Documenting Cairo’s First Impressions
A one-man crew, zero-budget film.
Why are foreigners dreaming of a vacation in Egypt while we Egyptians are dying for a visa to emigrate somewhere else? Despite all of the problems and the reputation of the country, they are attracted here – why?
We Egyptians forever complain about the endless, chronic problems that surround us. Some of us think that living in Egypt is like serving a prison sentence. Is there something that we cannot see about the country?
Filmed over the course of about eight days ‘Documenting Cairo’s First Impressions’ captures the spontaneous feelings and reflections of foreigners in Cairo. The interviews took place in streets, cafes, public transportation, and in the early hours of the morning after parties had finished – the point is to try and see Egypt from another angle. Asked on the spot about their feelings, the interviewees had no chance to prepare what they were going to say; the answers were deep and honest.
The most common attraction among foreigners? The people. The Egyptians. The people of the country are the most attractive thing in it. The Egyptian personality is very open, lively, interactive, proactive, and communicative. This is something you learn after your first ride on a rush-hour Metro.
Some of the interviewees were from Western countries where life is seen as direct, strict, and plain. Many foreigners are attracted to Egypt because there is always a new, unfamiliar thing to see or do. The Italian student at a restaurant in a small alley said she found focus and harmony in the chaos of the city. Maybe it’s because she was used to a controlled and organized environment; she was eager for change.
It turns out Egypt is a nice place to live. We can work towards making it better; we just need to look at it from another angle.
Jason Stoneking, the American artist who reads out some of his thoughts through the video, talks about the anarchic roads in one scene. Egypt’s overwhelming traffic is usually called a chronic problem, but Jason sees its creative chaos and praises how drivers are constantly aware of every small detail around their vehicle as they navigate the city.
Jason and his artist girlfriend Leslie came here earlier this year for an art residence program. They started a project of painting the greyish-brown satellite dishes that sprout across the capital’s rooftops. He said that one day he went up on a rooftop and realized the city needed some paintwork – he meant that Egypt needs a few colorful touches and then everything will be just good.