Mamsha Ahl Masr—The Walk of the People of Egypt, on the Corniche el Nil, Boulaq.
Street Art in Cairo
Egyptian, Ahmed Moussa, professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Helwan University, is the sculptor of the colossus figure representing a woman with Nile water flowing through her hands. Detached layers of steel sheeting give shape to the figure yet it is the space between the iron sheets that portrays the continuous movement of the Nile waters.
Ahmed Moussa, student of the renowned sculptor Adam Henein, first sculpted the statue from Aswani clay. From this design, Moussa use of metal technology creates the four and a half meter-tall statue that stands on the new promenade, “Mamsha Ahl Masr—The Walk of the People of Egypt, on the Corniche el Nil, Boulaq.
All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. No reposting or publishing with out permission. Copyright protected. 2023.
Thanks to Obelisque Magazine’s founder and publisher, Lamia Hussanein, for permission to post this article and the talented creative director, Mohamed Salah who designed the pages and worked for hours on the lay-out.
January to February on Egyptian farms and in gardens, larang or narang (bitter orange) are gathered to make sweet, pungent marmalade. This year is no difference. My seasonal gift of bitter oranges comes from the generosity of Bayt Hewison, Fayoum. This is my 12th season to receive such abundance!
The making of marmalade is a two-day process and my house smells of orange fragrances for many more days. Hours spent slicing and dicing the orange rind into slivers leave my fingers and hands tingling. The rind slivers rejoin the juice and after a few hours of boiling and simmering the liquid, I pour the hot marmalade into sterile glass jars. The jars go into a hot bath. As the the marmalade cools a suction between liquid and cap occurs and I satisfactory listen to the pop of each sealed jar. Waiting time is for 24-hours before I know if the marmalade sets. Will the pectin that I so carefully scraped from the rinds, soaked, boiled and sieved, be enough to make a jam-like consistency? (See process here.)
Below (posted on Instagram) is an interesting explanation of the etymology of the word ‘orange‘ from across the world.
All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the written permission of Lesley Lababidi 2023.
What do you get when ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’ are combined? Glamping, of course!
Glamping is a style of camping with services of a luxury hotel…electricity, air-conditioning, hot water and a comfy bed in a tent. Only a three-hour drive from Cairo to Wadi el Rayan Protectorate in Fayoum, Mohamed Tahoun and his partners have launched the first glamp in Egypt.
Mohamed Tahoun, a software engineer, is a desert enthusiast. In 1999, he took his first trip into the Farafra depression to explore the White Desert and since then, he was hooked on desert travel. He explored the vast deserts of Egypt and continued to the UAE, Kuwait, and Oman. Tahoun says, “Real beauty is in the desert and camping gets inside your soul.” Then in 2016, Mohamed and his friends took a trip to the UAE in off-road 4×4 vehicles. They camped and posted on social media about their experience. Many friends expressed an interest to participate but they asked about two things: bathrooms and sleeping conditions. When he explained that both were done in nature, interest quickly declined.
Tahoun began to consider the concept of a camp for people to enjoy the desert but who do not want to compromise on comfort. Tahoun decided his purpose was to introduce the desert to the non-desert person. He explains, “I started investigating different styles of camps, basic or luxurious, in Morocco, Jordan, Kenya, and UAE and the possibility of a glamour camp in the Egyptian desert began to make sense.” Tourist experiences are abundant and varied in Egypt, spanning from the Red Sea to Upper Egypt to the Mediterranean yet 96% of Egypt is predominately desert. “So we decided to take advantage of promoting a comfortable touristic experience in the desert. We first developed another camp called Qusoor el Arab (Arab Palace). This camp was a basic experience with small huts, tents and shared bathrooms.” In 2017, Tahoun applied for the permit to develop a glamp in Wadi el Rayan Protectorate. It took three years to meet the strict regulations of an environmentally protected area. Remal el Rayan Glamp opened in March 2021 with a restaurant, three suites and four rooms.
A luxurious camp in Wadi el-Rayan Protectorate, Fayoum, to introduce the desert to the non-desert person.Glamping is a style of camping with services of a luxury hotel…electricity, air-conditioning, hot water and a comfy bed in a tent.
The Glamp offers infrastructure for people to enjoy the desert in luxury: air-conditioned rooms, spacious bathrooms, private Jacuzzi and campfires, hot and cold running water, refrigerator and deluxe bed and linens; each room with a private terrace. The management can organize roundtrip transportation from home to Glamp as well as arrange safaris, excursions, horseback riding, and sand surfing. The restaurant serves a full range of specialties including the Bedouin mandi, a traditional dish consisting of meat, chicken or duck, baked underground.
