Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cairo, Egypt ~ Such Colors and Contrasts

“What are its colors?” my artist friend Christine asked last spring about a place I was describing over dinner.

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Loved the front of this building housing a number of international schools - Zamalek district
Colors? Hmmm,. . . I hadn’t really thought about that for any place we’d visited.

The old newspaper reporter mind of mine has been on auto-focus: ‘Just the facts, Ma’am’, approach to photos and the notes I take while traveling. I’d think more about the scene’s story than its colors. But the question was a good one and has niggled my brain all year. Christine has me refocusing and thinking about how integral colors are to a ‘sense of place’ and its narrative.

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Recently opened Ritz-Carlton between Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Museum
And so many of you have remarked on the modern buildings in Cairo, saying the city didn’t look like what you’d envisioned. Colors and contrasts – no where are they more apparent than in Cairo; we just needed to let our mind’s eyes roam freely. We’ll ultimately get to some of those famous tourist destinations but today - with no particular destination in mind -- let us show you some of Cairo’s colors and contrasts:

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On a clear day in Cairo you can see. . .
One of the disheartening contrasts is the impact of the early morning smog on what could be a 24/7 beautiful cityscape. These photos were taken within a few hours of each other from the deck of our room at the Cairo Marriott Hotel. The smog was worse on other mornings.  In a city of nearly 24 million people driving an estimated 8 million cars, smog is inevitable. Air pollution is so bad that tour companies advise scheduling trips to the Pyramids (which are surrounded by suburbia) in the mid- to late-morning. An early morning visit could find them obscured by smog.

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Building housing the Ancient Egyptian Music School - Zamalek district
The city’s architecture is a kaledescope of contrasts.  Strolling through ‘our’ Zamalek neighborhood we happened upon this stunning building just a few blocks from our hotel; home to the Ancient Egyptian Music School.  What a contrast with the recently opened Saudi Arabian Embassy Tower a few kilometers away.

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Saudi Arabian Embassy Tower - Cairo
The 32-story Embassy Tower which opened in Sept. 2014  is the largest foreign embassy in the city.

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Residential high rise towers - Giza

Residential high rise towers – most a stark tan or gray color thanks to a coating of dust and smog - line roadways like tunnel walls. The two pictured above are in Giza, the Cairo suburb that is home to the Pyramids.  (In fact, the suburbs encircle the Pyramids that we so often envision as being out in some vast desert along the Nile.)

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Shops in the Zamalek district - Cairo
Setting out on foot, as we often did, you’ll find all sorts of colors in the displays of small vendors and shops that line the streets.  These photos are of a few of the many small stores in our Zamalek neighborhood, about a mile’s walk from our hotel.

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Scarves, flowers and bread added color to the Cairo street scene
No matter what street you explored there was color and contrasts to be found. That photo on the lower right shows their famous Arab bread still puffy and hot from the oven, pita, we would likely call it. . .some of the best bread we’ve ever eaten. The vendor carried his display on his shoulder and set it up for sales on a street corner.

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A colorful encounter at the Sphinx
And the people also sport a wonderful mix of colors, as these school girls show. I think we often have notions of how women in this part of the world dress and it is good to be reminded that you can’t make blanket judgements about people and places. These girls not only brightened the landscape with their colors but their smiles as well. These girls were on a school outing at the Sphinx and several of them raced over to ask me to pose for ‘selfies’ with them. Our guide wanted to shoo them away. But I found it an enchanting experience and agreed to pose only if they would pose with me. And yes, these teens in Egypt have cell phones!

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Floral display Ritz Carlton lobby- Cairo
Some of the most colorful and posh places in Cairo were the elegant hotel interiors and the flowers and arrangements that filled their lobbies with color.  This is taken in the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where its common areas where in full bloom with magnificent floral displays (and a large Christmas tree surrounded by toy soldiers as well).

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A scene from Arabian nights - JW Marriott Cairo
We happened upon a scene right out of Sheherazade’s Arabian Nights at the JW Marriott Hotel, where we spent our last night. Hotel staff had been busy all day setting up for this wedding celebration and turned a conference meeting room into a fantasy setting fit for a Pharaoh. . .

