Monday, April 30, 2012

Cairo-Khan El Khalili: April 30, 2012

Today, like a gift from Egypt Air, our bags arrived.  That was a good start.  After getting reacquainted with our possessions, we went to the Khan. The Khan El Khalili is the most amazing market of surprising nooks and crannies.  There were not many shoppers and very few tourists at the Khan.  We stopped at my favorite merchants to see their old silver jewelry.  Mr. Ali is in the first photo with his picture of himself and the Queen of Spain behind him.  He's a very good salesman and he has some great treasures.  He said the Queen of Spain visits his shop every 2 to 3 years.

Another of my favorite merchants is Alaa who owns Kenoz Jewelry.  He's very knowledgeable on all types of old Egyptian jewelry.  There was a period of time when Berber and Bedouin jewelry was not popular so it was bought for the weight of the silver only and melted down.  Mr. Alaa offers a premium price to those who want to sell their silver jewelry.  His price is better than what they would get for the weight of the silver so he has a good inventory and less jewelry is destroyed.

The young woman above sells new silver jewelry parts: fastenings, findings, chains, beads from Thailand and Egypt.  She said 100% of her business was foreign customers.  Now her business is down 80%.

Some sights in the Khan El Khalili:

A guava salesman from Luxor:
Just people who wanted their photos taken:

An elusive bread man.  They move so fast it's very hard to get a photo.  He's shaking his finger at me.

 Inside the Spice Market:

Farther inside the spice market where spices are ground or pressed to make oils.  Just walking into this area you can feel the dust in your throat.  It causes immediate coughing.  Imagine these people working their every long day with no breathing protection.

A supplier of herbs and essential oils.  The writing on the packages is in Cyrillic because they ship their concoctions to Russia.

It was nice to have some time to ourselves to visit and explore the Khan.  And, we did our best to stimulate the Egyptian economy.  This evening we had dinner at Maison Thomas in Zamalek with Hadeel who had to be home by 9:30 pm.

Because it was so early for Cairo and for our friend Vivian, we stopped by her apartment for a visit before going back to our hotel.  She is an American who has made Cairo her home.  She remained through the revolution, and said that life on Zamalek was much the same as usual.  The grocery remained open and was well stocked.  People began watching out for each other and neighbors who had never talked finally met each other.

Khan El Khalili

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cairo Graffiti-Day: April 29, 2012

Today, we have no appointments until evening when we are meeting several of Dan's former students at a stationary boat restaurant.  We noticed some interesting new graffiti in Zamalek and we were told that there are some very interesting walls in Garden City at American University in Cairo (AUC).  Along the way, we visited some of my favorite shops.  Several people on the street approached us to ask if we had had any problems in Cairo.  They wanted to make sure that we were having a good visit.

The above image is part of a wall of art on Ismael Muhammed Street in Zamalek near an Art School.  I was riveted by the messages in these images.  When I was taking photographs, a young woman explained the iconography of each image.  This image contains the date the revolution began (25 Jan), a bursting of wrist cuffs on the hands holding the religious symbols (cross and crescent), and other hands grasping two of the items that fueled the revolution: mobile phones' SMS and Facebook.
The bubble under the fist says "equality" and the smaller bubble below "freedom".  The panel below says "revolution of change" and "7orya" freedom in Arabic.

The word in the center of this image, 7orya,  means "Freedom" in Arabic.  The lightbulb contains a brain and the shape is an "o" in the word.   

The Graffiti Wall on Ismael Mohammed St, Zamalek
Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, SMS are prominent in these images of revolution. Farther down in this line of graffiti panels there is one of stencil art that says "Raise Thinkers, not Fighters."

