By Islam El Shazly
The photographers who visited Egypt in the late 19th century where explorers in their own right, they travelled the length and breadth of the country and spent hours upon hours chronicling with their cameras the sights and the lives of Egypt and the Egyptians. They left us a treasure trove of imagery, with subjects that have have almost completely disappeared from our lives.
Temples that have either sunk or moved, entire neighbourhoods that were levelled and rebuilt, ancient trees that were uprooted or disfigured, and lifestyles that all but vanished.
And just like they preserved the beauty, they also preserved some of the hardship and the misery that would always impose themselves on any human community, a stark reminder that nostalgia is, indeed, a seductive liar. Something that is very apparent in the very last image in this set, the picture of the two elderly beggars with their tattered, albeit colourful clothing.
Then as if in contrast, we see the beauty again. We see it in the pristine red uniform of the officers crossing the Kasr El-Nil Bridge, in the graciousness of the water girls, and how elegantly the Olla balances on their heads—something that we still see in the countryside, and in the ancient Banyan tree that I hope still stands in Esbekiyeh, as a testament and witness to our history and heritage. The smiling man posing in front of the tree in his defiantly white Burnous was one of the many multitude of visitors who enjoyed the bygone inner city well tended garden.
While the Bedouin of Egypt have managed to retain most of their ancient nomadic lifestyle, the Nubians were not as lucky; their warriors no longer exist, and their grazing lands and ancient homeland is forever gone under the waters of Lake Nasser. A shame.
Tags: Alexandria, Banyan Tree, Bedouin, Burnous, Cairo, Camels, Esbekeyah, Featured, Nubia, Olla, Warrior, Water Carrier