visits to that country.
My first visit, in 2002, was on a vacation — a ten-day, small-group tour from Cairo through the Sinai, down along the Red Sea coast and over to Luxor. (Memories include Saint Catherine’s monastery, the excellent snorkeling at Ras Mohammed, and climbing Mount Sinai at 4:30 in the morning in the company of five thousand Russians.)
Later, before the overthrow of Mubarak and the subsequent chaos, I was fortunate to visit Cairo numerous times as an airline crewmember, with some layovers lasting as three or four days. (I was able, on two different occasions, to bring friends with me on these trips.) Cairo is up there with Cape Town as one of the coolest places in the world my job has ever taken me.
Below are some of my favorite pictures from those visits.
I’m told that Luxor and the Red Sea resorts are still drawing reasonable numbers of tourists. But Cairo is another story, and you have to feel terrible for the many people there who made their livings through tourism. I think of Abdou, for example, my regular driver in Cairo. Abdou was friendly, punctual, and he never overcharged — about as ideal a tour guide as you could hope for. I can only wonder how he’s getting by nowadays.
These and many other of the author’s travel photos can be viewed on Flickr.
When you’re done looking at the pictures, I hope you’ll click over to YouTube and have a look at my “Twenty-Four Hours in Cairo” video. It’s a mish-mash montage from one of those layovers a few years ago.
The best part of the video is right at the beginning, the opening twenty seconds or so where I’ve got the camera out the window of Abdou’s taxi. The sound is what I’m talking about: Blaring above the traffic noise is the sunset call to prayer, which concludes with an amazing echo. Then, just as the echo begins to peter out comes this booming, apocalyptic groaning noise. It’ll hair stand up. Is it a truck horn? Whatever that noise is, it gives me the chills hearing it. The whole sequence was recorded more or less by accident, but there’s something so perfect about it. Play it loud!