We were hoping to walk to Tahrir Square, but a shop owner warned us not to go there on foot and not with our cameras.  His reasoning was that the square had no police presence, was lawless, and currently occupied by unhappy Salafists.  With that warning, on our walk we just skirted Tahrir Square enough to see the Salafi occupation and tents.  The US and British Embassies are nearby, and there is a very heavy military presence with tanks and coils of razor wire on all the nearby streets.  Some streets are barricaded by large stones that have been decorated.  We stopped at a favorite art gallery (Duroub Gallery) across from the American Embassy and bought two small paintings.  The gallery owner wanted to make sure we could get to AUC safely so she hooked us up with a young man in the neighborhood who escorted us to the University.  The neighborhood streets are now an obstacle course of barricades and rubble.  Egyptians go about their normal business using planks to scale these barricades or climbing the walls to shorten their route.

The scene on the above wall was an attempt to paint a reproduction of the streets hidden behind the wall.  It was the "No Walls Street" graffiti campaign to paint the concrete-block walls/barricades in downtown Cairo, Egypt.  

After going to the bookstore at AUC, we took photographs of the wall of graffiti on one side of the university.

This mural shows female activist Samira Ibrahim (top most portrait), who was forced to undergo a "virginity test" while in detention by the military.

Much of the Cairo we knew is the same.  Lovers still stroll along the Kasr Al Nile Bridge.

Felucas still ply the Nile dropping their sails to pass under the bridges  The party boats on the other side of the Nile still blare their disco music hoping to attract passengers.  In the photo below taken from Zamalek, the building on the right is the National Democratic Party (NDP) Headquarters building.  It was burned on January 28, 2011, and its charred hull is still part of the Cairo skyline.

Tonight we had dinner with Rana, Hadia, Sara, and Hadeel.  All were Dan's students. They live with their parents still, but are employed.  Post-revolution Cairo is not as comfortable and safe for women. These women have 9:30 pm curfews because their parents are afraid for their daughters to be out later even in a group.  In pre-revolution Cairo, the parties and dinners did not begin until after 9:30 pm.  In Zamalek, a restaurant offered early-bird dinner prices if you came before 9:00 pm.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cairo-Our First Day: April 28, 2012

Dan and I had made arrangements to visit many of our Egyptian friends.  Today, we were scheduled to visit with our friends Gamal and Zizi and their boys.  Since we were meeting Gamal at his shop near the Citadel we visited the Citadel first.

The above photo is of the dome of the Muhammad Ali Mosque.  It's architecture is Ottoman and inside it always feels so peaceful and cool.  Visitors come just to sit and enjoy the space.

The Fountain at Muhammed Ali Mosque

The Citadel didn't have many foreign visitors today, but there were some Egyptian visitors.  An Egyptian man asked me to take a photo of his children and the beautiful young women in these photos wanted to take photos of me with them.  After that they posed for us.  The Egyptians we met at the Citadel were friendly and welcoming.  Several asked where we were from and thanked us for coming to Egypt.  It reminded us of how we were welcomed by Egyptians in November 1990 during Operation Desert Shield.  

We met up with Gamal at his shop and then we all went to his home in his son Basel's car. Basel, a new driver, has had his car for 3 months--that's about how long he has been driving, too.

At Gamal's house, Dan and Gamal played chess.  This time Gamal won.  Basel said that during the revolution when there was no work, he and his father would play chess for hours each day.  It shows.  Zizi and Gamal fixed an Egyptian feast of grilled chicken, kofte, salad, tahina, rice and baladi bread.  We ate too much although Zizi wasn't satisfied insisting that we keep eating, and eating, and eating.  Their other son, Mohanad, was in classes at Cairo University so we missed him.

Gamal, Dan, Basel, Zizi, and Ragi

One of the consequences since the revolution is that the police have virtually disappeared. The police force still has not returned to its pre-revolution presence.  On August 30, 2011, Ragi was caught in the middle of a fight between two gangs.  People were running away but he was not able to run fast enough. His hand and wrist were injured after he put is left arm up to shield his head from the beating.  A few months ago he had surgery to repair the nerve damage, and it seems that his hand will recover normal movement.

After dinner, Basel drove us to Zamalek in his red Ford.

After eating that large meal, we met Ghada and her husband Gamal for yet another meal. This time we had a little bit more control over what went into our mouths.