Little Adventures

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Travel Special: Photography in Egypt

Photographing the Nile River from the balcony of our hotel room with my Canon EOS 20D.

Egypt is a photographer's paradise, I think. I said that maybe because I've never been here before and the subjects seem endless to me. Apart from the more obvious ruins of the Pharaonic era, the country offers plenty of interesting photographic subjects. The people, the streets, downtown Cairo, the colorful crafts and souvenirs, the overall landscape . . . It's definitely a place worth exploring.

Modern Cairo. My wife and I stood here for a good 30 minutes shooting people, buildings and interesting cars passing by. Some looked at us with curiousity but none, not even the police made an attempt to stop us.

I like the Egyptians general attitude towards photography. Not just the government but the people themselves. Most will smile for a photo and at no time did I encounter anyone who reacted offensively for having a camera pointed at them. As for the policies of the tourist spots, photography is virtually unrestricted. Maybe this is the general policy of the Egyptian government.

A tourism & antiquities police on a camel in the Giza plateau. Protecting visitors and at the same time, Egypt's treasures.

There's plenty of police presence everywhere. In the hotels, in every tourist sites and in almost every street. Before the tour guide takes us out for a trip, an authority asks the driver, where we are going which company they represent, how many tourists do they have with them and what nationalities. Whenever we arrive at any site, the same procedure occurs but they never bother the tourists.

An old Lada, Russian-made car. A lot of these cars are still in use as taxi cabs in Cairo.

While seeing the sites, hawkers and souvenir sellers will approach and try to be very persistent to an extent but would leave us alone when they sense that we're starting to get irritated. I guess they don't want anybody complaining to the police. I appreciated that. It simply shows that the police presence is there to do what they are supposed to do - and that is to protect the tourists (and the general public of course) and let them have a good time; NOT TO BECOME PARANOID ABOUT TOURISTS AND THEIR CAMERAS.

A security guard in traditional dress gladly smiled for a photo. He asked for a tip afterwards which is okay because I would have given him voluntarily.

The only place where I was stopped from taking pictures was in one portion of that walk along the Nile River in front of the Russian Embassy so I think the restriction was reasonable. The policeman, who was at some distance gestured politely and smiled. I understood what he was trying to say and so I smiled, gestured my apology, placed my camera in the bag and walked away.

Rowers at the Nile River.


One place where cameras are totally banned is inside the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. This is where they put on public display the complete collection of Tutankhamen’s treasures and the mummy of Ramses II. With the number of counterfeiters and thieves out there, the restriction is a well justified measure. Photography, however, is allowed at the front garden of the museum. But before, you go inside the building, you are required to deposit whatever camera you may have to the guards by the gate.

A demonstration on how papyrus paper is made. These papers last for thousands of years.

When I was already face to face with the 11Kg solid gold mask of Tutankhamen, I remembered that I still had my SE K800i in my pocket and right then, I felt the strong temptation to sneak a photo. But an angel kind of whispered into my ear not to and so I resisted it. A few moments later an Arab kid, did just that with his Nokia but before he could shoot, a guard in civilian clothes was quick enough to shout "No photos!" and stopped the kid from shooting. I could just imagine how embarrassing it might have been had that been me.

Painting on papyrus paper.

Cameras are also not allowed inside the Great Pyramids of Giza. I'm not sure why not considering there's absolutely nothing inside - just empty narrow corridors and an empty tomb. I guess the purpose was to prevent people from staying inside too long while taking souvenir snaps. Without photos, people move constantly in and out.

Tourists posing for a souvenir photo at the Pyramid of Cheops.

Other than the places mentioned above, photography is open in Egypt. Local people in traditional costumes will even be willing to pose for tourists with a camera. Be prepared to give a tip though. It doesn't matter whether you give him 1 or 100 Egyptian Pounds or any currency, as long as you give him some kind of a tip.

Sheesha bottles being sold as souvenirs at Al-Khalili Bazaar. We bought nothing but the shops welcomed visitors who just want to take pictures.

Tourism is Egypt's main industry and source of income. I admire the fact that the people here are not photophobic. Thousands and thousands come and go in this country on a daily basis from all over the world - Europe, Americas, and recently according to our tour guide, a lot from main land China. Have you ever wondered what makes these people come here? I have one good guess - it's the millions of pictures taken by other people who have been here before them.

Also in this series:

1. Travel Special: Egypt, Land of the Pharaohs
3. Travel Sepcial: Egypt, the Giza Plateau

Cheers,

alexdpx

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