Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Egypt - The Khan and the Photos

Dedicated to Tabbi for her excellent Uni results!

Much of my other time in Cairo lately has been spent exploring the Khan (souqs or market areas) with my knowledgeable Mum, and sorting out my photos. More on that last point later - there ought to be a few posts on the souqs alone!

We've been getting well-orientated across the bustling city centre, learning through Mum's great system of pointing and saying "Remember that." and "Remember that?". We've wandered into glorious historic Arab houses, restored and otherwise, down deep dark echoing cisterns, through the bustling tourist areas with touts who can banter in six or seven languages, and through the marble-cutting region lined with all manner of hand-made product stallholders. There's so much more I'm yet to see - I'm trying to take in as much navigation as I can so I can set out solo for days at a time. After all, the city hosts 20 million people, and when you're standing in it, it leaves you in no doubt of this fact whatsoever. It's loud and dusty and smells as complex as the traffic. It's vast and polluted and brilliant to see. I'm 100% certain that every time I step out into the centre I will find something to describe that we simply don't see in Australia.

One of Mum's favourite such sites is the Dyeing Workshop. We don't know what it's actually called. This dingy little courtyard should be on the World Heritage listings for sheer photographic potential - I took around 50 in twenty minutes!

It's just beyond a forbidding dark covered alley, and once there, you have to tread carefully around thick piles of grey, dusty detritus like broken chairs, planks of wood and scraps of newspaper. It consists of three related blokes in bare feet and old singlets messing about with four dingy bathtubs full of murky ink. They take stunningly clean (in contrast to their vicinity) lengths of soft white silk, and turn them into the most strikingly bold and shimmering shades of every colour imaginable. They hang these to dry on complex grids of bamboo overlooking the decrepit apartment blocks nearby, and they look utterly brilliant.

There will be photos here within a week. I can promise this because I have spent a lot of time on organising, spinning, labelling and editing them to do so. This has been a daunting task - prepare yourself - I have around 16,000 photographs to this moment.

Yes, I too think that's shitloads. Many of them are simply low-resolution museum labels and can be deleted as I transcribe them to the actual image. But that's the blessing of digital photography for you. I'm putting together a "Best Of" selection, aiming for a very managable number, and will make those accessible as best I can.

Tomorrow night, we will take an overnight train to Upper Egypt. (That's South, going up the Nile). Expect a post in a couple of days, as I doubt the ease of accessibility for internet up there.


  • At Tuesday, December 06, 2005 1:52:00 pm, Blogger Sardone/McRory Family said…

    Hey Sam,
    16000 photos eh? That's going to be one hell of a slide night.
    Looking forward to it,

    PS By hook or by crook, you must go inside the Great Pyramid. Sorry to hassle you about this, but you really shouldn't miss this experience.


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