The Mighty Egyptians

Egypt-2006-2 There are few places on earth where I feel like I have slipped into a mythical time period, and Egypt is one.  The ancient Egyptians were geniuses, creating some of the greatest marvels of the world.  During my visits, the historical sites were never-ending and always impressive, but what intrigued me most were the people.  Incredibly insightful, and very willing to discuss life, politics and cultural issues over tea. Egypt-2006-3-2 Egypt-2006-2-2 Egypt-2006-4-2 The openness of the people was surprising, and enjoyed talking with them more than I enjoyed the tourist sites (don’t get me wrong, the sites are truly incredible achievements).  Over tea, we could delve into these discussions of politics, history and philosophy, all of which added to the flavor of country and its culture.  The one consistent trait that seeped into every conversation I had with my Egyptian friends, was their great pride in their country and their astute eye to Egypt’s problems.  The pride is deservedly so with their rich history, and the criticism mirroring their frustration in seeing their country fall from once a great empire to one rife with political struggles and a growing lack of opportunities for their population.  True patriots.

Cairo still fosters great philosophers and ideas, but outside the large city the educational infrastructure is in tatters.  An educational system in tatters does not bode well for the future, and Egyptians understand this yet are paralyzed with the current changes within their country.  Egypt is a country rich in tradition, from the Bedouin to the arts and sciences, and more than one Egyptian believed that it is this same rich history that has the power to pull the country apart at the seams.

Egypt-2006-4 “What is our next step as a country?” was the frequent question, and then as if to acknowledge the futility of an easy answer, they would ask my thoughts about the last historical site we visited.  While I did enjoy the smaller villages and great historical sites with Karnak and the Nile Valley perhaps being the highlight of the trip for me, nothing came close to the relationships (however short they were) developed with the people, our guides and security team that accompanied us.   Egypt-782 Egypt-780 Nile Delta-777 Cairo has always fascinated me, and will always remain a city where I would like to spend more time even though I doubt that could ever be possible.  When mentioning to my Cairo friends that we were going to the Sinai Peninsula, they immediately told me to take time for an early morning hike up Mount Horeb, (also known as Mt. Sinai). The hike is about 7,500ft. change in elevation, and roughly a 2.5 hour climb starting at around 3:30am to ensure arrival at the summit prior to the sunrise.  One friend, Ain, stressed that at sunrise we would be able to feel the history of a great Egypt and with the morning energy it would then be possible to successfully head into the future and one day return the promise to return to Egypt in glory.

Mt. Horeb - Sinai Sunrise-777

The words were prophetic, as we made it to the summit prior to dawn, ate a small and simple breakfast and as a few more hikers arrived, together we witnessed a beautiful sunrise.  Among strangers, we all shared that great moment and I wondered just when I would make my return in glory to this great land of Egypt…


As the hikers began to leave, I started prepping for the trek down when one of our guides and a security agent told us (3 other Americans in the group) that we could stay awhile, and they would prepare a smoke on the hookah so we could enjoy the serenity and talk for a while before heading back down.  I realized why I have enjoyed travel: rooted in most cultures is a desire to learn.  Sitting down to share ideas, be it over tea, coffee or a smoke.  Ideas that may be contradictory to the other, but nonetheless concepts that are shared.  Looking around at the peaceful surrounding, I thought it pretty cool to have the top of the mountain secluded for another great learning experience.

Egypt-2006-8 Egypt-2006-7

The current strife and chaos within the Egyptian political system is very disheartening, especially as many Egyptians understand the country needs to be engaged with the west and the US.  While I have yet to make it back to Egypt, there is much to share, learn and grow between us.  More conversations over tea, coffee and smokes are needed to bring greater understanding and peace.  Wish my Egyptian friends the very best.

53 Comments on “The Mighty Egyptians

  1. So enjoyed this post! It’s so wonderful to hear about people and places where time is taken to share, learn, debate – What a fabulous post and pics!

  2. Amazing post !I truly enjoyed it, “Sitting down to share ideas, be it over tea, coffee or a smoke.” would be so great ^ – ^ and the photo of the sun is really something > v < !

    Have a nice weekend !

    • Wonderful reply, thank you. I hope you had a great weekend, and may this week be filled with sunshine (and tea) for you!

      • You are so kind,Dalo , thanks a bunch ^ ^ !

        This weekend of mine was truly a fairy tale,Dalo =)) the sun was shining, the birds were singing and I was….. so sick to get up , I had to spend all day laying in my bed , just like the “sleeping beauty” ,haha > v < !

  3. Great optimism. A weekend spent like a princess… Get well soon, and drink plenty of tea to help you feel better 🙂

  4. Great pictures! Especially the sunrise. It’s beyond words. I found the same thing about the people there. I’ll be sure to report on my own travels.

