Thursday, April 28, 2011

Remembering Cairo

I've been remembering a busy day in November 2006, when I was wandering around Cairo. I saw and experienced many things that surprised and delighted me, and changed my thinking. That's why we travel, isn't it?

I visited this palace museum and discovered my ideal decorating style: Shabby Sultan. This is why it's so hard for me to find a condo in Boston with enough detail to satisfy me:


I've been collecting inlaid coffee tables ever since I saw this.

This parlor's walls are covered in Islamic tiles; a time-consuming, expensive (but stunning) alternative to wallpaper. What would it be like to live in a room like this?

I love the way those big rugs are layered on top of each other.

On Rhoda Island, I looked for Umm Kulthum's museum—she is Egypt's most beloved vocalist. I never found it, but I found a lot of feral cats:

These cats looked unusually healthy and well-fed for Cairo.

Some gentlemen offered to catch this beauty for me, but she was too quick for them:

Look at that face! Surely ancient Egyptian cats looked like this.

The Gayer Anderson house is a lovely little museum in medieval Cairo. Here's a bedroom, less spectacular than the palace museum, but also romantic and evocative of centuries past:

Curtains and carved mashrabiya screens keep out the hot afternoon sun.

I also visited mosques. They are not only beautiful and historic, they feel deeply holy. So much concentrated prayer over the centuries seems to seep into their stones and the carpets. The old mosques of Cairo are also a peaceful respite from the chaos of the streets:



After visiting house museums and mosques, I went shopping. A friend took me to a five-story department store in the souk, which sold nothing but belly-dancing attire. I piled a box full of scarves, veils, headdresses, and jewelry for a friend:


At a small store called Nomad, I discovered my ideal deck. It was a simple balcony off an ordinary, multi-story concrete building. But the shopkeepers had added rugs, a canopy, a daybed, tables, pillows, latticework, lanterns, and potted plants. I settled in with a glass of hot mint tea. 

In my neighborhood, many people furnish their decks 
with cheap white plastic chairs...

Our favorite hotel, the Mena House, is a former royal hunting lodge. It's very grand, yet unpretentious and welcoming. The lobby is a sea of glistening marble and its low ceiling is a coffered masterpiece of gilding and mirrors. It's like walking into a jewel box, yet I always feel like I've come "home" because everyone nods and greets you. One of the great things about Egypt is that its people have long memories. I could sail into this lobby tomorrow and someone at the desk would probably remember my husband's visit in January, and my last visit, five years ago. 

Believe it or not, it's cozy.

Here's the lounge, where you can hear music and have a drink as you wait for archaeologists to show up from the Pyramids, always clearly visible because they are right next door.


It feels like ages since I've sat in one of those hot-pink velvet chairs. And so many great changes in Egypt since then, and many more to come. Time for another trip—someday. 

1 comment:

  1. Now, that would feel like a vacation...being on a patio like that!

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