Egypt #2 Photography - M1key - Michal Huniewicz
This is my second photo gallery from Egypt, focusing on ancient and Coptic Egypt. The previous one was on Islamic Egypt.
Uploaded on: 2015-06-21.
The Pyramids of Giza
This is what I first saw when I woke up in my hotel room - my first morning in Egypt. The ancient Egyptian burial ground in Giza, west of Cairo. Absolutely stunning.
ISO 200, 50mm, f/10.0, 1/800s.
Cleopatra in the Gayer-Anderson Museum, which was named after the British man who restored the sixteenth century building where this bust is located. [1
ISO 200, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/200s.
Girl I met in the Saladin Citadel; she took a photo of me as well.
ISO 200, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/8000s.
Ancient Egyptian Music
Located in Zamalek (where I ventured in search of healthy food - found one salad bar), this building shows both Gothic and Mediterranean influence. I love
those wooden blinds, but there's not much use for them where I live.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/8.0, 1/200s.
Many other neighbourhoods in Cairo are poorer and more conservative than the island of Zamalek.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/5.0, 1/250s.
Islamic Cyber Punk-style neighbourhood. Only the rain was missing.
ISO 800, 11mm, f/2.8, 1/25s.
One of the more atmospheric streets - modern Arabic Nights. Maybe except for the ads!
ISO 800, 11mm, f/2.8, 1/30s.
From the street we teleport directly into the sanctuary of a Coptic church in Old Cairo aka Coptic Cairo.
When the Arabs conquered Egypt in 642, the ancient Egyptian culture came to an end, but the spoken language survived a few centuries longer
in its Coptic form. That eventually helped to decipher the hieroglyphics using the Rosetta stone. [6
The Copts are Christians, mostly inhabiting Egypt, Sudan, and Libya, and usually adhere to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. [11
ISO 800, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/30s.
Prayer, I Suppose
Once a majority, three century after Arab conquest they became a minority (currently 10%), and now their language is limited only to liturgical uses. [11
ISO 200, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/50s.
Although their main body for 16 centuries has been out of communion with both the Roman Catholic Church (in Rome
) and the various Eastern orthodox churches,
Coptic churches feel a lot like Orthodox churches
(as opposed to Catholic churches).
ISO 560, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/40s.
Priest Being Undressed
Many Coptic intellectuals hold to "Pharaonism", which states that Coptic culture is largely derived from pre-Christian, Pharaonic culture, and is not indebted to Greece. It gives the Copts a claim to a deep
heritage in Egyptian history and culture. Pharaonism was widely held by Coptic and Muslim scholars in the early 20th century, and it helped bridge the divide between those groups. Most scholars today see
Pharaonism as a late development shaped primarily by western Orientalism, and doubt its validity. [11
ISO 280, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/40s.
When I saw the blingy necklace, I knew he wouldn't mind posing.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/5.0, 1/500s.
Following the 2013 coup in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood was hard at work fomenting hatred against the Copts, and as a result, there were widespread attacks on Coptic churches and institutions in Egypt by Sunni
Muslims - the worst since the 14th century, according to some. [11
] The Copts had been generally supportive of the deposed secular-ish dictator Mubarak, who guaranteed their safety.
ISO 800, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/25s.
I've only seen people resting on the floor in mosques and Hindu temples - then I noticed there was someone seemingly asleep right in front of the altar, with his mobile phone close to his heart, as if expecting God to call.
ISO 800, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/25s.
Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church aka Abu Serga is a 4th century church. To put that into context, the Christian Church officially recognised Jesus as god only in the 4th century. [3
ISO 450, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/40s.
Fear of Heights?
They say Jesus and Mary rested in a crypt located here. [7
] Well, as a child, after having received religious education in Poland, I was sure Jesus was Polish... Some people will believe anything.
ISO 360, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/40s.
Coptic graveyard in Old Cairo. Not Greek at all, wink wink.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/8.0, 1/1250s.
In the Coffin
Just like in the atmospheric Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius, here too you can find open coffins with skeletons. This one looked like it was licking its lips with that red tongue.
ISO 280, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/40s.
Church of St. George
According to Human Rights Watch, "Egyptians are able to convert to Islam generally without difficulty, but Muslims who convert to Christianity face difficulties in getting new identity papers
and some have been arrested for allegedly forging such documents." [11
It's worth remembering here that the Copts had a massive impact on Muslim art - in the pre-Islamic times, the artistic expression of Arabian peninsula was rather primitive, so the Muslims had to adopt the initially alien styles of the conquered people. [18
Pictured here, St. George's is a good place to visit if you're into relics.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/6400s.
Kid who looked like he was preparing to beat me up.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/3.5, 1/1250s.
