Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Weekend in Cairo, Part 1


The title would suggest that I live the life of a jet-setter, and as I construct some illusions in this blog, I will leave you with that impression…
Ok, ok. Actually, my husband suddenly got the urge to spend a few days of Ramadan in Cairo--where there is quite a bit of nightlife—so we went to visit family living there. That still sounds like I might be a jet-setter, and we did stay up until 4am every day. Appears wild, doesn’t it ? And we lived in the middle of the desert…Sounds even more daring, n’est-ce pas ?
         We had lovely and spacious accommodations an hour from downtown Cairo. However, here is what the desert looks like today:
Yup, it’s become a massive suburb of Cairo with miles and miles and miles of construction and sand, as far as the eye can see. 
Obviously, Egyptians resemble everyone else. They want the American dream of "BIGGER is better." These are residential one-family buildings. Sometimes they are divided into apartments for different members of the family and their children. Here are the backyards.
Huge houses are squeezed onto tiny lots with hardly no garden. And to think I’ve complained about uncontrolled construction in Tunisia.
          And yet, Old Cairo remains forever fascinating. My 10-year old granddaughter (gd10) and I went for a morning of drawing at the Coptic museum.
Among other things, this museum contains amazing textiles, usually in linen and wool (woven, tapestry, or embroidered), which date from the 4th to 6th centuries making them around fifteen hundred years old. The level of craftsmanship is astonishing: Tiny, ornate figures worked into intricate designs suggest a level of sophistication seldom seen today. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed in the museum.

And so we sat down on the cool, clean marble floors and we drew in our sketchbooks with markers. Besides being easily portable,  markers help children get over the impulse that they learn in school to erase. All lines are good.

gd10's drawing of a 5th-6th c. AD tombstone.
The hands of the person are raised in prayer.
We talked about how to situate the elements of a drawing and how to use different kinds of lines to create shadows and depth--light lines, broken lines, dots. 


Grandma's version.

People would come up and watch.
"Grandma, people are staring at us," noticed my hyper-sensitive, easily embarrassed pre-teen.
"That's because we're doing something so cool. 
You know, you will never forget this museum because you sat down and drew." 
And she seemed pleased.




gd10's drawing of the virtue of perseverance personified as an angel from a wall mural of the 6th/7th c. AD.

Here we discussed drawing faces and shell designs.





Grandma's version.

And so we passed a pleasant and peaceful morning in the museum. 
And I'll take a kid's drawing any day over an adult's.





     Outside, I sneaked a few shots of the lion statues, for which I have a fondness.

 gd10's rapid sketch of one of the lions.
The museum was closing.









The high point of the trip was a visit to the Shariya Khayammia or Tentmakers’ Street which requires a post unto itself, but I offer a sneak preview.

                 Indeed, Cairo shines as a welcome break in daily routine...

31 comments:

Connie Rose said...

Thanks for the great travelogue. I love the drawings, especially gd10's first. The sand on the outskirts of Cairo remind me of Dubai 28 years ago. Nothing but sand, then, and very few buildings. Boy, has it changed -- not that I'd know from personal experience, of course, only photos.

Nifty Quilts said...

Fascinating! Thanks. Fun to see your gd10's drawings.

Linda A. Miller said...

Wonderful tour! Love "all lines are good"... a great reminder.

Ms. said...

WOW--I can't wait for part !!...I just shot off the link to your blog to my Utah friend, a wonderful woman well acquainted with Cairo. What great pictures Nadia> Thank you so much.

Ms. said...

Oh, and I mustn't forget to say how charming your line drawings are...stitches to come in the future no doubt.

Radka said...

I have enjoyed your visit with you:-)

Suspinz: Dabbler in Many Things said...

What a special way to share a day with gd10! She will indeed have enduring memories of both the museum and the time spent with you. (As will you, of course!)

I'll be looking forward to the Tentmakers Street issue. Such a tease, you are!

