Egypt: Amid shortages, Egyptians grow to miss Mubarak

Long line of trucks sit on the road of the Nile's west bank in Luxor, Egypt.  The trucks are lined up, waiting on the side of the road for hours, sometimes as long as 7 hours,  to fill up their tanks with diesel fuel, often only to find the besieged gas station has run out of fuel before they reach the pumps.  The diesel shortage is wreaking havoc on people’s daily lives, leaving some reminiscing over the days of former president Mubarak. Egypt’s foreign reserve has plummeted by nearly two-thirds since Mubarak’s ouster. Tourism, one of the country’s key economic sector is in a slump.The Egyptian pound has devalued by nearly ten percent, and violent crime is on the rise. “This is the worst crisis, because it has been going on for a year and a half and it is never ending,” said Ehab Shookry, the owner of a franchise gas station. “People are really very tired.” To read more about the situation read Betsy Hiel's reporting in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Egypt: The Servant of Siti Bahlul

An old man, the servant of Siti Bahlul Mausoleum, sits outside of his home along Darb al-Mahgar Street in Cairo.  The tomb of Bahlul is in a room adjoining the man's bedroom.  An eccentric man in his 80's, he claims to have served in some top secret function during World War II, though it isn't clear on which side.

Egypt: Café Riche

Throughout the last month I've had many amazing opportunities as I've traveled through Egypt on assignment for my newspaper, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with our foreign correspondent Betsy Hiel.  I've witnessed history unfolding, seen some amazing sights, and met some fascinating and colorful people. I've decided to share some of my favorite outtakes from my travels here on my blog.  

Muhammad Hussayn Sadek, more famously known as Filfil (meaning black pepper in Arabic), has been a waiter at Café Riche since 1943. The renowned downtown Cairo cafe was opened in 1908 and has been a place where intellectuals and artists have gathered since it's beginnings. 

Egypt: Ancient Treasures Plundered

A young boy runs along a small hill in the desert near the black pyramid of Amenemhat III in Dahshour, Egypt.
Egyptian archeologist Monica Hanna, 29, talks with Said Hussein, 32, one of the local custodians who looks after the more than 4500 year-old necropolis of Dahshour, about tomb-robbers who have been illegally excavating in the area looking for ancient treasures. “Do they find anything,” Hanna asks Hussein. “They only find pottery, stuff like this, a wooden coffin, that’s what they take,” he answers.
A custodians who looks after necropolis of Dahshour stands onto of a sand dune overlooking what is now called the Bent Pyramid, due to its unusual shape. The Bent Pyramid was the second pyramid built by Pharaoh Snefru and is unique amongst the approximately ninety pyramids to be found in Egypt, in that its original polished limestone outer casing remains largely intact.

A man stands behind the white-stone wall of a cemetery that is being built on the necropolis of Dahshour.  “Some people build in the cemetery not for a tomb, but to excavate for antiquities,” Dr. Mohamed Amin, 47, a local historian warns. It is feared that the looting and encroachment of this area, endangers the largely unexplored Dahshour complex, an area that symbolizes the evolutionary path of the ancient pharaohs’ pyramid building. It is here that Pharaoh Snefru experimented with pyramid building, completing first what is now called the Bent Pyramid, due to its unusual shape. Snefru’s first smooth-sided Red Pyramid is close by, its name reflected in the red-color tones of the pyramid’s limestone. Snefru is the father of Khufu, better known as Cheops, who built the Great Pyramid, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, located at the nearby Giza plateau.
A man shows a family tombstone for a man and his sons, which was placed on one of the newly constructed tombs of a cemetery which is expanding into the more than 4500 year-old necropolis of Dahshour.
Custodians who look after the necropolis of Dahshour stand near an illegal excavation pit, dug by tomb-robbers looking for ancient treasure near the black pyramid of Amenemhat III. The custodians say that the excavations near the Black Pyramid started a few days after the 2011 revolution and continue to this day. Said Hussein, 32, one of the local custodians, tells that armed “gangs” of up to 30 men come at nightfall to dig in this area, looking for antiquities.
A custodian climbs down the passageway of the Red Pyramid which tourists can enter, though it is visited by significantly less tourists than the Great Pyramids, located at the nearby Giza plateau.  The Dahshour area was a closed military zone until 1996, when the military camp was cordoned off from the more than two-mile field of ancient pyramids. Built by Pharaoh Snefru, the Red Pyramid, is the second largest pyramid, and gets its name from the reddish limestone used to build it. 
A young boy drives an auto rickshaw, also known as a tuk-tuk, through a Dashour street.  Just an hour and a half drive from downtown Cairo, locals here say the revolution has not really touched them, at least in positive ways.
A young boy drives an auto rickshaw, also known as a tuk-tuk, through a Dashour street.
Custodians who look after the necropolis of Dahshour stand near an illegal excavation pit, dug by tomb-robbers looking for ancient treasure near the black pyramid of Amenemhat III.
Two cars sit in the parking area at the Red Pyramid, as few tourists can be found in Dahshour.
 A young man rides a bicycle through the lush palms of Dahshour near fields that are farmed along a canal tributary of the Nile river.
 Small indentations remain, along the sides of an illegally excavated hole by tomb-robbers, from an "ancient staircase," small indentations that aided ancient Egyptians to climb up and down the walls during construction.   
 A broken bench sits in front of the Bent Pyramid, a site that is not frequented by many tourists.  The area around the pyramids of Dahshour was a closed military zone until 1996, when the military camp was cordoned off from the more than two-mile field of ancient pyramids.
 Walid Ali, a custodian who looks after the necropolis of Dahshour, says “It’s like a jungle here at night,” speaking about the nightly tomb-robbing.  “The robbers they attacked the custodians with weapons. The custodians don’t have any weapons and the robbers hit them with the back of their guns,” says Said Hussein, another custodian. The police don’t stop the looting either, the custodians say. “They come here in big groups with machine guns, and the policeman he only has nine bullets. What can he do,” asks Hussein.
 
