panoramic photographs 1986-2001
Zbigniew Kosc ® The al-Hakim mosque, 1992, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
Islamic Cairo is a very old area, surrounded by walls dating from the middle-ages, and was once the cultural, religious and intellectual center of the entire Arab world. Monumental buildings, palaces, many famous mosques and madrasas (religious schools), numerous markets and the oldest university in the world (al-Azhar) still stand witness to a glorious past. But, in the twentieth century Egypt has become a poor third world country and at present Islamic Cairo has fallen into decline, it is full of ruins and has degraded into a living and working neighborhood for the very poorest. The entire neighborhood has become a big bazaar, a labyrinth of dirty, stinking and dusty streets, with thousands of old-fashioned workshops where many crafts are still practiced at a very high level. Two million people live close by in what used to be the burial ground for the very rich: the City of the Dead. Entire families have taken possession of old sepulchers. Surrounding it are schools and stores, the center of an extremely lively social life.

The lot of the inhabitants is not just poverty; religion is also very important to them, namely the Sunni Islam. Daily life is interrupted five times a day by the call from the mosques that is heard everywhere and the people go to pray to Allah. The visitor can experience: the ramadan (a period of fasting), the hadj (a pilgrimage to Mecca), and exuberant weddings and funerals one after the other. Islamic Cairo is grandeur and decline, work and poverty, religion and tradition in confrontation with the modern world, as a great stage where everything takes place in an eternal scenario.

The series of black and white panoramic photographs - made in the period 1986-2001 - has been made with support of the Foundation Found for Visual Art, Design and Architecture (Amsterdam) and Agfa Gevaert (Leverkussen). Some of the work has been on show before at the Amsterdam Center of Photography (1996), Berlage Institute (1998), SBK Gallery Amsterdam (1998) The International Institute of Social History Amsterdam (2000),
the Noorderlicht NAZAR exhibitions in Leeuwarden, Prague, Stuttgart and Berlin (2004-6) and EWerk Freiburg (2006)

Zbigniew Kosc ® Frayday's ptayer, The Tentsmakers Bazaar, 1999, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
Birth, circumcision, marriage, the pilgrimage to Mecca, death-rites, and the last judgment, those six points, which in the Orient sum up almost the whole of life... '
Le Nil, Egypte et Nubie' by Maxime du Camp
Zbigniew Kosc ® Meat bazaar at the Midan es-Salakhana, 1996, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
Travellers tell that there is nothing on the face of the earth fairer than Cairo.
He who has not seen Cairo has not seen the world.
It dust is gold; its Nile is a wonder;
its women are like the black-eyed virgins of paradise,
its houses are palaces;
its air is temperate;
its odour surpassing that of aloe-wood, and cheering the heart;
and how could Cairo be otherwise, when she is the Mother of the World?
The Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night, Tale of the Jewish physician
Zbigniew Kosc ® Khamsin, 1992, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
Here they call this wind the khamsin (fifty), because it usually blows for fifty days. It is an ocean of dust borne by a hurricane;
the sky turns a leaden grey, and the sun, behind a dark veil and shorn of its rays, looks like a great shield of dull silver.
The sand whirled about by the wind, covers everything and penetrates everything.
'Le Nil, Egypte et Nubie' by Maxime du Camp
Zbigniew Kosc ® Teashop, 1992, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
Zbigniew Kosc ® Tailor, 1998, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
Zbigniew Kosc ® Wedding , 1996, b/w print, 48 x 20 cm
more photographs
Islamic Cairo Gallery
Islamic Cairo Gallery 1
Islamic Cairo revisited

Islamic Cairo references

other projects in Egypty

Journey to the Ruins of Ancient Egypt
Egypt-election posters gallery
Ababda Bedouins of the Eastern Desert
Synagogues in Cairo and Alexandria

© Zbigniew Kosc
Amsterdam 2007
All Rights Reserved

mail to z.kosc@chello.nl

during NAZAR - 11th Noorderlicht Photofestival


about NAZAR ...The Arab world through Arab eyes...
...The Arab world through Western eyes...
...Back in time with historic photos from Western and Arab archives...

This year the Noorderlicht photofestival focuses on the most talked-about
region at the moment. Under the title Nazar - Arabic for seeing, insight,
reflection - the Arab world of then and now, as seen through Arab and
Western eyes, will be shown in a photographic triptych.
NAZAR catalog
NAZAR Photographs from the Arab World
Aurora Borealis, Groningen 2004
ISBN 90-76703-21-3

NAZAR Photographs from the Arab World
Aperture, New York 2005
ISBN 1-931788-85-5
and there are probably more to come...

other projects by Zbigniew Kosc home