Cheers!

Gurli said...

Very interesting as usual. And great drawings from both of you.

gloria said...

Muy interesante, gran trabajo el de ese artesano!!!. Besos.

American Homestead said...

So glad to see someone traveling to Cairo. I was there last summer between the Revolution and the first uprising. We were treated wonderfully. We worry for the friends we made, so many rely on tourism to make a living...
All the best, Ellen from American Homestead

Jodi said...

what fun with your gd! and I love the lion - good shot :-) can't wait to see more from the tentmaker!

Merilyn said...

What a great post!! Loved seeing that beautifull applique work (first photo) and the last one too, incredible work!!! I couldn't imagine living in such intensive housing quarters, and no garden to speak of, oh dear!

Roxanne said...

Interesting travelog. I love the lions! Looking forward to part 2.

Linda Robertus said...

What a lovely post! I was in Cairo as an exchange student in the early nineties and am fascinated to see the desert suburb! Your granddaughter's drawings are fabulous. What great memories for her (and you!). Looking forward to your tentmakers post!

susan christensen said...

Oh, Nadia - the trip to Cairo (vicariously) has been wonderful. You have a very blessed relationship with gd10 - she will never forget sitting on the cool marble floors of the museum, drawing with her gran mother. I, too, have a fondness for the lions. Please, take us to the tent makers street... -sus

Carole said...

Sharing the day with gd10 will be a fond memory for both of you! I'm hoping to spend many days with my grand babies. Thanks for the sneak preview........!
xo Carole

Nancy said...

Thank you for taking me along on this recap of your adventure! What special memories you made with your young granddaughter :)

rtquilter said...

Wonderful post, nadia! You and gd10 are REALLY fortunate to have one another! Cairo looks crazy! Imagine building over the desert like that!!!

Notjustnat said...

Thanks for the tour of Cairo and the Coptic museum. Both of your drawings are very charming. Did you get a chance to visit the old Coptic church? I was in Cairo in 2008 and enjoyed it very much. Ramadan Mubarak... Nat

Tonya Ricucci said...

I lived in the suburbs of Cairo for three years so those unfinished buildings look all too familiar. So ugly. Never made it to the Coptic Museum - I think it was closed for renovation. Ah, but Tentmakers's Street- that brings back fond memories. loved the drawings - think my favorite was the quick sketch of the lion.

india flint said...

love the drawings.

quilteuseforever said...

Manifestement le talent se transmet bien dans ta famille, l'humour et l'art de la dissidence aussi !
Impatiente moi aussi de lire ton article sur les tentmakers, sur lesquels j'ai lu de rares articles dans la presse. Quel sens aigu des couleurs, quel talent...

Edith Bieri-Hanselmann said...

Nadia, thank you for taking us along with you on your trip to Cairo!
Edith

Rafael's Mum said...

what a beautiful post Nadia! Really looking forward to the tentmakers. I have heard of them before so it will be amazing to see your photos!

meta said...

a fun trip!

Rachaeldaisy said...

I loved hearing about your adventures in Cairo. Those new houses are huge!! The drawings, yours and your grand daughters are all wonderful!! I've always thought people who sketch in art galleries or museums are very cool!!!

barbbouk said...

Nice!! Let's get together soon.

Gina said...

So interesting! And wonderful sketches, both gd10's and grandma's. I like your idea of using markers rather than pencil and eraser.

Kahna said...

What an amazing gramma! My daughters are so lucky and blessed. You have played a major role in their lives defying the confines of the geographical distance between us. You are simply an amazing woman, full of life and inspiration. Thank you for being there, just when we need you the MOST!

MARIA CRISTINA said...

Wonderful stories where art, history and family come together to share in the distance. Thank you very much!
A big hello.

Karen Bates said...

Thanks for taking me to Cairo. Your granddaughter is so talented! (So are you). Lovely drawings! I love that you are sharing your love of art with her!