A Vision of Cairo

A Vision of Cairo

(A Pictorial)

by Jimmy Dunn

A view of the Pryamids over Giza, a part of Greater Cairo

I am not certain how any experience could be more dramatic than waking up in Lubbock, Texas, catching an airplane, and soon arriving in Cairo, Egypt. I have done so more times now than I can count, but it remains both extraordinary and very pleasant. Obviously, there is the cultural side to this transformation, but not so much as one might expect. Even on my first visit, I can remember finding the people strangely familiar. They work hard, and have exceptional family values, reminding me of the residents in the even smaller Texas village where I grew up. On any given day, men can be found gathered around old friends in the coffee houses, just as the farmers in Crosbyton, Texas met in the local restaurant each morning. In that small farming community, frequently the only public entertainment was the weekly high school football game, which became the topic of discussion throughout the remainder of the week. Though the game is different, we would call it soccer, the people of Cairo also love their football. Otherwise, the topics usually centered on business and the struggles of common people where I grew up, just as in Cairo. I have found through the years that in many parts of the world, including Egypt, a close examination of the people reveals that they are very much like myself. They value life, their families and the means to support both. Where people differ much is in regions where one or more of these basics is widely missing, but Egypt is not one of these places.

Dome and minaret  Mosque of Barsbay

This makes Egypt comfortable and its people are also very friendly and accommodating, and that makes the extreme differences all the more pleasant. As I depart Lubbock, with its flat plains, sprawling ranch style houses and utilitarian buildings, I step into a world of high culture. This change is much more drastic for me than for someone from one of the major cities of the world such as New York, Paris or London. Those unfamiliar with Cairo might not think of it as a place where culture abounds, but just as in these other monuments to civilization, there are the fine art galleries with works by masters, the opera, very fine restaurants, grand parks and more places to see and things to do than one can possibly experience in a single lifetime. While this extravaganza of entertainment may not be so foreign to those who live in very large cities, it was, at least on my first visits, completely alien to me. Of course, over time and my many visits to Egypt and other cities of the world, it has become more familiar.

The Citadel of Saladin

After visiting Egypt so many times, what remains completely fascinating to me is the extraordinary and exotic visual essence of Cairo. From one end of Cairo's sprawling, greater metropolis the visions of 4500 year old pyramids, modern malls, elaborate ancient religious complexes, 19th century French apartment complexes, with vast cemeteries, modern block housing, skyscrapers, art deco and the grand Nile River thrown into the mix, assaults the senses like no other city on earth. At home, I drive to work each morning with my eyes on the traffic, but in Cairo, my journeys about the city are ever and always filled with awe and amazement as I gawk, from district to district, at this ever changing cityscape.

This then is Cairo, a city that spans time, that embraces the modern inhabitants, the rich, many middle class, as well as the poor, while at the same time making room for those ghosts of the distant, and very ancient past. It is a city that I have fallen in love with, and like having a good wife, that love has grown deeper and stronger and, while comfortable, it still remains mysterious.

Ceramics Museum (1924)

Prayer Hall in the Mosque of al-Azhar (969-1894)

Imad al-Din

Stucco work within the Mosque of 'Amr (641)

Sabil-Kuttab of Umm 'Abbas (1867)

Diana Palace Sinema (1932)

Detail of the Mausoleum of Qalawun (1284-85)

Interior of the Church of St. Barbara, Fourth Century

Villa Amster (Now German Chamber of Commerce) (1912)

Wakala of Ghuri (1504)

Groppi's Coffee House (1924)

Bayt al-Suhaymi (1648-1796)

Sabil of 'Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda (1744)

Stucco Mihrab in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (876-79)

Detail of the interior dome of the Mosque-Madrasa of Barquq (1384-86)

Minaret of the Madrasa of al-Nasir Muhammad (1294-1304)

Amna bint Salim House (1540)

Interior Dome of the Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan al-Nasir Hasan (1356-59)

Gezira Palace (Now the Marriott Hotel) (1863-64)

Madraa and Mausoleum of Qaytbay (1472-74)

Mosque of Muahmmad Ali (1827-57)

Dome of the Mosque of Sulayman Pasha (1528)

Detail of Sakakini Palace

Tiring Department Store (1913)

Mosque of Muhammad Bey, Abu al-Dhahab (1774)

Dome above the central section of the Prayer hall in the Madrasa and Mausoleum of Qaytbay

House of Uthman Katkhuda (1350)

The Sednaouui Department Store (1913)

First Residence/Four Seasons Hotel (1998-99)

Looking over the Banks of the Nile

Sakakini Palace (1897)

Interior dome of the Mausoleum of Shafi'i (1211)