Egypt By Night: Sunrises, Sunsets, and Moons

As of summer 2019, I have traveled to Egypt 14 times, so naturally I’ve had many opportunities over the years to photograph sunrises, sunsets, and moons there.  Here are my favorites.

At the Pyramids of Giza Near Cairo, Egypt

Any post celebrating sunsets in Egypt clearly needs to start with the sun setting behind the Pyramids of Giza!

This sunset photo was taken in February, 2017 when I went to Egypt as part of Sahra Kent’s “Journey Through Egypt 3” tour.  We stayed at the Sphinx Guest House, which is a bed & breakfast place in Giza, Egypt (near Cairo).  This was the view from our window! If you look closely, you can see the Sphinx in front of the middle pyramid.

Sunset over the Pyramids of Giza
The sun sets behind the pyramids of Giza, Egypt on February 6, 2017. Look closely, and you’ll see the Sphinx hiding in front of the middle pyramid!

And because I love Egypt and its pyramids so much, here’s a sunset photo I took in February 2016.  This year, too, I accompanied Sahra’s “Journey Through Egypt” tour, and I took this photo from my room at the Sphinx Guest House.

Sunset over the pyramids of Giza
The sun sets behind the pyramids of Giza, Egypt on February 10, 2016.

I caught the sunset at a different point in February, 2015.  This year was the first time I accompanied Sahra on her “Journey Through Egypt” tour, but it wasn’t my first time in Egypt. This photo offers more light, and therefore a clearer view of the Sphinx.

Sunset over the Pyramids of Giza
The sun sets behind the Pyramids and Sphinx in February, 2015.

One of my favorite photos that I have taken in my travels is one of the moon rising over the Great Pyramid. I sat with friends in the garden cafe at the Mena House hotel, and this was our view.  I had accompanied my friend Morocco to the Ahlan Wa Sahlan festival, which was held at Mena House.

Moonrise over the Great Pyramid
The moon rises over the Great Pyramid in June, 2004.

The Overnight Train from Cairo to Luxor

It’s about 400 miles from Cairo, Egypt to Luxor.  An affordable way to make the trip is via an overnight train with sleeper cars.  The train leaves Cairo late in the afternoon, which allows an opportunity to watch the sun rise as you approach Luxor in the morning.  I took this photo in February, 2016.

I saw this sunrise on the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor, Egypt early in the morning of February 14, 2016.

Luxor by Night

When I go to Luxor, I really like staying at the Gezira Garden Hotel.  It’s a beautiful setting on the West Bank, and it offers excellent customer service, and delicious meals.

Getting from the West Bank where the hotel is, over to the East Bank where the actual city of Luxor lies, is easiest and fastest via ferry.  After dark, the reflection of Luxor’s lights on the Nile River creates a beautiful scene.

On a Nile Cruise Ship, Probably Between Edfu and Luxor

I think my Nile cruise ship was heading north from Edfu to Luxor at the time I captured these sunset photos in 2008.  First this one, as the sun was sinking over the horizon:

Photo copyright 2008 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

As the sun  lowered further, it created the beautiful pink and orange effects around it:

Photo copyright 2008 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

The Road to Aswan

There are many scenic views to enjoy along the drive south from Kom Ombo to Aswan.  This sunset captured my attention on April 22, 2019.

The view from the road between Kom Ombo and Aswan.

In Aswan

The Basma Hotel features a terrace that looks out over the city and the Nile River below.  It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set. This photo was taken in April, 2019.

Sunset over the Nile River at Aswan, Egypt.

These photos were both taken in 2016, from the upper group of rooms on top of the hill at the Basma hotel in Aswan, Egypt, looking out in two different directions.

Aswan by night, as seen from the upper level of the Basma Hotel on February 22, 2016. Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

 

Aswan by night, as seen from the upper level of the Basma Hotel on February 22, 2016. Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

At Lake Nasser, at the Abu Simbel Temple in Southern Egypt

Twice a year, on February 22 and October 22, the rays of the rising sun pierce the inner chamber of the Temple of Ramses at Abu Simbel, Egypt.  On this date, the light shines on Amun-Ra of Karnak, Ra-Horakhti of Heliopolis and Ramses II, but the fourth god in the sanctuary, Ptah of Memphis, remains always in shadow.  I was there for this event on February 22, 2015, when I accompanied Sahra Kent on her “Journey Through Egypt” tour.