Above: day trip to explore Wadi el Rayan Protectorate, waterfalls and dunes, Valley of the Whales (Wadi el Hitan) , Magic Lake. Not to be missed are the pottery makers at Tunis Village (see short video at the end of this article). Visit Madinet Madi, Greaco-Roman town of Karan’s and Museum of Kom Oshim, Hawara Pyramid.
Tahoun is excited about touristic possibilities in Fayoum. He cooperates with the local government, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism to promote Fayoum’s history, nature sites, monuments, lodges, pottery workshops and desert safari. Using social media as a tool, he hopes to attract international tourism to Fayoum not only for day trips but also as a destination to stay several nights.
Location: Fayoum Governorate Desert, Wadi el Rayan Protectorate
Driving north from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, the road winds through an hour of copper-colored rugged, desolate mountains. Rounding the last curve, a hot asphalt gives way to the cool breeze rolling off the blue waters of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is here, in this quiet Bedouin town that Swiss-Egyptian, Nahed Ismail, founded Dar Dahab, My Egyptian Home, in 2015. “The idea to return to Egypt after my retirement was deeply compelling,” explained Ismail. “My father, an engineer, moved us to Switzerland when I was a little girl but we always spent our summers in Egypt and this is how I kept my relationship with the country.” In 2011, Ismail retired and returned to Egypt. She wanted to live simply in authentic surroundings. Dahab made an immediate impression. She bought a piece of land to build a small home but then decided that an income generating project would be more practical, as long as it was authentically Egyptian.
Above: Dar Dahab is a guesthouse of three floors, 9-full service apartments. A rooftop space an accommodate group gatherings. Delicious Egyptian cuisine is served upon request oreach apartment has a full kitchen for the guest convenience. The friendly staff can arrange all outdoor activities.
To achieve this goal, Ismail hired Swiss architect Anthony Julen who had studied Egyptian local building materials and was keen to design a building that used natural and sustainable materials to incorporate the craftsmanship of Egyptian builders and artisans. The plot of land Ismail chose skirted the shores of the turquoise waters. The new edifice would bask in a constant refreshing breeze and sounds of the surf.
Open courtyard reflects traditional architecture of North Africa and the Levant with fountains and greenery; the courtyard invites conversation, a glass of sweet black tea or Turkish coffee. The outer wall, open to the sea, is influenced by mashrabiya, an architectural element traditionally used in the Islamic world as a wind catcher.
The courtyard, bedrooms, and dining room are furnished with sturdy palm frond chairs and tables. Palm trees are grown in all parts of Egypt. The person who makes chairs, tables and other furniture from palm fronds is known as an artist, fannan. The legs of chairs and tables are cut from the trunk of the palm frond. The seat and back of the chair are made with slender palm branches in lattice work design.
During previous visits to Egypt, the owner and the architect found inspiration while visiting Siwa Oasis. Studying local building materials in Siwa, they took the decision that the outer walls of the Dahab guesthouse would be built of salt bricks allowing gold and yellow light to stream through the luminous bricks. Interior walls were plastered with a mud/salt/sand mix, a Siwa building technique applied by hand. Ismail’s insistence on an open courtyard reflects traditional architecture of North Africa and the Levant and for special effect, the outer wall is a mashrabiya (carved latticework) design, which allows air and light to play throughout the day within the courtyard. For the furnishings a minimalist, sturdy and comfortable approach was taken; a craftsman from Monsoura was selected to construct palm frond furniture. From the village of Tunis in the Fayoum Oasis, ceramic plates and bowls add charm in the guest rooms and on dining tables.
Salt bricks are produced in the Eastern mines of Siwa Oasis. The white salt is called ‘karshif’, composed of salt crystals that contain impurities of sand giving it a brownish color. Salt bricks exude negative ions, which are believed to produce biochemical reactions that enhances serotonin levels, relieve stress and promote energy.
In Arabic, dar means ‘house or home’. Nahed Ismail prides herself in welcoming guests to Dar Dahab, home away from home. She says, “Welcoming people back…welcoming them home, means, to me, that people return to their Egyptian family, their Egyptian home.” She continues, “Every Egyptian family has a suitcase of old photographs and my daughters said, ‘why don’t we hang these photographs throughout the guesthouse?’ They believed it is important to share our family history with guests.”
Ceramic bowl from Tunis Village in the Fayoum Oasis, sits atop the table made from palm fronds. The outer wall constructed of salt brick architecture brought in from the Siwa Oasis allows the natural light to cast various shades of gold across rooms throughout the day.
