August 31, 2010

Islamic Cairo part One

Cairo, the city victorious; what can one say? Too many layers of history to sum up neatly. The people the buildings/ dusty apartment balconies, a millenia of handworked stone on minarets and domes/ the magnificent crumbling of old homes. Tables spread in the street for millions. The adhan comes, the adhan goes/the faithful bow in calm repose. I blow black snot from my nose. Cairo is beautiful, pulsing, polluted and home to the hardest hustlers anywhere, cats who can look at you, assess your nationality, and pitch their sale in your native language without missing a beat. My first night here I sat playing backgammon at a cafe with some friends and the subject turned to wheat, the commodity that is apparently bleeding Egyptian coffers dry as they try to buy it on the open market after their main suppliers--Australia and Russia--suffered severe shortages of export due to drought and (in Russia's case) massive fires. This bread called "aish" (Arabic meaning life), is an Egyptian staple and attempted substitutes have not been popular. The next day another friend related that much of Islamic Cairo lay under a giant accumulating pool of sewage, which was styming some restoration efforts. How long can 20 million people beat a living from the desert here? But yet they do, day after day. For now I'm the tourist just soaking in the incredible pace and feel of life here. Yesterday at an Indian restaurant in Zamalek for iftar, we ran into Gamal Nkrumah, Kwame Nkrumah's son who was offered asylum in Egypt after his father was deposed in Ghana. He works for Al-Ahram Weekly. Other than iftars and internet cafes, my main activity has been visiting shrines and masjids and buying gifts for the family. I present to you the results of my visits around Islamic Cairo. If anyone remembers my photos from Damascus, they will notice that Cairo also has a Seyyid Hussein maqam (allegedly also his head) and a Seyyida Zeinab maqam. Enjoy!

2 comments:

Anonymous,  August 31, 2010 at 4:27 PM  

Fascinating....bustling, hustling, life under the African sun. This is the nexus of Africa and the Levant. How exciting!

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