Fridays in Egypt Turn into Turmoil

By Matthew Bamberg / Jun 28, 2013
After the revolution, Fridays are troubled in Egypt

The time after prayers on Friday is never calm in Egypt. Today was no exception, as tragedy unfolds in the country known for some of the most beautiful antiquities in the world. Sad news from Lower Egypt about someone who got shot in the port city of Alexandria has poured into the media.

Americans are now warned to stay away from the country. It’s too bad. It’s as a country is being thrown away–monuments and all–because of the recalcitrant leaders of the country not compromising with the opposition. All we can hope for is that someday they will.

My story there began there on a Friday last March. I started out in Cairo when, shortly after my arrival late in the evening, the trip became very rocky. My love for photographing trains and subways caught up with me early on the second day of my trip when I opted for my traveling companion and I to take a subway ride after a long walk around Gezira Island near to where our hotel was located. After snapping a few shots of the subway cars and station, plainclothes police picked us up in the Sadat subway station under Tahir Square. To be sure, photographing there was a foolish endeavor, but the shots were well worth it, as it is one of the most fascinating public spaces I’ve ever seen.

To make a long story short, the encounter took a turn for the better during a rather humorous interaction with the authorities who became amused while thumbing through my images (after my instructions) in my Canon Mark II dSLR camera. They had run into the images of animals I had taken at the Bronx Zoo while looking for the subway shots. After a brief debate about what “art” was (I had explained that the subway shots were art) they were appeased and guided us out to Tahrir Square, several blocks away from our hotel.

The next day we went with a guide to the Islamic Quarter, another public space with nothing-less-than-thrilling photo ops. Afterward, I had asked to stop for some food to bring back to the hotel. The guide and driver kindly obliged, stopping at a fast food restaurant in downtown Cairo. Camera-in-hand, I continued to look for some good street photo ops. After snapping a few, I saw a group of masked young men in black (who, I later discovered, were part of an anarchist group), the leader holding a gun (which at first I thought was a toy) high into the air.

Before I knew it, I was on the ground behind a car under a hail of bullets being pulled from a fireball in the doorway of the restaurant. My traveling companion had tugged me from one of the Molotov Cocktails that the group had thrown at the restaurant. Needless to say, after the ordeal, I thanked him profusely for saving my life.

After we arrived at the hotel, I had made a decision not to continue our trip to Luxor and Aswan, but ran into the threat of a big fee from the airline for changing my reservation. I decided we would continue, fretfully I must say, on a trip that went on to become the one of the most rewarding of my life…

About the author

Matthew Bamberg

Matthew Bamberg has provided photographs and written articles for various Southern California newspapers and magazines, including The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise. More recently, Matt has been teaching at UC Riverside while also authoring several books like the Quick and Easy Secrets book series (Cengage), Killer Photos with Your iPhone (with Kris Krug and Greg Ketchum, Cengage), the 50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco (Cengage) and Digital Art Photography For Dummies (Wiley).