All rooms are equipped with a full kitchen so guests can cook if they prefer not to eat out. Even though Ismail prefers the guest house to remain on a small-scale, there is more and more demand. Ismail smiles, “We are successful but it is a challenge to stay small. I want the guesthouse to remain homelike and familiar. I don’t want ten people working with me.” She continues, “We are starting to be known as a well-being retreat. Perhaps the dar concept enhances well-being. Groups take over the entire building. We have space for yoga, gatherings, and meals together, just like a big family.” Ismail explains that in Dahab cats adopt their owners, not the other way around. Every establishment has a cat that walks in and makes itself at home.
Address: Dar Dahab Street, Assalah, Dahab 46629 – South Sinaï WhatsApp: +20106 789 4913
DOCUMENTARY, PANEL DISCUSSION AND GLASS EXHIBITION
NOVEMBER 8TH, 2022, 8PM TO 10PM, AUC DOWNTOWN CAMPUS: ORIENTAL HALL. FREE AND ALL ARE WELCOME
THE EVENING WILL FEATURE THE SCREENING OF THE RENOWNED DOCUMENTARY;
THE LOST LEGACY OF BIDA BIKINI
PANEL PARTICIPANTS INCLUDE GLASS ARCHAEOLOGISTS:
Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, PhD-Trained in anthropological archaeology at University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria and Rice University, Houston Texas USA, Dr. Babalola’s interests include early pyro-technologies, complex societies, craft specialization, connectivity, Atlantic influence, and heritage studies. He is the director of the “Archaeology of Glass” project in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His research has contributed to understanding the dynamics of innovation, science, and technology in pre-colonial Sub-Saharan African societies with emphasis on the invention of indigenous glass technology in Southwest Nigeria in the early second millennium AD.
Joëlle Rolland PhD-in Archaeology of the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a post-doctoral researcher at UMR 8215 Trajectoires, CNRS. She is a specialist in Iron Age glassmaking and carried out analytical studies to understand the origin of the raw glass used by Iron Age societies in Europe, its manufacturing technics and the processes involved in turning glass into beads and bracelets.
GLASS EXHIBITION OF BIKINI GLASS, BEADS AND BRACELETS FROM RECYCLED GLASS OF THE MASAGA GLASSMAKERS
On November 12, 2021, Humphrey Davies, my co-author of Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo, died of complications of pancreatic cancer. Just a few months earlier, we had completed the manuscript for submission to an Arabic publisher of our book. We were discussing a second edition but by August, Humphrey fell seriously ill. All too soon, he passed.
There has been many wonderful eulogies and tributes to Humphrey:
When one creates something new with another, there is a deep and special bond. I will miss our lengthy conversations while researching Cairo street history and all the subtle twists and turns of unraveling complicated stories. The Field Guide was the ultimate treasure hunt and our rewards were excavated, layer by layer, through the sequence and identity of long forgotten names. Our time and effort for this book was a labour of love for Cairo, a city that welcomingly adopted each of us within our own separate circumstances.
Memories of the past are attended with a certain pain called nostalgia…Nostalgia is a kind of growing-pain, psychically speaking. It occurs to our sorrow when we have decided that it is time for us, marching to some magnificent destiny, to abandon an old home, an old provincial setting, or an old way of living to which we had become habituated. – John Crowe Ransom
Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture, p 30.
The above describes how I feel when organising a drawer of family photographs, browsing in a vintage shop, or, in Cairo, meandering through the (now demolished) Friday Market. The Friday Market once crammed with what many would describe as junk, but for a material cultural enthusiast, those objects were treasures…objects of ordinary life.
Objects tell stories: the interaction of those who made them, received them, used and sold them, even worshipped them and of those who collected, conserved, and curated them. There is a relationship between objects as a primary source material and how we understand history. History is formally based on words of academia while objects bring to light histories of those marginalised—working class, ethnic minorities, women.
The following photographs of tin cut outs depict musicians, dancers, villagers, and a bird were collected over years of living in Cairo. Some I found from the Friday Market, some were purchased from an art collector, and others from an antique shop near Khan el-Khalili. These tin cut-outs, each approximately 60 centimetres in height, were said to be made from recycled tin sheeting in the Delta area during the 1920s-30s and sold to decorate walls of coffee shops. But this information cannot be confirmed. Yasmine Dorghamy, founder of Rawi Magazine, states, “Judging by the artistic style and the style of the bellydance suit I would place them in the 60s or 70s.. You don’t see that puffy skirt with the slit all the way to the top before then… this design is iconic of the ’60s in fact.”
I am in search of information about these objects. If anyone has information, please leave a comment and I will add it to this post.
October 7, 2020: Laura from London says, “I remember buying a set of tin dancer + music team (flute, tabla, male dancer with stick etc.) from a souvenir shop in Alexandria in 1980s. Unfortunately, I gave it away as a present. I thought it was a delightful present – I have not seen these tin figures since.”
All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-usewithout the permission of Lesley Lababidi 2023.