I’ve stayed in Garden City, near Tahrir Square, for seven days, and this is the first time since 25 January 2011 that I have been walking around in this area – an area I used to visit almost weekly for five years in the end of the 90s. This week, I’ve only seen Western tourists once around here.
What’s different? Well, several of the small roads leading to Tahrir Square have been blocked off with very thick concrete walls, and there’s a sturdy metal gate you drive through if you come from Garden City. But I guess the thing that has struck me the most is the graffiti.
A guy working in a cafe near Tahrir spoke almost reverently about the graffiti and seemed shocked when I asked whether any attempts had been made to remove it from the walls. I think he actually used the word “precious” while referring to it as a heritage of the revolution.
I feel graffiti is an art form in its own right, and in this context, it coveys it’s own messages (many of which I don’t understand). It is surprising, though, for me to see this graffiti here in the centre of Cairo. When I lived here, this kind of expression would have been unthinkable.
In sharp contrast to now graffiti-rich city centre, the Al Azhar Park was almost a piece of idyllic paradise near the centre of Cairo. I became aware of the park when checking out the Lonely Planet pages on Cairo.
Walking through Al Azhar Park as the sun was setting, it was like being in a different world. Families were preparing for the Iftar meal picnic style, and I saw many happy faces and heard many happy voices.
I agree with the Lonely Planet suggestion: don’t miss Al Azhar Park if you’re in Cairo.