Thursday nights are the best in Egypt because it signals the start of the weekend and some much needed rest. Cairenes sure know how to party and then at the end of it, how to chill out. Friday mornings are the chill out session, with the usual manic streets now deserted and eerily quiet. The only other time the streets are this quiet is during Iftar when people are at home, too busy stuffing their faces with 15 hours worth of food. Making up for lost time you see.
Friday mornings are the best time to explore Cairo, as the experience is entirely different, and you get to see another side to the smog filled city. Fridays are like a breath of fresh air, and its all yours for the taking.
Jumping into a beat up taxi, we rolled down the windows and enjoyed the fresh morning breeze as the driver whizzed his vehicle along the deserted roads. His dirty finger nails, blackened by the cheap cigarettes he smokes constantly, tapped against the stirring wheel as he turns the dial of the radio. Traditional music blares out from the speakers as we pass the Citadel mosque and the amazing view over the city and its abundance of minarets. I’m surprised no ones thought to build a viewing platform at this point, as the view is breathtaking.
We pass The City of The Dead with its flat roofed plain housing and the numerous minarets dotted in between, and the densely green terrain of Azhar park. Soon enough we are outside khan al Khalili and thats where the adventure begins. It was 10am by now, and already the market was filling up with sellers setting up their stalls. Mini tambourines, cheap looking caps with the Egyptian flag sewn on, tacky belly dancing costumes, fragrant spices from all over the world, and the ubiquitous cheap tourist tat. Helpers set up straw prayer mats outside Hussain Mosque, where in a few hours time, worshippers will be pouring in ready for friday prayers.
Whilst waiting for a friend, I sought respite under a tree, with the sun already out in full force. It just turned May for gods sake! Spotting her, we made our way to Fishawy’s cafe for a morning drink.
Those of you who have not heard of this cafe (do you live in a cave?!) it is one of the most famous cafes in the area, mainly due to the fact that it never closes and is open 24 hours. The place is alive and kicking especially at night and especially during ramadan. The joyful sounds of the oud serenades customers whilst people congregate and dance, and street hawkers dodge in and out of the small alleyway selling all kinds of things ranging from the useful to plain weird (we were once approached by a man selling stuffed dead animals, and an irate seller who couldn’t understand why we didn’t want to buy a doll). I thought this youtube video summed up the atmosphere.
We managed to easily navigate a pram through the crooked alleyways, grateful for the quiet time we chose.
Because it was friday before midday prayers, only a few shops were open. We explored the depths of the market taking in the streets and architecture.
I even spotted this Sisi outfit for children in the market, amongst police uniforms. Forget superman, now your little dear ones can dress up like the new superhero on the block, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Insert sarcastic face).
I thought I’d start the new year of posting with a rather inspirational set of books. These aren’t just your plain run of the mill thin lined paper put together with staples and bounded with a tacky front cover. These beauties, courtesy of my husband, came all the way from the Fabriano shop in Rome. Paper nerds will know that Fabriano are a traditional company based in Italy, specialising in premium quality paper since 1264. They make the best paper you can buy, combine them together and wrap it up in impressively designed covers. This set of seven A5 sized books come in a range of sexy colours aka known as the Bouquet notebooks.
It’s like buying a piece of art…
Each book contains different thickness of paper and ranging from 80-100 gr. These beauts are so damn good looking, I don’t actually want to write in them. They’re just too good for that. No, these mini delights deserve pride of place on your bookshelf, or neatly arrange on your writing table.
No this isn’t an automated message, but the real deal.
Excuse me for my leave of absence. It was a combination of laziness and bad habit that caused me to stay away. I’m breaking that habit right now.
Coming up from me will be more design inspired posts and the craziness that is mother Cairo. Fasten your seat-belts my fellow readers, this could get bumpy (oh wait i forgot, taxis here don’t actually have seat-belts..)
Summer is now upon us. It comes when you least expect it, managing to catch me out before I can prepare, even though I’ve been living here for the past three years.
The whole rituale begins; Make sure you have stock piled your water supply, have a wardrobe full of adequate cotton clothing, a mountain of suncream, spray bottles filled with water dotted around the house, copious amounts of fresh watermelon juice and a full tray of ice cubes ready to hand. All these things help make your summer in Cairo bearable, especially as temperatures can reach 40 degrees.
When I’m out and about though, I like to prepare by visiting one of the numerous kiosks dotted along each street corner. They’re usually a small make shift shack of metal pieced together with a rickety roof on top. I’m amazed at how they manage to stay up, but they do, and in summer they’re a god send.
Imagine that its noon and you’re walking the dusty streets, the sun high above, causes you to squint regardless of your sunglasses. You’ve been walking for the past hour and by now your pace has dramatically slowed and your shirt clings to you, wet with stale sweat. You seek shelter under the nearest tree along a busy road, its orange flowers out in full bloom. Its cooler in the shade, and soon enough the sweat cools you down. You run your finger along dry cracked lips which you quickly try to moisten with a parched tongue. This only makes it worse.
You must have lost a litre in water but all you feel like is a sugary drink that in the long run will cause tooth decay and diabetes. But you don’t care, you’re not thinking long term, but living for the here and now. You walk up to the fridge housing the drinks, amazed at the ingenuity of a single wire attached from the lampost, and used to power the kiosk fridge. Legal? You dont care. All you want right now is to wrap your lips around a cold beverage.
Open the fridge and touch each bottle carefully selecting the one that is chilled to perfection. crack the bottle open with the cap opener attached to the side of the fridge and savour the moment as the cold liquor runs down your throat and cools you down.
It was hot yesterday so I stopped at a koosk by the side of the road and cracked open an ice cold bottle of 7up. heaven. I must confess that it wasn’t just the weather that made me buy the drink, but the vibrant envy green of the glass and bold typography of the logo. It was seducing. A clear message was sent to coke saying 7up yours, it’s my time in the limelight.
I’m always on the look out for inspiration everywhere i go. I love walking around my area and spotting something that no one else has noticed. The ancient rusted up car that people meander past not stopping to appreciate the curved sexiness of the bumper or the vivid 50’s diner green of the surface, now pocketed with rust and the ever ubiquitous scratch. They dont appreciate the history of the car or think about how many people this beauty has safely transported over its life time. No to them its just a rusty old model, long due for retirement in the scrap yard.
I came across this book for different hijab stylings called Aalias HIjab Styling Guide. Who would have thought there was so many ways to style a hijab? Styles that include those who wear glasses, winter hijab styles, wedding styles and also a casual gym styled hijab.
I loved the book and prefer hard copy versions of anything as opposed to watching youtube videos. With the book you can pull it off your bookshelf and flick to the relevant page in a couple of seconds. The design is brilliantly executed and the step by step pictures make it easy to follow.
Pictures kindly provided by Aalia
Yesterday I had opportunity to go to a printing workshop in Giza, Cairo, located just near the famous toblerone shaped pyramids. It was fascinating to see the process of printing leaflets, and how books are made from every stage starting from the printing, gluing, and cutting to create a perfect product. There was various machines in charge of different tasks, with my favourite being one that resembles a wheel. All the pages of a book are slotted into the compartment and the wheel spins round where glue is attached to the spine by another part of the machine, the cover pushed onto the glued, and then the final process is the machine closing the book together. Genius.
This particular workshop prints leaflets, posters (most recently election posters), school text books and packaging for pharmaceutical companies.