With that, we’ll close for this week. Thanks to all of you for the time you take joining us on these armchair adventures via TravelnWrite. We welcome our new ‘subscribers’ who receive our posts in email form (for free) and new followers. 

Next week we are off to the Pyramids and the Sphinx. . .but first. . .


A BIT OF HOUSEKEEPING: for those who follow TravelnWrite on Google Friend Connect.  Google recently announced changes that could impact your ability to receive the blog – and we don’t want to lose touch so take a quick look at the Blogger announcement below  (this doesn’t affect those of you receiving the blog in email format in your in boxes):
“[Beginning] January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles. . .[these] changes that will eventually require readers to have a Google Account to sign into Friend Connect and follow blogs.”
Bottom line:  We noted two profile have been lost, but you’ve still been able to write comments (I think).  If TravelnWrite, has disappeared from your reading list, you may need to sign up for a Google Account, and re-follow our blog in order to get the blog.  OR skip the ‘following’ and sign up to ‘receive the blog by email’ Put your email address in the box on the right-hand column of the home page. Feedburner will send an email asking you to to verify that you want to receive emails from us, confirm you do and posts will arrive in your inbox.
Linking this week with:
 Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration




48 comments:

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    1. It was definitely 'wow' and definitely 'fabulous'! Thanks much for the visit - hope you'll be back!

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  2. I loved reading all of your detailed insights behind your photos. Seeing the photo of the smog reminded me of visiting China, it was beautiful place and I'd love to return, but you couldn't enjoy any of the cities' architecture without the smog! I also admire what you said about the young girls wearing head scarves. We often have a preconceived notion that women who wear head scarves can have bright colors or have to mute their personalities, but that is not the case!
    http://passportcouture.com

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    1. Brooke, I suspect we could add some of India's big cities to the list of smoggiest and it would be difficult to determine who the worst offender was. And you are so correct about those girls - we have to quit lumping all of 'the Middle East' into one stereotype! Thanks much for your visit and comment - please come back again.

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  3. I'm glad you ignored the warnings and visited Egypt. I am so sorry that the current geopolitical crises and wars have devastated the important tourism industry in beautiful, fascinating Middle Eastern countries from Israel to everywhere else.

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    1. I so agree and found that our introduction to the Middle East last spring was such a great appetizer it left me wanting more of all of them as you said, 'from Israel to everywhere else' and thanks to the geopolitical situations my travels will likely be limited. Thanks for stopping by -

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  4. What a wonderful look at Cairo and its colours. I like the idea of thinking about a place in terms of its colours. I will be more aware of in my future travels.

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    1. Thinking in color really does put a different spin on my approach to photos as well as my thinking about a place. Thanks for the visit Donna, as always, it is appreciated.

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  5. Cairo really is a city of old and new but it seems that people are people all over the world. Thanks for taking us along.

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    1. And some of the warmest, most welcoming people we've encountered in our travels were in Cairo. Thanks for coming along!

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  6. Wonderful photos of Cairo. Since I have not been there I enjoyed the scenes of the city.

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    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed them Charles because I have a few more posts coming before we move on ~

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  7. Very cool. Looks like a fascinating place.
    Thank you for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/01/shells-on-shells.html

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    1. It was most definitely! Thanks again for hosting such a wonderful linkup!!

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  8. Hello Jackie and Joel
    I love your images and the colours. Thank for sharing your visit to Cairo with us.
    Helen xx

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    1. Oh thanks Helen, I do need to pay more attention to the way you artists view the world! Hugs to you, Jackie

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  9. Wonderful "colourful" pictures Jackie, not a thing I take into account when taking pictures, I must remember this!
    Why, oh why, do architects insist on throwing up these characterless, boring beige buildings? The contrast between the splendid old building you have there (The music school), and these monstrosities, says it all.
    Susan.x

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    1. Sadly, so very, very true Susan. For miles those non descript buildings fill the suburbs of Cairo - I couldn't imagine my day beginning and ending in such a setting and I suspect for many it is all they see in a given day as well. And yes, I am adding 'color thinking' to my to do list! Hugs, Jackie

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  10. Thank you for sharing your photos of Cairo. Nice to see a different side of the city. Interesting about the smog. It reminded me of China but also of Singapore during our summer haze.

