An ‘Orientalist Tour’ of Historic Cairo

Bustling bazaars, Mamluk mosques and Ottoman houses abound in the artworks of Orientalist painters like John Frederick Lewis, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Ludwig Deutsche, to the end of the long list. During my Orientalist Art Course last week, I thought of doing some ‘cultural excavation’ in Islamic Cairo, tracing the footsteps of these Orientalist artists in an attempt to identify some of the settings that they had chosen for their paintings.

While some sites are immediately recognizable (like al-Ghuriyya and Bab Zuweila), others are not necessarily so. Many places look very different than what they once did, others have vanished all together, and yet, others are impossible to identify with precision because they are rather ‘generic’ (could be anywhere). In addition to recognizing the sites, the tour was a useful exercise to understand how the city has metamorphosed ever since.

Because images speak louder than words, below are some images of famous paintings along with photos that I took at Islamic Cairo, showing the sites featuring in the paintings.

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