False Dawn Over Lake Nasser Just before Sunrise at Abu Simbel
The glow of false dawn appears just before sunrise over Lake Nasser at Abu Simbel, Egypt on February 22, 2015.
Sunrise over Lake Nasser at Abu Simbel
The sun rises over Lake Nasser at the Abu Simbel temple in southern Egypt on February 22, 2015.

The Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria, Egypt

These photos are from my visit to Alexandria, Egypt in June, 2008. My friend Saqra and I went to a family-oriented beach one beautiful afternoon.  Alexandria is a popular place for families from Cairo to spend vacation time during the summer, due to the fact that the sea air gives it cooler temperatures than Cairo. We stayed to watch the sun set, then went to the theater at the Alexandria Library to watch the show titled “The World Dances with Mahmoud Reda”.

Sunset over the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria
The sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria Egypt on June 30, 2008.

Later in the sunset, as the light begins to fade, the sky remains beautiful and the sea takes on a range of colors.

Other Posts on My Blog with Sunset Photos

Luxor, Egypt: A Parade with Its Roots in Antiquity

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.

Over the course of the event, people celebrate with tahtib (martial art) competitions for the men, carnival rides for the children, pilgrimages to the Abu al-Haggag Mosque, Sufi zikrs (rituals), horse racing, and more. The moulid’s final day culminates with the Dora, a parade. For purposes of this blog post, I’ll focus on the Dora.  Perhaps in the future I’ll show some of the other facets of the festival.

The festival occurs in the middle of the Islamic month of Sha’aban, which is the month that immediately precedes Ramadan. The Islamic calendar is lunar, so every year it shifts about 2 weeks compared to the 365-day solar calendar. In 2019 when I was there, the moulid’s Layla Kebira (big night) was on April 19, the night of the full moon. (In 2018, it was April 29.)

The day after the Abu Haggag’s moulid holds its Layla Kebira, the people of Luxor close the festival with the Dora. Although moulid celebrations occur throughout Egypt honoring various different saints, the only one to feature a Dora is Luxor’s Abu Haggag.

The Dora’s Origin

Historians believe the roots of the Dora lie in the Opet festival of ancient Egypt, which many archaeologists believe began during the reign of Hatshepsut 3,000 years ago.  This event, known as the Beautiful Feast, was celebrated at the time of the Nile’s annual inundation, and it was Luxor’s most important holiday. Egyptians would transport a statue of the god Amun-Ra in a boat traveling from the Karnak Temple to the Luxor Temple, where statues of his consort Mut and his son Khons awaited him.  In later years, after the canal silted up, the boats were carried along the route.  The statues would remain at the Luxor Temple for the 24 days of celebration, then return by boat to Karnak at the end.

The path of this procession was marked by the Avenue of the Sphinxes shown below, which still remains in Luxor today. Interestingly, at the Luxor end of the Avenue (shown in this photo), the sphinxes feature human heads.  At the opposite end, at the Karnak temple, the sphinxes feature rams’ heads.  The sculptures gradually change from human heads to rams’ heads along the route from the Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple.

Copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

The modern-day Dora at the end of the Abu al-Haggag moulid is believed to be directly descended from this procession of ancient times. Just as the ancients conducted their procession with boats while the Nile River was in its annual flood stage, the modern-day Egyptians still refer to the vehicles in the Dora as “boats” and some are constructed to indeed look like boats.

However, today they move through the streets on wheels. Some look like actual boats mounted on carts just for the day. (It makes me wonder whether the “floats” we refer to in modern-day parades in North America are a holdover from this ancient tradition. Why do we call them “floats”?)

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

The Morning of the Dora

The Dora itself does not begin until mid-day.  However, it is entertaining to head for downtown Luxor early in the morning to grab a window seat at an upstairs coffee shop where you can drink coffee, eat ice cream, and watch the preparations. It’s good to pick a place with a view of the Abu Haggag Mosque and Luxor Temple, because a large amount of moulid action takes place in front of them.

We could see a large amount of activity in the street below our coffee shop, such as donkey carts, camels dressed up for the parade, horse-drawn carriages, various automobiles going about their business, and more.

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

It’s great fun to see the many costume items people use to dress up their camels.  People drape them in colorful scarves, and sometimes even include some belly dance hip scarves jingling with coins. I laughed when I saw one with a British flag draped over his butt. We saw one camel wearing a Bob Marley hat!

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

Parade Time!

Watching the Dora in Luxor can be a bit of a challenge.  One issue is that it’s not easy for a foreigner to determine in advance which streets to go to for watching.   City officials don’t publicize the parade route in advance, for security reasons.  Another issue, which is true of almost any parade anywhere in the world, is that it can be difficult to work your way through the crowd to a spot where you can see.   I forgot to wear sunscreen, which left my face looking a bit pink after four hours in the sun!

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

The Dora isn’t nearly as structured as the parades I’m accustomed to in the United States, and that’s one of the things I like very much about it! I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think the participants necessarily adhere to a specific parade route and a specific lineup. I got the impression that some of the participants joined in wherever they felt like it, and also turned off of the main parade route when they wanted to, particularly the costumed camels.

The Dora very much feels like a mobile party, much more entertaining than my local college’s Homecoming parade.  There are no marching bands in the Dora, but there’s plenty of music in the form of large speakers booming out pre-recorded pop music.

In many cases, a large group of young men holding assayas (the sticks used for the ancient Egyptian martial art of tahtib) walks together in front of a boat, waving their sticks in time to the music coming from the speakers.  I feel so much joy and pride coming from them as they pass by, and I think they’re my favorite part of the experience of watching the Dora.  Even after they have passed by, I still find myself smiling. I took several photos of them, but found that I just couldn’t capture the energy and excitement.

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

Generally speaking, each of the boats represents a business, and features decorations that match with the type of work the business does. Several boats represent grocers, each with a beautiful display of fruit.  As these boats progress along the Dora route, the people on them pitch apples, oranges, mangoes, and other fruit out to the people watching.  People happily catch them and wave back to the people on the boat.

I saw one guy toss an orange up to a group of people watching from a balcony above him, but his aim was bad, and the fruit crashed through a nearby window!  Oops!  To my surprise, nobody acted angry or upset about it.  Someone emerged from behind the broken window, smiling and waving.  Of course, things can get quite entertaining if the boat passing by contains watermelons and its occupants decide to throw a few of those to the crowd….

Copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

Sometimes things can go wrong.  One boat was a garbage truck.  As it approached where I was watching, it spouted several puffs of colored particles.  They were fun to see, but made it hard for me to watch due to some of the dust getting under my contact lenses.

As I was blinking and rubbing my eyes, someone inside the truck’s cab must have accidentally bumped the control that operates the dump function.  The back of the truck started to raise, and several moments of confusion arose as the men on top of it either tried to jump down into the surrounding crowd or clung to it trying to hang on.  For a few minutes, the parade halted as the people involved with the truck tried to work out what to do next.  Eventually, they figured out what to do and the truck started to move again.

The finale of the parade consists of camels carrying shrines on their backs. Each shrine looks like a small house made of fabric.  Seated inside each shrine is a child holding it steadily in position on the camel’s back. People along the parade route look to the shrines for blessings as they pass by.  When I saw the Dora in 2018, there were about five shrines, but in 2019 I counted eleven of them!

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

After the shrines have passed, there can be a few more boats, camels, and other parade participants following behind, but at this point the crowd starts to dissipate.  I was definitely ready to head back to the Nile to catch the ferry to my hotel, because I had been standing on my feet for about 4 hours at that point.  Although my back and feet were sore and my face pink from sunburn, I felt it was worth every minute I spent enjoying this unique Luxor experience!  The Abu el-Haggag moulid is a living example of why Luxor’s modern-day culture is every bit as fascinating as its archaeology.

Sunrises and Sunsets in Iowa!

Sunsets in My Neighborhood!

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 include local-to-me sunsets 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.

Sunset in Iowa City, Iowa November 2017
The sun sets over Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City, Iowa in November, 2017.

And this photo was taken about a half hour’s drive from our house, at Coralville Lake.

The sun sets over Coralville Lake on October 21, 2016.

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.

We had interesting colors in the sky shortly after sunset on June 9, 2018. Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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!

Photo copyright 2017 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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:

This photo was taken June 6, 2019, in Iowa City, Iowa near Hickory Hill Park.
This photo was taken June 6, 2019, in Iowa City, Iowa near Hickory Hill Park.

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 driving to capture this photo of it approaching!

Storm clouds roll in, hiding the sunset on June 15, 2019. Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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.

The sun sets over Coralville Lake on October 21, 2016.

Also at Coralville Lake, this photo was taken June 6, 2019 from the docks at Bobbers Restaurant near North Liberty, Iowa.

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

One evening while in North Liberty, Iowa at sunset, I captured this scene:

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

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.

Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

The Moon

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.

The Blood Moon in Iowa City, Iowa on September 27, 2015. Photo copyright 2015 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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.

The moon rises over Coralville Lake on September 17, 2016 near Bobber’s Restaurant. Photo copyright 2016 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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 that my grandfather built.

Photo copyright 2016 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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!

The moon rises on the east side of Iowa City, Iowa. November 15, 2016. Photo copyright 2016 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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.

I saw this full moon rising in our neighborhood on May 14, 2018. Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Other Sunset Photo Galleries On My Blog

Every Nubian Home Has a Crocodile…

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.

I’ve heard a Nubian acquaintance named Karim say several times, “Every Nubian home has a crocodile.”  What he means by this is that it is traditional for Nubians to display preserved (dried) crocodiles both inside and outside of their homes.

Why Nubians Display Mummufied Crocodiles

I asked my Nubian friend Gamal Latif, the artist who painted the image at the top of this blog post, about this custom.  His house in Luxor, Egypt doesn’t display a crocodile. He said he used to have one that his family obtained in 1933, but over the years it fell apart. He said that although he could probably purchase one, the point is to catch the crocodile yourself as a sign of your courage and strength.

According to Gamal, there are several reasons for the Nubian practice of crocodile hunting, mummification, and suspension above the door. It is thought to protect the home from the evil eye (envy), and it provides evidence of the strength and courage of the owner of the house.  Also, there’s a belief it will frighten away crocodiles from approaching the house.

In Nubia, crocodiles are not the only animals displayed on houses. Ravens are killed and suspended on the roof of the house to scare other crows and ravens away.  Ravens can harm small chickens, chicken eggs, and pigeons, which is why people don’t want them near their homes.  Nubians also kill scorpions and hung them on the wall, also as a way to deter scorpions from coming near their homes.

On the Outside of Houses

Tourists can visit the Nubian community named Gharb Soheil, which is across the Nile River from Aswan, Egypt. There are two ways to approach it, either by bus or by a boat.  If approaching via bus, it’s likely you’ll see a building with the words “Crocodile House” painted on the outside, and a preserved crocodile mounted on the exterior wall above one of the doors (on the left of this photo).

Crocodile House
This house in the Nubian community of Gharb Soheil features the words “Crocodile House” on its exterior, and a preserved crocodile mounted above the door on the left. Photo copyright 2015 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

This isn’t the only building I’ve seen with a crocodile mounted in front of an entrance.  Here’s another I saw as we drove past:

Crocodile Mounted Above a Door
This home in Gharb Soheil (a Nubian community across the river from Aswan, Egypt) displays a preserved crocodile outdoors, above the door. Photo copyright 2015 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

On the Inside

It is also common to find crocodiles mounted on the walls indoors, such as this Nubian home.

Crocodiles Displayed on a Wall of a Nubian Home
This home in Gharb Soheil (a Nubian community across the river from Aswan, Egypt) displays preserved crocodiles on the walls indoors. Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Below is another view of a Nubian home with a crocodile over a door:

Crocodile on an Indoor Wall
This home in Gharb Soheil (a Nubian community across the river from Aswan, Egypt) displays a preserved crocodile above a door indoors. Photo copyright 2017 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

One of the Nubian homes I have visited at Gharb Soheil also displays three crocodile skulls outdoors in the yard. Can you find them all?

Crocodile Skulls
This home in Gharb Soheil (a Nubian community across the river from Aswan, Egypt) displays the skulls of crocodiles outdoors in its yard. Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Living Crocodiles

There are a number of Nubian homes in Gharb Soheil who make part of their income by allowing tour groups to visit and look around.  They will often spend some time talking about Nubian culture, and answering questions.  Some of these keep live crocodiles on hand in a terrarium to show the tourists:

Crocodile in a Terrarium
This home in Gharb Soheil (a Nubian community across the river from Aswan, Egypt) has a terrarium with live crocodiles. Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Once a crocodile outgrows the terrarium, the family takes it back to the Nile to release it into the wild.  They need to take it to the south side of the Aswan Dam, because it’s illegal to release crocodiles into the northern part.

One time I asked Karim to tell me how they go about transporting a full-grown crocodile and releasing it without getting attacked in the process.  He told me they wrap a scarf around its jaws, to hold them shut, and they wrap a second scarf to secure the tail next to the body.  (An adult crocodile’s powerful tail can easily sweep a person off his feet.)  Next, several of them lift the crocodile into the back of a truck, and drive it to the shore of the Nile. Upon arrival, they remove the crocodile from the truck. Then comes the delicate process of removing the scarves.  He said typically the crocodiles don’t stay around to attack.  They’re happy to head straight for the water and swim away.

The Nubian homes who feature these tours generally acquire their crocodiles by collecting crocodile eggs.  They hatch the eggs, then raise the baby crocodiles to adulthood.  It is possible for tourists to pose for photos with the babies, as I am doing here.  I have noticed that the Nubians handle the baby crocodiles carefully, to avoid harming them.

Here I am, holding a baby crocodile at a Nubian home in Gharb Soheil (a Nubian community across the river from Aswan). Photo copyright 2019 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Other Places Crocodiles Turn Up

Sometimes you’ll encounter preserved crocodiles in other interesting places.  For example, Karim displays this crocodile head on his boat. It has a plastic fish in its mouth:

Crocodile Head on Boat
A preserved crocodile head appears on a Nile ferry boat operated by a Nubian named Captain Karim. Photo copyright 2015 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Crocodiles Elsewhere

Although the strongest crocodile influence I’ve seen in Egypt has been among the Nubian people, ancient Egyptians have honored crocodiles for thousands of years, going back to the Old Kingdom. Here are some crocodiles I have seen outside of a Nubian context.

Temple of Kom Ombo

The ancient Egyptian god Sobek was often depicted in Egyptian art as either a crocodile, or as a man with the head of a crocodile. The oldest mentions of him appear in the Pyramid Texts of Saqqara, from 4,000 years ago.

Sobek
The temple at Kom Ombo, Egypt features many images of the crocodile-headed god Sobek. Photo copyright 2017 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

This pillar resides in the temple at the town of Kom Ombo, Egypt.   The temple at Kom Ombo, Egypt is unique because it honors two different gods – Sobek (with a crocodile head) and Horus the Elder (with a falcon head).

Kom Ombo was built during the period of the Greek Pharaohs, from 180 BCE to 47 BCE.  It includes a fabulous on-site Crocodile Museum featuring crocodile mummies. Unfortunately, the Crocodile Museum does not allow visitors to take photos.

Agricultural Museum in Cairo

In 2016, I visited the Agricultural Museum in Cairo and saw these preserved crocodiles on display as one of the exhibits.  This museum began a renovation project in 2017, so at this point I don’t know whether it will still feature this exhibit when it reopens.

Photo copyright 2016 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

Other Posts Mentioning Aswan on this Site

Other Posts Related to Nubian Culture at This Blog

Sunsets and More on a Caribbean Cruise

I always keep an eye out for moments of beauty in nature when I travel. Here are some I appreciated on my 2018 Caribbean cruise.

The first night at sea, October 28, 2018, we enjoyed this beautiful sunset.

