Egypt, Mother of the World
Project info

I landed in Beirut in 1964 knowing nothing of the region. I was there to represent a New York photo agency — when such outfits had their people stationed around the world doing photojournalistic assignments.

One of the first people I met was the New York Times’ Middle East bureau chief, Dana Adams Schmidt. A seasoned writer, he was just leaving for Egypt, Yemen, South Arabia and Yemen: did I want to go with him? I jumped at the chance.

In Cairo I accompanied Dana on some of his political interviews. Nasser was in power trumpeting his anti-colonialist, pro-socialist, Arab-nationalist agenda. Since time immemorial the Egyptians, with their proud history, had considered themselves the cultural and political leaders of the Arab community.

The term for this outlook was — and is – Masr, Um al-Dunia: “Egypt, mother of the world.”

I had time to explore the teeming, wonderful streets. The following year I would return to the Nile Delta photographing for a UN agricultural development agency. The country’s problems were deep — seemingly intractable — yet the faces were joyous. I can only hope some of that spirit survives the latest crisis. Half a century seems less long inside a seedbed of civilization.

All photos © William Carter 1965