Wednesday, September 16, 2015


In his book Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, Bruce Feiler writes:

"If Egypt is the gift of the Nile, Cairo is the cleanup job left after all the boxes have been opened and all the guests have gone home."

I have to agree. Cairo is a tightly packed and messy city in need of a good cleaning. Because the Cairo Airport is over nine miles from the city center, we saw a fair amount of Cairo through bus windows during both our arrival from Luxor and our way back to the airport for our flight to Jordan, as well as during our driving to the Pyramids of Giza. Most of the pictures in this post were taken via those windows, so be forgiving of an occasional bit of glare.
The capital city of Egypt, Cairo is very densely populated and seems to be composed primarily of apartment buildings that are various shades of brown: sand brown, dirt brown, desert brown, and red-brown:

There is also quite a bit of dirty white, gray white, and smoggy white:

As we had seen all over Egypt (and in many other countries other than the US), there was plenty of clean laundry drying on balcony clotheslines:
Even the shop owners use those railings to display their wares:
Note all the satellite dishes on the roofs below, a disconnect with what seems to be ubiquitous poverty:

Government and financial buildings stand out in the sea of apartments. I like the geometric trim on the top of the Ministry of Finance building:
The Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt has an unusual geometric design on the side that reminds me of a computer motherboard:
The traffic was predictably heavy as we drove through the city. Feiler writes:

"Today, with a population nearing twenty million, the 'Mother of the World' has more vehicles than the Nile has fish. As a result it has more congestion than almost any place on earth and a daily derby of pedestrian crossing."
I don't think I'd want to rent a car in Cairo. Besides the traffic, there is the issue of the signage:
Walking doesn't look too bad (but only if I wouldn't have to cross the street):
Neither does this giant water slide. Oh wait, maybe it's a metro entrance:
Cairo has one of only four metro systems on the African continent, and it's the 15th busiest in the world, with 1 billion people riding it each year.

Cairo is nicknamed "The City of 1,000 Minarets." We saw about as many minarets as we see chapel steeples when we drive through Utah Valley:

These are by no means cookie-cutter buildings. Each is distinct:

The minaret heights can be very impressive, sometimes reaching four or five times the height of the mosque:
Every now and then we saw a Christian Coptic Orthodox Church:
If we could design a return trip to Cairo, it would include a stop in several mosques and Coptic churches.

Cairo, like other capitals, is full of monuments:
I particularly like this one and wish I had more information on it:
Same for this one, an eclectic blend of ancient and modern:
We drove past the reviewing stand where Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981:
Directly across the street is the Unknown Soldier Memorial, which Sadat had built in 1974 to honor the victims of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Ironically, it was where he himself would be buried seven years later. The inscription on his grave is "Hero of war and peace." I tried to get a picture, but I was on the wrong side of the bus. This one from Wikipedia is better anyway:
We got a different view of the National Democratic Party Headquarters building that was burned in the 2011 Revolution.
This aerial photo from here shows its position in relation to the Cairo Museum. The NDP building is labeled "Ruling Party HQ" in the picture below:
Tahrir Square, where the 2011 Revolution fomented, is just down the road, marked with a square in the photo above. A large urban concrete space, Tahrir Square is the Egyptian sister of Red Square in Moscow, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Heroes Square in Budapest.

The red ribbon in the picture above is the area where protesters fought security forces and each other. We drove past part of that section:
It was quiet and peaceful, a place for a nice stroll with your children:
It's hard to imagine that in January 2011 Tahrir Square and the area we had driven by looked like this:
Photo from here, arrows added by me.
While tranquil today, the area still has plenty of security:

However, the rest of Cairo doesn't reflect the same intensity. Life seems to go on as it does everywhere else.

We noticed plenty of American, European, and Asian influence, just what you'd expect in a country at the crossroads between continents. However, note that their In & Out sells furniture, not hamburgers:
This is one of my favorite Coca-Cola advertisements anywhere in the world (and we've seen a lot of them):
Mobil Gas in EGYPT? That is a surprise.
On the other hand, this is no surprise, although that doesn't look like the standard McDonald's burrito to me. Maybe it's a falafel burrito:
Mango Tang. Hmmm. I might be willing to try that:
Avon Egypt. Who would've guessed?
The Colonel does well all over the world:
And he has an evil twin in Egypt:
The Nile, the reason Cairo exists:

Next: The Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.

Set primarily in Cairo during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, The Photographer's Wife tells the fictional story of a Syrian-Greek photographer living in Cairo whose beautiful artist wife develops an interest in his business and learns the trade. When she applies her painter's eye to lighting and composition, she becomes a far better photographer than her husband, a scandal in the male-dominated society of the day. French-Egyptian author Robert Sole places the story against the backdrop of the British occupation of Egypt, social and political turmoil, increasing nationalism, and the war in Sudan. He also describes Cairo society and social mores. I learned a lot about a period of Egyptian history I knew nothing about. The book was published in France in 1996 and translated into English in 1999.


  1. Per usual, great collection of apartment, traffic, political square, etc. photos. Fun to get the connection to the Arab Spring happenings. Cairo is a place that would be fun to go back to.

  2. Awesome quote! What a great collection of pictures. I agree with Bob--Cairo would be a fun place to revisit.

  3. Interesting tour through one of the big cities of the world. I was also amazed by all the satellite dishes everywhere. I guess television is the great leveler.