Cairo coffee houses are institutions rather than just places to grab a quick drink. There is chess playing going on, continuous shisha smoking and male bonding. “Fishawi’s” is the city’s most infamous coffe house, or ahwa, and possibly also the most photogenic one. However, a wander through Cairo’s back streets reveal ahwas stripped of tourists and filled with Cairenes going about their daily lives in an almost filmatic manner.
We popped our heads into this little coffee house and were given strange looks at first. The floor was filled with sawdust and the dark wooden paneling smelt of tobacco and coffee beans. As any photographer knows, taking pictures in Islamic countries can prove a real challenge, especially when photographing women. The men however, are fine being photographed as long as you establish a rapport with them on beforehand. They (and I suppose very few others) don’t appreciate being subjected to candid photography which unfortunately tends to be the norm when tourists venture into new places and feel intimidated getting talking to the locals.
Sometimes you just have to take a good look at other tourists and have a really good laugh. After all we’re a funny lot in our desire to experience the world and ability to travel the globe to take in new and exotic places.
Last month when we traveled to Egypt, we were hoping for a magical experience at the Giza plateau. The sphinx and the world’s most famous pyramid were waiting for us. We were all set for a meeting with the ancient world that would change our perspective in that mind blowing way we’ve become addicted to. What could possibly prevent us from falling head over heals in love with this ancient burial site where history lingers just as heavily in the air as the thick Cairo smog?
The pyramid pose
Giza photo session
The Sphinx and the babe
To cut a long story short we were disillusioned upon arrival in Giza. Did we expect to have the magic to ourselves? No, not really. But we didn’t expect to share it with thousands of others either. The constant clicking of cameras, the sharp voices in a myriad of languages, the queues, the crowds – well, they scaled down our impression of the Great Khufu pyramid and the elegant Shinx. However, we did get some shots of tourists behaving touristy, and that’s an aspect of travel photography we can’t ignore. After all, we seem to have become a phenomenon in our own right judging from the photos above. I can only imagine how the locals perceive us in all our touristic glory!