Cairo blues. It is impossible not to think about the Cairenes at the moment. They are rebelling against a leadership they don’t want. As I am writing these words the news is filled with headlines like “Anger in Cairo” and “Shots in Cairo”.
Tourists are clogging up Cairo airport in desperate attempts to go home. This is no longer a place to sightsee. The pyramids in Giza are closed to the public. Cairo is no longer a peeping hole into the past, a place to contemplate history and the ancient pharaos. Today, Cairo’s history is in the making. After having suffered in the hands of Hosni Mubarak for thirty years, the Egyptians have had enough. They want change!
My thoughts wander to the man in the photo. Exactly one year ago, we spent some time in Cairo. Discovering the back alleys and trying to decipher the culture. I wonder where this man is today. Is he still sat in his café overlooked by images from the past, smoking his shisha? Or is he amongst the protesters in Tahrir square, calling out for a new direction?
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.