"In the tomb of Princess Isinkheb was found an entire tent – its inside lined with animals and flowers, the blue ceiling studded with appliqued stars..." and the ancient Egyptian craft of tent making is still alive today. Australian filmmaker Kim Beamish spent three years immersed in the lives of craftsmen, filming his documentary The Tentmakers of Cairo, which premieres this April. It also tells the story of Egypt's struggle with democracy through the lives of a community of artisans whose craft has remained largely unchanged since Pharaonic times. [more inside]
The Holy Junk Heap: In 1896, a cache of manuscripts -- mostly fragments -- was discovered in the storeroom ("genizah") at the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. The collection outlines a 1,000-year continuum (870 CE to the 19th century) of Jewish Middle-Eastern and North African history and comprises the largest and most diverse collection of medieval manuscripts in the world, including Jewish religious texts such as Biblical, Talmudic and later Rabbinic works (some in the original hands of the authors), "letters, wills, bills of lading, prayers, marriage contracts and writs of divorce, Bibles, money orders, court depositions, business inventories, leases, magic charms and receipts" which give a detailed picture of the economic and cultural life of the North African and Eastern Mediterranean regions, especially during the 10th to 13th centuries. [more inside]
After a New Yorker piece (previously) on one of Cairo's trash collectors went viral in Cairo, several issues regarding consent of the illiterate Sayyid, as well as possible threats against him, have come up. The author, Peter Hessler, responded in a Facebook post to some of these issues, but it seems that the story is more complicated with accusations that Hessler did not adequately inform Sayyid of what had been written, resulting in retaliation by the people he works for.
On a different floor, we picked our way across a landing covered with rotting food; a pile of trash bags had been ripped apart by stray cats. “This one’s a foreigner,” Sayyid explained. “I’m not supposed to touch her garbage. The landlord isn’t happy with her; there’s some kind of fight. He told me not to remove her trash.” (SLNewYorker) [more inside]
Egyptian startup culture vs. Silicon Valley: how to lock down bugfixes & VC funding in midst of military takeover? Via
It became necessary to finish this thing. A U.S.-funded 'ally' has carried out one of the largest massacres of protesters since the 1989 assault on Tiananmen Square. At least 525 people (and counting and counting) have been killed since Egypt's police and army attacked two sit-ins in support of ousted president Muhammad Morsi on August 14th. Armored cars, police officers, and soldiers marched on the protests in Nasr City and Giza, opening fire with birdshot, tear gas, and live ammunition. It only gets worse from here. [more inside]
Cairobserver is the start of a conversation about Cairo’s architecture and building, urban fabric and city life. A well curated blog about Cairo featuring both Arabic and English essays. [more inside]
Protesters vs. Supreme Council of Armed Forces Tahrir Square: "For five straight days, nearly 120 continuous hours, thousands of protesters, most of them young men and women, did battle with security forces. Police used live ammunition, rubber bullets, shotgun cartridges, and an astonishing amount of tear gas. Protesters fought back mostly with rocks and sometimes Molotov cocktails." [more inside]
The Burton Holmes Archive has information about Burton Holmes, the travel writer who became the first person to make filmic travelogues. More importantly, they also have a lot of film clips by Holmes and his associate, André de la Varre, who was also a great travelogue maker himself. Watching these clips is not quite time travel, but it is as close as we can get. Take a look at Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1926, Lake Michigan in 20s, Cairo in 1932 and the 1955 Rio de Janeiro carnival. The later films have sound and narration, but I prefer the silent ones. [Burton Holmes previously, André de la Varre previously, and the Travel Film Archive, which runs Burton Holmes site, previously]
Egyptian artist and musician Ahmed Basiony died on January 28 from asphyxiation while participating in the popular uprising. 100radiostation.com has been playing his music continuously ever since. [more inside]
Deacon Dodge has a couple of posts (here and here) about religion, freedom and democracy amid the turmoil of Egypt. [more inside]
Fascinated by Egyptian archaeology? View and learn all about the discoveries in Giza, the Valley of the Kings (and Queens), Memphis and Saqqara and the Sphinx from the comfort of home. Depending on today's pesky sandstorms and time of day, you may even be able to see the pyramids from the comfort of your couch. Want to go inside? Yeah, me neither.
The Last Jews of Cairo As soon as we saw the guns, we knew we’d arrived at the synagogue. Egyptian policemen thronged behind barricades, white uniforms in the dusk, handguns at their hips. Above them, on stairs, Special Forces soldiers in black with red armbands held machine guns as easily as we did point-and-shoot cameras.
"Life is wise to deceive us," he once wrote, "for had it told us from the start what it had in store for us, we would refuse to be born." --Naguib Mahfouz, RIP --and more from when he won the Nobel in 1988