  5. Wow I cannot put into words how beautiful your photos are and also your overall insight of Egypt. I too felt that among the incredibility of Egypt’s ancient monuments, I felt that the people were the true site and delightful.

    • It is wonderful to hear how you also felt that the people were the true sites of Egypt. It is such an amazing country with both the rich history and so much going on there today. Thank you too for the nice words about my photography, very much appreciated.

      • You are very welcome. Your pictures are just too beautiful. I like your whole blog idea to combine photography with philosophy. I really look forward to reading more of your posts and get carried away by your photos.

      • This is great to hear Andrea, I too look forward to sharing ideas, photos and learning more about life through our yuan-fen (缘分) and blogs. Take care.

  6. The photographs are breath-taking. I can only imagine what it would’ve been like in person.

    • Egypt was amazing, the people and sites. When I wrote this post, Cairo was just coming to life again with protests against Morsi…and I had some big hopes.

      The chaos happening now can be depressing, but I still have great hope that the people & country are going to come out of this situation stronger. I am an optimist 🙂

      • Yes, it is always better to see the glass half full.
        *Fingers crossed for them*

    • Thanks Anne, I agree it is such an amazing country. Wish them the best, and hope to head back some day soon.

  7. Such gorgeous photos … the vivid colors contrasted with the drab backgrounds. Lovely. Mind you, I spent 9 months in North Africa and HATED it. Of course, I’m a writer, not a photographer.

    • Thank you Mark. Egypt was truly a photographer’s dream and I had some very cool friends that made it one of my favorite destinations ever…and I really want to get back there again. Cheers.

  8. Wow! your photos are soothing to the soul. Just like your hands write out wonderfully well, the lens of your eyes through the camera capture thoughts and imaginations far beyond human understanding…
    I shudder;even asking myself silently how you do it.
    What did you do to the camera?
    I wish I can do just what you do…

    • The people of Egypt were amazing, the dreams they have and to see what is happening there now is sad…but they still inspire. Nothing like finding inspiration all around. Thanks Thandiubani, Cheers!

  9. ….Just thought you should be a member of, one of my favourite places for photography.

    Wish you a nice evening (??), Luana.

    • Thank you Luana, just finished a bit of travel and back in HK…I will check out 🙂
      Evening will be a book & early bed, which will be great. Cheers to a great weekend!

      • I must work during the weekend…luckily, I must work. Nothing else can save me:) at the moment (unfortunately). Curious about “your” HK and the way you really see it. Thank you for the attention, and wish you once again a nice evening and a wonderful weekend ahead…

  10. Randall, WOW. Your photos are so clear, with amazing depth, light and composition. You truly capture the people and the place. I am so happy to have seen these. Best, Shanna

    • Thank you, Egypt one of those places that you can’t help losing yourself in the culture. Amazing place.

  11. Hello Randall & TGIF 🙂
    Yes, I realise you originally posted this last year, but I can’t help but comment anyway (and it’s always great to re-visit your photos).
    I love how you captured moments of ‘daily life’ and normal/everyday culture in these series. Of course the tourist sites (as you already pointed out) are breathtaking too. But it makes it even more exciting to see it within the context of the culture & local people.
    Although my opportunities for international travel are limited, I can at least see more of this world through your lens. And, it gives me motivation & encouragement to keep up with my photography and capture special moments here – even in everyday life 😀
    Best wishes,

    • Hi Takami, i hope you had a good weekend. I am back from travels in China (WP banned), so I now get to revist some photo sites I’ve missed. It is always fascinating to get out into a new environment, and it can be just a city (or district) away which is nice. Being able to visit a new country is pretty much heaven for the photographer 🙂 Best wishes!

      • China! That must have been exciting 🙂 Perhaps we can have a glimpse in a future post? 😉
        Best wishes to you too!

  12. Hi Randall, I’m really enjoying your photos, and your words help bring the people and place alive. Not that many photographers seem to be able to do both. And you’re helping to stir up my travel lust. May I ask if you support yourself via writing and/ or photography?
    blessings, brad

    • Appreciate this great comment Brad. Losing myself in photography is this great release I have found, and when I can write about it so much the better. When I travel, I can help but get wrapped up with all I see and photography somehow allows this to happen. Have tried to support myself via photography & writing…but pretty tough doing 🙂 Cheers!

      • Thanks for answering my nosy questions. I’d say you have a gift for aligning with the moment to capture the beauty of people and place. Sometimes I used to feel connected to a place in awe or appreciation and somehow captured more than just the image. This sounds like what you’re doing, not just snapping photos. 🙂

      • Agree, nothing better than getting wrapped up with the scene in front of you ~ becoming apart of the scene complements photography and writing making it flow more freely.