Dad, I Found It!
When I was a kid myself, we had one just like that - my dad used to say it was the least safe car in Europe. Nevertheless, as we were sat literally shoulder-to-shoulder in that little vehicle,
he would say to me "look, son, this is how Americans drive" (switches on the indicator). "See?"
I still don't quite get what he meant.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/1000s.
Fortress-like apartment building in central Cairo.
ISO 200, 55mm, f/7.1, 1/125s.
Green and Yellow
And a staircase elsewhere.
ISO 800, 40mm, f/5.0, 1/25s.
Man in his barber shop.
ISO 200, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/50s.
I mean, I hope he wasn't dead.
ISO 800, 30mm, f/4.2, 1/25s.
Man selling coal, straight from the mine, by the looks of it.
ISO 450, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/40s.
What's the Noise Camels Make?
Finally, we return to Giza.
Isolated, ancient Egypt became a unique civilisation. Located at the river Nile, protected by marshes on the east, and the Sahara on the west, which reduced its
interaction with other cultures [10
] - maybe except for Nubia, where today there are more pyramids than in Egypt, and at least one Egyptian Pharaoh was a Nubian. [9
On top of that, ancient Egyptian's religion led them to see their neighbours as enemies. [10
Behind the camel sniffing my lens is the Great Pyramid of Giza aka the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops (the Greek name of the Pharaoh).
ISO 200, 11mm, f/8.0, 1/1000s.
The Geat Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, until it was replaced by the Lincoln Cathedral in London (of arguably
inferior craftsmanship, as it didn't last too long [5
In the photo, tombs and mastabas that surround the pyramids. Mastabas were the original way of burying bodies, from which the pyramids evolved.
The mastabas at Saqqara, pre-dating the pyramids in Giza, are based on a conception of the deceased as living on after death in a building resembling an earthly dwelling. [10
ISO 200, 18mm, f/8.0, 1/1600s.
Inside a Mastaba
This is inside one of the Saqqara mastabas, that of Mereruka, who was an important government official. [16
] In the photo, you can see his statue, and behind it is a false door,
which was a threshold between the worlds of the living and the dead. [15
] His tomb is quite a labyrinth.
You're not allowed to use your camera, so the phone shot is all we've got, sorry.
ISO 125, 5mm, f/2.0, 1/32s. Taken with my phone, apologies.
When I saw this one... I decided to sneak in, and it was highly claustrophobic. My body was like "no, no!"
ISO 200, 20mm, f/8.0, 1/1250s.
A bit of an anticlimax here, as inside, there was nothing, but at least the walls were covered in hieroglyphics. Fact: the last hieroglyphics were inscribed
on 24th of August 394 on the southernmost border of Egypt. [6
Sometimes, there would be various beasts and serpents chiseled inside the tombs, and then intentionally damaged to prevent them from doing harm. [10
(This is a photo of a different tomb than in the previous photo.)
ISO 200, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/200s.
This is the ship of Khufu (Cheops), 4,500 years old, found intact, until fairly recently sealed into a pit at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
It took 30 years to restore it using only tools known at the time, and they even found the original cords. [13
It was not uncommon to bury a boat like this alongside the Pharaoh, and
its goal was to allow the spirit of the deceased to travel into the beyond in order to join the sun god Re's entourage. [10
ISO 200, 26mm, f/9.0, 1/160s.
The Four Horsemen
Christian Culture in the Middle Ages based its idea of Egypt mainly on the Bible, assuming that the pyramids were Joseph's grain storehouses (Genesis 41-42). [6
The depiction of that can be seen on a mosaic of the San Marco in Venice. [8
More rational ideas did not emerge until the Renaissance, when the Catholic Church lost some of its grip on Europe.
In the photo, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the so called pyramids of Queens.
ISO 200, 26mm, f/8.0, 1/500s.
These lights are used for a somewhat tacky lights and music show I got to admire from my hotel room every evening I was too tired to go out.
ISO 200, 32mm, f/4.5, 1/2500s.
Going Inside a Pyramid
This is what the tunnel looks like inside one of the pyramids. The walls are bare, in most cases they are not decorated in any way. The main security feature of any pyramid was the fact that the entrance was hidden by a stone slab
and the pyramid was covered in limestone (so they used to be really brilliant in the the sun; they used to look quite different to what we are used to). [10
] That, and the guards. It did not work so well, so the burials moved to the Valley of the Kings.
ISO 250, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/20s.
The pyramid of Unas is an exception in terms of decorating - the walls all bear various inscriptions.
Yet again, apologies for the quality of this shot, they told me to leave the camera outside, so I had to use my phone.
ISO 1000, 5mm, f/2.0, 1/32s. Taken with my phone, apologies.
Tourists inside an underground funerary chamber beneath one of the pyramids. In most cases, the chambers were under the pyramid and not inside, the Great Pyramid being a notable exception (it's also the most complex pyramid inside).
The ruler's role in ancient Egypt was both as a god among men and the mediator between humans and the world of the gods, so his presence in the world of the living had to be maintained - hence the mummification.
The plan didn't work so well, because not a single mummy was ever found in any of the Egyptian pyramids. [11
ISO 800, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/20s.
Come to Mummy
But the fiasco of the entire mummification & life after death project becomes completely apparent once you visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There are plenty of human and animal mummies to admire there, all dead, including that one of the big boss, Rameses II.
In the photo, Seqenenre Tao II. The man is not looking great, as he was killed on a battlefield, where he sustained serious wounds: his face was smashed with
an axe, and received two spear thrusts for good measure. [17
Once again, you're not allowed to use your camera, so the phone shot is all we've got, sorry.
ISO 1000, 5mm, f/2.0, 1/20s. Taken with my phone, apologies.
This is me climbing towards the original entrance of the Great Pyramid, not accessible to tourists. Normally, you enter through the rogue entrance made by the thieves led by Caliph al-Ma'mun. [19
One has to admire ancient Egyptian engineering - they were using a decimal system and fractions. The pyramid, however, isn't exactly straight because of the wind that still blows here,
and which affected the ancient Egyptian method of ensuring horizontal surfaces that used water. [10
ISO 640, 5mm, f/2.0, 1/16s. Taken with my phone with a shaky hand, apologies.
Girl I met, wearing a scarf that reminded me of the headwear Pharaohs used to wear.
ISO 200, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/100s.
Not much is left of the ancient city of Memphis, but there is a small museum with this impressive statue of Rameses II, possibly the most distinguished of Pharaohs.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/5.6, 1/50s.
Funerary Complex of Djoser
The Funerary Complex of Djoser, featured in Slayer's videoclip for "Seasons in the Abyss". [20
] Tom Araya hasn't aged at all! Now that I'm looking at it, Mereruka is in the clip as well.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/8.0, 1/1600s.
Close your eyes
Look deep in your soul
Step outside yourself
And let your mind go
In the photo, the colonnade inside the complex.
ISO 200, 20mm, f/8.0, 1/160s.
In Alexandria. The girl who went to the Cavafy museum with me, unfortunately I forgot her name, even though she was really helpful. I gave her a book of the poet, who, being Greek, Jewish, and homosexual, is obviously
not terribly popular in Egypt.
ISO 320, 38mm, f/4.8, 1/40s.
Back to Cairo
Joseph Campbell said that there is a correlation between the size of buildings and the importance we give to the concept behind them. [4
] We used to build enormous cathedrals (when religion was most important),
to be replaced by government buildings, to be replaced with huge skyscrapers where business is conducted. I wonder if that's true - if it is, it's interesting to see how insignificant the mosque looks in this photo among other buildings.
ISO 280, 38mm, f/8.0, 1/40s.
Look at the threshold at the Khanqah and Mausoleum of Sultan Faraj Ibn Barquq
. The cartouche is still visible. While it wasn't uncommon for Muslim architects to use ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, or Coptic materials,
here they decided on a somewhat unsophisticated use of ancient Egyptian materials - as a threshold for the Muslims to step on, to symbolically denigrate the pagan faith of their predecessors.
Some pyramids were completely torn down during the reign of the sultan Saladin. [10
Another example of this sort of cultural imperialism is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, towering over the entire Old City.
ISO 200, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/80s.
But the pyramids still stand, majestic and awesome. Everything fears Time, only the pyramids laugh at it.
ISO 200, 210mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s.
Climbing the Pyramid
But they're not entirely safe, because idiots want to climb them. Idiots like me.
I stayed in Giza too long, and I suddenly realised it was just me and the pyramids (a mummy here, a jackal there, few wandering spirits), that everyone had left and the place was officially closed...
Climbing a pyramid is surprisingly hard. I'm not quite sure why I even did that, but it was all going well until... the camel police showed up. My bravado came to an end in an instant, I was frozen in fear on the pyramid, as they took their time
at the foot of the structure. I was just hoping they would see my already so that the stress of waiting would end. They didn't.
In the end, I didn't climb the whole thing, I was too scared.
I did climb one of the smaller ones, and then got to explore a few more tombs with bats and sarcophagi inside them. It was almost completely dark when... I got caught by the police, after all, who started screaming at me and brandishing guns.
More and more of them started coming from everywhere. Flattery and acting naive saved me, I believe, once again.
As we say in Poland, the stupid are always lucky!
ISO 200, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/2500s.