Before the Revolution
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I'd been going to Egypt every year or two since the mid-80s, visiting friends in Cairo and Alexandria. During that time the country became increasingly tense as the threat of home-grown terrorism increased. Back home in London I was asked if I felt safe as a traveller in Egypt. I told them I'd always found Egyptians to be hugely gregarious and kind and full of life, with an irrepressible sense of humour. As I travelled independently, among ordinary people in taxis and minibuses and never in a tour group that could be easily identified and targeted, I had to admit I'd never once felt any sense of danger. The people I met were impeccable hosts, generous to a fault.
In the last 5 or 6 years Egypt has undergone seismic changes politically, but in all likelihood the fundamentals of life remain little changed. I have not had an opportunity to visit the country since the upheavals of 2011, but the rhythm of life was always more immense than its politics, and I'm left wondering if much has changed in daily life since the removal of Mubarak. I imagine that men still idle away the hours playing dominoes and smoking shishas in the coffee shops; Kunafa stalls still spring up on street corners every Ramadhan; and the frugal Coptic monastic lifestyle endures in remote desert monasteries. I expect that if I were to return to the oasis villages of Wadi Gadeed I might no longer find a man to grind my knives to perfect sharpness, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone was still exploiting a perfectly functional technology to sharpen their kitchen tools.
Here is a small selection of images from my numerous trips to Egypt. All were taken during the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Before the revolution.