Cairo New Perspectives

Egypt--the land of the Pharaohs--is a remarkably diverse country rich in both history and culture. As a child, I remember daydreaming of climbing the pyramids or discovering a tomb of an unknown queen/pharaoh! As an adult, thoughts of the pyramids stirred romantic images of a dusty plain, far from the reaches of society where sand dunes marked the time of the ancients and the Bedouins were the keepers of the pyramids. When I finally had the chance to visit, I was shocked to see urban life bearing down on these testaments to time. While cast in the shadows of the Great Pyramids, the rich mosaic of Old and New Cairo with Giza as a backdrop is no less remarkable and enhanced the charm and mystic in the eyes of both the child and the adult. Follow along as I explored parts of this magnificent city; perhaps you, too, may gain a new perspective.

A vendor waits for customers as a donkey takes breakfast from a cart

Cairo, itself, is broken into governable districts, but more easily understood through "Old Cairo" (which some say includes Giza), "Cairo", and "New Cairo". I began in the outskirts of Giza, Egypt's third largest city, as it was waking up to a hazy morning sun. Although within the city limits, the more rural areas away from the Nile blend rural traditions with 21st century needs. Horse-drawn carts full of food and wares shared the busy roads with pedestrians, hand-pulled carts, over-laden bicycles, cars, and taxis.

A vendor is off to an early start (top left), a vendor's ware for sale (bottom left), and a horse-cart intersects with traffic (bottom right)
Exquisite wood and bone working in the Hanging Church (Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church) in old Cairo.

Old Cairo is home to the Hanging Church, one of the oldest churches in Egypt.

First entrance, Hanging Church (left), stained glass (top center), the Virgin Mary and Christ Child (top right), multi-language script on exterior (bottom right)
The spiral minaret and guardians of the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Old Cairo

Most of the mosque's in old Cairo were built similar to a fortress with outer walls, median walls, and an inner courtyard. The Ibn Tulun mosque, designed by a Coptic Christian architect, was likewise fashioned after a fortress. According to our guide, some Muslims were angered by what they perceived to be Christian crosses atop the outer walls. The architect explained that the design represented warriors prepared to defend the mosque and its patrons.

"Warriors" adorn the top of the outer walls; domes of the Ibn Tulun mosque and views of old Cairo from the roof tops (top); iron gates with the Star of David surround the mosque's outer wall (bottom)

Other wonders of this amazing city include pigeon roosts found throughout all the districts, and touristy as well as local markets. Cairo is also home to Cairo University, and of course the infamous riots at Tahrir Square.

Pigeons are kept as pets and for sport in colorful roosts (upper top left); Old Cairo's marketplace (upper right) host mannequins as part of the mannequin challenge (upper left), but with a twist; and students on term break relax outside Cairo University (bottom left) and at a much quieter Tahrir Square (bottom right)
Elements of the 21st century intruding on ancient Egypt

Of course, one of the biggest draws to Cairo is the magnificent pyramids of the Giza plateau. Human expansion has pushed 21st century Egyptian urban life to the very edges of the monuments that mark some of the earliest beginnings of the country.

Tourists and locals via for the same method to tour one of the Wonders of the World with the backdrop of urbanization (top left); highly sought condos sit in the shadow of the Great Pyramid (top center); a modern exodus at closing time (top right)
A nightly light show illuminates the pyramids on one side, while urban street lights and businesses illuminate the other

Aside from the urbanization on the fringes, the pyramids still instill a sense of awe and stepping backward in time.

There are many facets to this city pinched between the earliest days of civilization and the burgeoning globalization of the 21st century. Whatever your particular likes, you should be able to find them here in Cairo.

Sunset in the nook of Menkaure's Pyramid and the Queens Pyramids

My exploration of Cairo and the Giza Plateau ended with the setting of the winter sun in the spaces between Menkaure's pyramid and the lesser queens pyramids. While some of my childhood (and adulthood) expectations were reset, the beauty and magnificence of the history of the region was all the more enhanced through a new perspective.

Cindy Eccles is an anthropologist who contributes to privately-held domestic and international white papers on ethnic minority violence and civil unrest trends. In her spare time, she finds peace and solace behind the camera capturing moments in time occurring on planet Earth. Her hope is to inspire appreciation, tolerance, and mutual respect for all inhabitants and creations on planet Earth. You can find more of her work at her website by following the below link.

Credits:

All rights reserved. CA Eccles, Earth-Life Photography www.earthlifephotography.com

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