Once a year, the city of Luxor, Egypt throws a 3-day party celebrating the moulid (birth date) of the 13th century Sufi leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Haggag, who was also known as “Abu al-Haggag”, “father of the pilgrims”. Tourists from other parts of Egypt often come to Luxor to join the party. I’ve been to the moulid twice: once in 2018, and again in 2019.
Although the primary theme of my blog is travel, I can’t resist sharing some beautiful sunsets from my own neighborhood in Iowa City, Iowa. After all, it’s my blog and I can go a little off topic if I want to!
I don’t have to travel far to see beautiful sunsets. These seven photos were taken from my front door, looking across the street at my neighbors’ houses.
And this photo was taken about a half hour’s drive from our house, at Coralville Lake.
We had interesting colors in the sky shortly after sunset on June 9, 2018. This photo shows what I saw when I looked out the front door of our house. It reminds me of the purple sky color that people in Scotland refer to as “the gloaming”.
I love seeing the sun reflect off the edges of clouds. In this case, the clouds on June 15, 2017 were very dramatic and worthy of a photo!
On June 6, 2019 the sunset offered two different works of art. The earlier one was more subtle colors, and the later one more vibrant. Both were worth taking the time to capture them with my camera:
Sometimes, it’s not possible to watch the sun set because of storms passing through. These clouds looked much darker and more menacing in person than they do in the photo. They were the leading edge of a real toadstrangler (strong thunderstorm). The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning, so of course I needed to head out into my driveway to capture this photo of it approaching!
Coralville Lake and North Liberty
There’s a lake about a half hour’s drive from our house known as Coralville Lake or the Coralville Reservoir. It’s near the town of North Liberty, Iowa.
Also at Coralville Lake, this photo was taken June 6, 2019 from the docks at Bobbers Restaurant near North Liberty, Iowa.
One evening while in North Liberty, Iowa at sunset, I captured this scene:
The City of Coralville
This photo was taken May 25, 2019 of the sun setting over Coralville, Iowa, as seen from the bridge that goes over the Iowa River at Iowa River Power restaurant.
After the sun has set, then it’s time to appreciate the moon! Here are some photos of the moon. All were taking in the vicinity of Iowa City and Coralville, Iowa.
On September 27, 2015, we had a beautiful view of the Blood Moon, which occurs when a lunar eclipse covers the full moon, causing it to take on an eerie reddish color. Our neighborhood held an eclipse viewing party so we could watch the eclipse progress together as a group.
One of our favorite restaurants for casual dining is Bobber’s, which resides on the shores of Coralville Lake outside of North Liberty, Iowa. We timed our visit on September 17, 2016 so we could be there at moonrise, watching the full moon rise over the lake.
I visited my brothers at our family farm near Strawberry Point, Iowa on October 16, 2016. This photo shows the full moon rising behind the barn.
On November 15, 2016, we had a beautiful view of the moon rising behind the houses across the street from our house. I grabbed my cell phone and sneaked onto the lawn of our neighbor across the street so I could take this photo. Fortunately, that neighbor is a close friend, and I knew she wouldn’t object to my trespassing!
On May 14, 2018 my husband and I were driving around Iowa City when the full moon began to rise. We pulled off the road into a park so I could take this photo.
In my travels to Egypt, I’ve come to know Nubian people in Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel. Although they are certainly Egyptians (and identify as such), they are a distinct ethnic group, different from the Bedouins, Amazigh, and other ethnic groups that together create the rich cultural heritage that makes up modern Egypt.
There’s an historic street in Cairo’s Khan al Khalili district known as the Sharia al-Khayamiya (Tentmaker’s Street). Along this street, vendors sell a uniquely Egyptian handcrafted textile known as khayamiya. You might also see it spelled as “khayamia”, “khyamiya”, “khayameya”, and other variations of that. The word is derived from Khayma, which is the Arabic word for “tent”. You may have heard of Omar Khayyam, whose name means “Omar the Tent Maker”.
Although it’s possible to purchase khayamiya in parts of Cairo other than this street, you’ll find the best selection here. I find it captivating to explore the shops and admire the many tapestries available there. I’ve always found the vendors to be very welcoming and willing to talk about their art.
What Is Khayamiya?
Khayamiya artisans create the pieces using applique techniques to make designs. The fabric is a type of canvas. Historically in the Middle East, such appliques were used to decorate the interior of tents. As the photo at the top of this article shows, some khayamiya pieces are small enough to be used as a cover for a throw pillow, while others are large enough to cover a large section of a wall, similar to the sizes often used in the U.S. for quilted wall hangings. As a textile artist myself, I’m very fond of the khayamiya technique, and it’s always a treat when I go to Cairo to visit the Sharia al-Khayamiya.
In 2012, the quilt shows presented by the American Quilter’s Society featured a khayamiya artist from Egypt touring throughout the U.S.
