By Islam El Shazly
Egypt is a land of contrasts, it is paradoxical and perplexing, and looking at the modern Egyptians, one has to wonder whether their – our, since I too am Egyptian – ancestors were like them! And if they were, how on earth did they manage to start and build a civilisation that would endure for close to 6,000 years?!
There are great differences between between the ones that came before and the ones who came after, but there are also great similarities, the most striking of similarities the simplicity of Egyptians, not simplicity in terms of higher brain functions, but rather simplicity of character. We are fairly uncomplicated.
Unfortunately, that led to some naiveté, that in turn led to some very unsavoury consequences at certain points of our history, which culminated in the state of the modern Egyptian, who might be seen as indifferent, or even lacking in certain areas of creativity. That might be true to an extent, but not entirely.
The Pharaohs of days past made sure the majority of the masses were in check by restricting education to certain individuals that they needed, they also held all the power. In modern times Egypt was plagued by new Pharaohs who used the same old tactics, keep the ignorance and illiteracy, and have all the power. Unlike the Ancient Pharaohs though, the modern ones utterly lacked the vision and the creativity, they didn’t even have some of the love or respect that some of the ancient Kings enjoyed. Fear can only take you so far, and irreverent demise is always the end.
The first picture in this set belongs to the village of Mit-Rahina near Memphis, where the famous 3,200 year old statue of a standing Ramesses II was discovered in 1820 by Giovanni Battista Caviglia at the Great Temple of Ptah. the statue was moved in 1955 by order of Gamal Abdul Nasser to its location near the main train terminal in Cairo, later named Ramesses Square. Something that proved disastrous to the statue’s conservation and it had to be moved to a remote location in Giza in 2006.
As you stroll down the pictures, you reach Al-Azbakiyyah Gardens, great park with large ponds and a canal that used to flow through it from the Nile. It was first planned and developed by Prince Azbak (an Uzbek Mamluk) one of Qaitbay’s princes, who established his residence here, and in the process transforming the area to one gigantic park with leafy boulevards and gardens for the people. Over the centuries each ruler would leave their mark on the area, but the first major transformation would be done by Khedive Ismail who had the area redesigned with an Opera house and a theatre, and installed lighting throughout the park.
Sadly, in the great fire of Cairo of 1952 most of the area was razed, including the iconic Shepheard hotel. The Opera house itself would burn to the ground in 1971, and the Azbakiyyah Area would be forever changed. All that remains is one of the walls, famously used as a used books market.
Tags: Asyut, Azbakiyyah, Citadel, Egypt, Featured, Giza, Heritage, Ismail Pasha, Ramsses