On October 29, 2018, the sunset offered a very different mood, but was still very beautiful:

The next day, October 30, 2018, I found it very peaceful to look out over the water, and enjoyed the sun’s reflection:

On October 31, the coast of Roatan Island off the coast of Honduras offered a scenic view:

The island of Roatan, Honduras, looked beautiful when viewed from our cruise ship. Photo by Jewel, copyright 2018, all rights reserved.

The sunset on Halloween evening offered a spectacular display of color, reflected by the sea:

Other Posts on My Blog with Sunset Photos

Cairo, Egypt: The Street of the Khayamiya (Tentmakers)

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.

Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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:

  1. Geometric designs similar to those typical of Islamic art
  2. Images inspired by Pharaonic art from tombs and temple walls, especially birds
  3. 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.
  4. Words written in Arabic calligraphy. Most of these that I’ve seen translate into Allah’s name, or praises to him.
  5. Playful designs intended to appeal to tourists, such as the Mickey Mouse photo shown below.
These two khayamiya pieces show Saidi musicians playing traditional Egyptian musical instruments. The image on the left shows men playing a mizmar (similar to an oboe), a rebaba (stringed instrument), and a deff (frame drum). The one on the right shows two mizmar players and a deff player.

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:

Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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.

A khayamiya piece shows a mouse playing the rebaba! Photo taken in 2018.

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.

Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

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.

This 1917 photo shows the Kiswah (the cloth that is used to cover the Kaaba in Mecca during the annual pilgrimage) loaded on camels for its journey. The kiswah used to be made by the artisans of the Khayameya Street.

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.

This khayameya artisan displays one of his works, an image of a fellaha (peasant woman).  Peasant women are a very common theme in all forms of Egyptian visual arts.  I’ve written a separate blog entry about some of the fellaha depictions I’ve seen throughout Egypt.

A khayamiya artisan holds up a piece showing a fellaha (village woman) with a pot. Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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.

There is an article on the Aramco World web site that provides a large amount of interesting detail about this historic Cairo neighborhood.

Buying Khayamiya Pieces

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.

Some of the khayameya pieces are very large, big enough to cover a large section of a wall. Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

Photo copyright 2018 by Jewel, all rights reserved. The khayamiya piece in the upper left corner shows the legendary singer Oum Kalthoum. The center shows a man smoking shisha (a water pipe). On the right is a group of folkloric musicians.

My Packing Assistants

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.

October 2017, as I was packing for a month in Senegal.

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.

February 2015, as I was packing for 3 weeks in Egypt.

 

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.

February 2017 as I was packing for 3 1/2 weeks in Egypt.

 

Sometimes two of them try to help me at the same time. That’s always interesting.

April 2015.

 

February, 2016 as I was packing for 3 weeks in Egypt.

Blaze seems to be telling me that he thinks I’m done packing, whether or not I agree.

February 2016, as I was packing for 3 weeks in Egypt.

 

Ashley is finding my brand-new suitcase interesting.  She’s making sure I pack it with some cat hair.

She helped me pack for Morocco in September 2017.

 

I thought it was a suitcase.  But he thought it was a bed or a bathtub!

November 2017, as I was packing for a business trip to Washington, DC.

 

It appears there’s no room left for my computer….

December 2017, as I was packing for a trip to Boston.

 

African Sunrises and Sunsets

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.

Sunset in Essaouira, Morocco
The sun sets over Essaouira, Morocco, on September 10, 2017.

 

Sunset over Essaouira, Morocco
The sun sets over Essaouira, Morocco on September 10, 2017.

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.

Sunrise in Dakar, Senegal
The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean at Dakar, Senegal on November 1, 2017.

 

Sunrise in Dakar, Senegal
The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean at Dakar, Senegal on November 2, 2017.

In case you’re wondering why I was in Senegal for a month, I was there as part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps.   You can read more about that here: https://roaming-jewel.com/2017/10/17/ibmcsc/

A Nod to Egypt

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!

The sun sets behind the pyramids of Giza, Egypt on February 10, 2016. Photo copyright 2016 by Jewel, all rights reserved.

Other Sunset Photo Galleries On My Blog