Types of Designs
The majority of khayamiya designs that I’ve seen fit into these categories:
Geometric designs similar to those typical of Islamic art
Images inspired by Pharaonic art from tombs and temple walls, especially birds
Scenes depicting Egyptian life, such as Saidi musicians or men playing the tahtib martial art. See the photo below showing two different views of Saidi musicians, one in which the musicians wear burgundy galabeyat, and the other in which the musicians wear navy blue.
Words written in Arabic calligraphy. Most of these that I’ve seen translate into Allah’s name, or praises to him.
Playful designs intended to appeal to tourists, such as the Mickey Mouse photo shown below.
The photo below shows several khayamiya pieces displayed on the wall of one of the shops on Sharia el-Khayamiya. The owners of the shops I visited gave me permission to take the photos in this blog post.
Egypt’s Red Sea area is world-renowned for its beautiful underwater scenery, and enjoys a reputation as one of the best places in the world to go scuba diving and snorkeling. This khayameya design is reminiscent of the underwater view:
As I mentioned above, some of the designs are fun and playful, intended to appeal to tourists who may be looking for gifts to take home to their families. In this khayameya piece, a mouse wears a traditional red tarboosh (hat) on his head, and a blue men’s gallabiya (long floor-length shirt). He’s playing a rebaba, which is a traditional Egyptian musical instrument.
About the Khayamiya Street
Sharia el-Khayamiya is one of the last Medieval covered streets remaining in Cairo, and is worth a visit just to take in the history it represents. The street lies immediately south of the historic city gate known as Bab Zuweyla. It was built in the 1600’s.
Historically, when Egypt was the hub of the Islamic world, every year the artisans of the Tentmakers’ Street would craft a massive tapestry to cover the kaaba stone in Mecca for the annual hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). When the time came to transport the tapestry to Mecca, it would be carried through the Bab Zuweyla and placed on the camel caravan that would transport it there. The departure of the caravan to Mecca was occasion for the people of Cairo to celebrate.
In recent decades, since the discovery of oil on the Arabian peninsula, the Saudis purchase their tapestry for the annual hajj from other sources. Egypt no longer provides it.
If you stand outside a shop in Sharia el-Khayamiya, you may need to dodge cars and motorcycles, since it still is a functional street. I find it best to quickly move inside a shop displaying designs that appeal to me, rather than linger out in the street area.
The khayamiya textiles come in many sizes. Prices vary according to the size of the piece and the intricacy of the design. Sometimes when I visit these shops, I sit down on a bench, pick up a large pile of textiles, and start looking through it in search of something to catch my eye. For me, it is a pleasure even just to look through them. The vendors are always very willing to help me find specific pieces if I tell them what sort of design or size I’m looking for.
Although some of the vendors don’t speak much English, they can typically recruit someone nearby to translate. I’ve never had a communication problem, and I enjoy seeing their faces show their pride in their work as they answer my questions about certain items.
I have purchased many khayamiya pieces to use as gifts for friends and family members.
It can be a challenge figuring out what gifts to buy when visiting Egypt. I have given several pieces to people in my life who appreciate handcrafted textiles. The diverse selection of color combinations and designs offers options that could appeal to a variety of tastes.
I also have several pieces for my own home, and when I look at them, they bring back memories of my visits to Egypt.
Whenever I pack for one of my trips, I have help. Here are photos of my assistants. One moment I’ll be alone in the bedroom, placing the empty suitcase on my bed to pack. The next moment, I’ll have at least one assistant, and sometimes more than one.
I can always count on Blaze to help me pack. Once he settles into a suitcase, it’s hard to get him out. If I try to lift him out, he’ll simply plop right back into it.
Ashley often glares at me while I’m packing. I think she’s scheming about what kind of trouble she’ll make for my husband while I’m gone.
Blaze is especially fond of the small size of underseater bags. They’re just the right size for him to curl up. Though, perhaps they’re too small for his 14-inch tail.
Sometimes two of them try to help me at the same time. That’s always interesting.
Blaze seems to be telling me that he thinks I’m done packing, whether or not I agree.
Ashley is finding my brand-new suitcase interesting. She’s making sure I pack it with some cat hair.
I thought it was a suitcase. But he thought it was a bed or a bathtub!
Traveling offers many opportunities to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets. In this blog post, I’d like to share my photos taken in Morocco and Senegal. These are all my original photos, and my property. Please do not steal them.
Sunset in Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira is a seaside community in Morocco, facing onto the Atlantic Ocean. It offers beautiful views of the ocean, and also of sunsets. I was there for Funoon Dance Camp, which was organized by my friend Nawarra.
Sunrises in Dakar, Senegal
These two photos were both taken at sunrise (approximately 7:30 a.m.) in November, 2017, from the Pullman Hotel in Dakar, Senegal.
I’ve taken so many photos of sunrises and sunsets in Egypt, that I’ve given Egypt its own page. However, I wanted to include at least one photo of Egypt on this page since, after all, Egypt is in Africa! Here’s one I took in 2016, and if you’d like to see more, follow this link to my Egypt page!