 The Bent Pyramid is reflected in the calm waters of an ancient lake which was once King Farouk’s favorite hunting grounds.  The spectacular vista has remained relatively unchanged since pharaonic times. "It is rare to see such a cultural artifact in it's natural habitat, the Dahshour pyramids in their natural wetlands," says Noor Noor, Executive Coordinator of Nature Conservation Egypt.
 A tank rolls though the desert just beneath the Red Pyramid's entrance. The Dahshour area was a closed military zone until 1996, when the military camp was cordoned off from the more than two-mile field of ancient pyramids.
Abdel Kareem El-Semainy, a local high-school English teacher, is concerned about the cemetery building and the excavation pits near the Black Pyramid but explains why the locals are expanding the cemetery on the necropolis of Dahshour. “This cemetery is free. If you want to build another cemetery you have to buy the land,” says El-Semainy. “Other villagers come here to build their tombs because it is free here,” he adds. 
 
 Dr. Mohamed Amin,  a local historian, stands with his children near his humble home in the village of Manshiet Dahshour.  “Some people build in the cemetery not for a tomb, but to excavate for antiquities,” Amin, 47, warns, speaking about the expansions of the cemetery on the more than 4500 year-old necropolis of Dahshour. He describes the looters as being very poor and lacking education. “A lot of these men, they don’t find anything. But mummies, they destroy them and they destroy the coffins too,” Amin says. “In this village, some have a belief that the ancient Egyptians are infidels,” he continues, shaking his head.
 Young boys play with discarded tires on a dusty-dirt road in Dahshour.
The 4,000 year-old Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III stands above mounds of dirt that sit from the illegal excavation of tomb-robbers who dig in the area, searching for antiquities.  “Here they will find many things, probably little vases, statues. It is worth quite a lot of money, if it is not lucrative they wouldn’t do this,” Egyptian archeologist Monica Hanna explains. Mummies too could be found here, she says, with a big sigh.

The more than 4500 year-old necropolis of Dahshour is under threat from criminals and villagers who are expanding a local cemetery, whose outline almost reaches to one of Egypt’s first pyramids and one of its oldest mortuary temples. The illegal grave-robbing, looting, and encroachment of this area, endangers the largely unexplored Dahshour complex, an area that symbolizes the evolutionary path of the ancient pharaohs’ pyramid building. “We are losing Egyptian history here, the history for the whole world,” says Egyptian archeologist Monica Hanna, 29, as she walked around peering into the numerous, “massive looting pits."

Read Betsy Hiel's reporting from Dahshour and to see a video check out the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Egypt: Khan al Khalili Bazaar


The Khan al Khalili, a medieval bazaar in Cairo dating back to the 14th century, plays an important role in the day-to-day commercial life of thousands of locals.  The small streets are filled with shops where merchants sell unique and exotic items from spices and perfumes to jewelry and souvenirs.  The bazaar has always been a popular stop for tourists; however, with continued political unrest in Egypt the numbers of tourists has greatly declined and the once thriving market is facing difficult economic times.  To read more about the Khan al Khalili be sure to read Betsy's Hiel's story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Egypt: "Friday of Deliverance"

  Protesters marched on the presidential palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district on Friday, a day that some are calling the, "Friday of Deliverance." Across Egypt, anti-government protests took to the streets in marches, calling for the "demands of the revolution." The demonstrators are calling for the dismissal of the current government, dissolution of the Shura Council, an independent judiciary, as well as other demands. As night fell over Egypt, violence again spilled into the streets leaving a climbing death count and adding to the more than 1,000 people injured. To read more about today's events, read Betsy Hiel's coverage in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Blog Archive

About Me

My Photo
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Justin Merriman, an award-winning photojournalist with the Tribune-Review, has spent more than a decade traveling the world to cover politics, wars, natural disasters and civil unrest. His work has appeared in leading national and international publications and he has received numerous top journalism awards. After covering the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – including the crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville – Merriman committed to chronicling the U.S. military and its War on Terror. He has followed this story across the US and into the war zones of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. He also has covered life in Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 2002, India’s efforts to eradicate polio, the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba in 2012, and in 2013, traveled to Egypt to cover the anniversary of the revolution and to Rome to document the conclave that elected Pope Francis. Merriman graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in 2000 with a degree in English Writing. In 2009, the university awarded him its prestigious Alumnus of Distinction award. Merriman lives in Oakmont with his fiancé, Stephanie Strasburg.

Popular Posts

  © Free Blogger Templates 'Photoblog II' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP