Posted by: Waheeda Harris | January 7, 2015

The old and the new of Cairo

On my second day in Cairo, I’m noticing the old and the new. As I walked along the corniche adjacent to the Nile River on Gezira Island, I saw lots of garbage. After yesterday’s sandstorm the street and sidewalk was covered in a variety of plastic bottles and food packaging, the side effects of the 21st century. But as I noticed people starting to sweep it all away, I saw this:

Egypt - obelisk with hieroglyphs

This obelisk, sitting in the grounds of a private club, the hieroglyphs easily seen. It seemed amazing to me that surrounded by the discards of the 21st century, this remnant of the past is thankfully so pristine.

I soon came to the Cairo Tower, the city’s highest structure, which was originally opened in 1961, and redone in 2009.

Egypt - Cairo Tower

At its base, the wall has been scrawled by graffiti tags and phrases while the tower rises out of the trees and gardens a pretty sight against the sky. Once again, the past and present are in one view.

For the 18 million who live in Cairo – the past centuries collide regularly with the 21st century – like the Cairo Marriott Hotel, which was built around the Gezirah Palace, originally built in 1869. The interiors blend the old and new – like this original room now used as a ballroom/formal dining room for a meeting:

Egypt - Cairo Marriott formal dining room

Or this lovely sitting area outside the conference rooms:

Egypt - Cairo Marriott sitting area

While this area is part of the new – but it could be part of the old:

Egypt - Cairo Marriott entrance

As I continue to explore I’m sure I’ll become obsessed with old and new. I find that many people can’t find the harmony of the past and present, they’re either too fixated on maintaining the past or fixated on moving the present into the future as quickly as possible. My goal on this trip to be enamored of both – and try to understand this north African country a little better through its past and present.


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