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    1. And India and LA and New York - I guess it is a plague of all big cities until some alternate source of fuel is found. Thanks for the visit and comment!

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    1. Well I am not sure if that is good or bad. . .thanks for stopping by!

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  12. I do not have a lot of crisp memories about my visit to Cairo since it was a long time ago. You pictures help me to remember those great times I had in the city.

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    1. Glad the photos prompted memories Ruth! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  13. I'm amazed that the smog lifts that quickly. I would have assumed you were doomed to an entire day of bad sky. I like all the local color that you show from the market to that wedding reception site. And I did not realize that you were a newspaper reporter.

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    1. Yep, college trained journalist Michele. I was a reporter before going into public relations and then got back into journalism with travel writing. Thanks much for the visit and comment!

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  14. What a sense of contrast. I am very into color and its effects and affects, Nice job

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the contrasts and colors Paula - that was my intent when writing it and always nice to know it did what it was supposed to do. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. You put together a great series of colours and contrasts. I really enjoyed your post!

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    1. Ruth, sorry I took so long to answer, we've been traveling again. Thanks so much and glad you enjoyed this. Hope you'll keep coming back!

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  16. What I remember most about Cairo was the dust -- a layer of it on absolutely everything, and in the air itself. Thanks for reminding me that there is color to be found even in the greyest city!

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    1. Dust was a the top coat on buildings in the downtown that's for sure. After the smog lifted the air wasn't bad during our visit though. Thanks for stopping by Rachel!

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  17. Your post has truly given "color" to Cairo. What beautiful photography---that puffy bread looks so delicious!

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    1. Irene, I could have lived on that puffy bread - they served it with tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese at the hotel and I was in 7th heaven every time my feast was placed before me.

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  18. Impressive! Lots of aspects in a very stunning city! Beautiful pictures to reveal the details captured through lens! Greetings and a great week ahead!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and as always, the comments are appreciated. See you again and you have a great week as well!

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  19. Christine's question reminded me of the time a friend asked me about my sound. I didn't understand at first. We don't always think about a place having a color or sound. Thanks for sharing the sounds of Cairo. I didn't expect it to be so vibrant.

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    1. Okay, you've planted the seed Marcia, now I will be thinking sound as well. In Cairo one of the sounds was the incessant honking of car horns!

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  20. The thought of warm pita bread cooked street side delights me. :-) How lovely to look at this place through color and contrast. :-)

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    1. That pita bread alone is enough to get me back to Cairo! Thanks for stopping by, Krista.

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  21. This is gorgeous. Cairo is so vibrant.

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    1. Thanks Rhonda - glad you enjoyed our little peek at Cairo.

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  22. Cairo is full of sights and colors. Wow a modern city full of old world charm and contradictions.I love the old buildings the most. And I was really surprised to here that the pyramids are in the middle of suburbs. A case of the city overflowing all over the place. Like our Athens... it has spread so much half of the population of Greece lives there.

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    1. It really is suburban sprawl - and depending on the place from which you take the photo it either looks like you are in the midst of a vast desert or at the edge of a city. I have more photos coming soon Mary - thanks for the visit!

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  23. Jackie and Joel, I found Egypt to be mix of the chaotic and the colorful. It looks like you enjoyed it!

    Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

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    1. Chaotic and colorful is an apt description of the place, Corinne! I finally got into travel inspiration via Michelle's blog - I'll see if maybe I can access yours again as well.

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  24. What an amazing place! My best friend and her husband traveled there almost three years ago and loved it. It is on my list ;) Thanks for sharing with us at Photo Friday!

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  25. My goodness have things changed since I was there in '92...everything but the wonderful Marriott I am happy to see! The pollution makes me quite sad. It is horrible for the old stones too...

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