  13. Egypt has always been a place I wanted to visit – but so far haven’t been able to. But looking at your photos they make me want to go more than ever. In particular I like the way you capture people, close and with respect. They really show the people and their culture.

    • These days, I think viewing Egypt would be incredible ~ the news may show some things, but the people and culture now would be more inviting than ever. Thanks Otto!

  14. I harbor a deep love for all the unique countries which constitute the Middle East.

    For Masr (Egypt):
    يكون في سلام، لا في حُـطام”
    “Be at peace, not in pieces”

    • My dream destination is to visit and photograph Iran ~ such history and knowledge, and a culture that like all great cultures, needs to be tasted & experienced.

      Egypt was a place where I first got the flavor of the Middle East, and still today remains as one of the more influential places I’ve been…and hope to return, and agree with your quote.

      • Yes – Iran is renown for its countless mosques with stunning architecture, as well as great poets.
        If you haven’t heard of the Persian philosopher and poet Jalaluddin Rumi I recommend you check him out – I think you will enjoy his poetry which focuses on acquiring all-encompassing love and harmony. His poetry stems from with Sufi mysticism which is a more spiritual branch of Islam.

      • Rumi, yes I have heard much about him, but only in snippets (i.e., his quotes everywhere), but have never really read his works or about his life. Great call, and I will find some material about him and his work. Thanks!

  15. Hi Randall – may I know what lens do you use for those close-up portraits? They are beautiful. I would love to go to places like Egypt, Morocco some day. Just reading some of the comments – yeah, do check up on works by Rumi, you will enjoy his poetry.

    • HI Kat, for many of these shots I use a 24-105mm lens, but my favorite lens is a 24-70mm (it is fast, and I like the crispness of the shots). I am looking forward to Rumi ~ and hopefully it will be the perfect tie-in to another adventure in the Middle East 🙂

  16. A thoughtful gathering on the top of Mount Horeb: what a memorable way to spend the first hours of the morning! Your capture of the red-tipped silhouetted hills is gorgeous. Is it required for all tourists to be accompanied by security guards in Egypt?

    • It was really a great morning…although I remember waking up late so it was a pretty fast pace up the Mt. Horeb. At the time we visited, there was a security guard who traveled with us ~ truly an amazing guy, the places he’d take us off the path for tea were so memorable…and conversation that was amazingly insightful from both the Western and Eastern point-of-view.

  17. Here I am, enjoying your experience in Egypt. Your post reignited the memories and the experience when I went up except that I did not do the hooka thing. Darn, I knew I am missing the good things in life. It’s incredible to see the surrounding mountain ranges as the light brightens the surrounding and see the mass of people doing exactly what you are doing. The faces you have posted are so powerful and i can see the beauty lines and marks. It may be an unfriendly environment currently but the history will live forever and so it your experience. Thank you for sharing this.

    • That is it, the history of the place is so overwhelming and powerful…a place I will return to again. Yes, the hooka on top of Mt. Sinai after sunrise was pretty neat…this was one of things I ended up carrying when the trek got to a couple of other climbers 🙂 Such a memorable place, nice to revisit ~

      • Next time you go, try riding a camel. And you know your priorities – Hooka it is! 😛

  18. Sometimes we’re wondering why such country with full of wise and intelligent people and had been once the most powerful country in the world is currently struggling in our times. I myself wanted to understand the complexity of events happened in a country such as Egypt, because that country is full of wisdoms buried in secrecy that requires effort to uncover. Understanding why their country is falling like that can be really helpful, I think so they can stand again and start again. But I knew that kind of thought is not enough because pulling a county to where it was before is harder because a lot of factors affects to make a progressive country, it involve a lot of will power not only from government but also from its people. Understanding both sides of the action of this two, enlightens us why Egypt it is right now. How I wish I can join your travel, learning so much. Thanks again for this post though this one is quite a while in here.

    • Great comment! It is unbelievable to see how an incredible civilization as Egypt ~ wisdom so ahead of its time, can fall so far so quickly. From my perspective, it is a true warning for anyone and anyplace that corruption and greed will doom a population. I do think they will arise once again, and with the power of people (humility and belief) they can change the world yet again. Humility for all nations and people can ensure greater worldwide happiness. I miss the feelings I had in Egypt…that feeling of such history and hope. Cheers!

  19. Amazing photos and engaging writing. I’m also loving your blog layout/theme, which allows the photos to be shown so big.

    • There is something special about travel, and coming into the connections and people of Egypt was a perfect example of this. Showing my photos big is something I enjoy seeing and having (even though it has drawbacks as well). Wish you a great weekend.

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