Qahrawya: Artistic Walking Tours in ‘The City That Never Sleeps’

Qahrawya: Artistic Walking Tours in ‘The City That Never Sleeps’

Photo credit: Mohamed Abdel Kawy and Nora Kahil-Akhrass

Are you planning to visit Cairo soon? Typing “places to visit in Cairo” into the Google search bar is the first thing that comes to mind, though this won’t give you the best possible experience when you venture into the bustling Egyptian capital.

There is much more to Cairo than meets the eye when searching online. Aside from its fascinating history and heritage, Cairo’s artistic and cultural flair is indisputably distinct despite the fact that unfortunately not many locals, let alone tourists, know about it.

A compelling desire to showcase the richness and beauty of the ‘City that Never Sleeps’ prompted Samia El Khodary to launch Qahrawya (Cairene) in 2018. Qahrawya offers walking tours focused on the visual and artistic side of the city, uncovering gems hidden and cultural diversity. places.

From cultural centers and art studios, to photography exhibitions and film studios, Qahrawya takes people on walking tours of downtown Cairo, El Mounira, Garden City and Zamalek.

“I always tell my team ‘don’t pick what can be used on Google.’ Don’t choose places that 90 percent of the people know, choose places that only 10 percent know,” El Khodary tells Egyptian Streets.

To enrich her passion for Egyptian art and culture, El Khodary undertook numerous photography and collage workshops, an art residency at the Fayoum Art Center, art and design courses, as well as a Diploma in Cultural Development at the University of El Cairo. Since she acts as a tour guide for all Qahrawya tours, she is committed to deepening her artistic training and knowledge of the field of arts and culture.

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Photo credit: Nora Kahil-Akhrass

“Egypt’s tourism industry is solely focused on the golden ages of Egyptian civilization: the ancient Egyptians, Islamic architecture, the Coptic era, although we have more in our heritage. We have many treasures and talented artists that no one knows about in the contemporary art scene,” says El Khodary. “We want to highlight the cultural narrative that is often neglected.”

Through Qahrawya, El Khodary also strives to bridge the gap between those who are already promoting art and culture, like Zawya, and the general Egyptian public.

“When an exhibition is made, who finds out? The artist, his friends, his family and those who are involved in the art scene. But most of the public is not aware of and never finds out about this type of exhibition, not because they are not interested, but mainly because they do not know about it”, adds El Khodary fervently.

The tour of the center includes the Cosmos Cinema Tour, which highlights film studios and filming locations, as well as the Studio Photography Tour, which focuses on contemporary photography exhibitions and photo archives.

Photo credit: Nora Kahil-Akhrass

In the 19th century, downtown Cairo was the heart of literary and artistic activities, which saw the rise to fame of Egypt’s leading socio-cultural figures such as Umm Kulthum and Naguib Mahfouz.

Due to the richness of the Downtown area, Qahrawya also organizes the Gudran Art Tour, specializing in showcasing the fine arts, primarily the contemporary art scene in Downtown Cairo.

Cosmos Cinema Tour
Photo credit: Noha El Agrab

In addition, the walking tour in Zamalek, called the El Gezira Art Tour, and the tour in Garden City, called the Lamba Art Tour, take groups to visual arts spaces, art exhibitions, and local craft venues. While the tour in El Mounira, a district that many may not be familiar with, includes a visit to the Tahrir Cultural Center, the House of the Nation Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO) .

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“Our tours are an opportunity for people to explore new places, meet new people, gain knowledge, attend a musical performance and eat together. They are more like a community activity, a half-day experience,” describes El Khodary.

With a maximum number of 15 and a minimum of five, the tours begin with an icebreaker mini game, a synopsis on the visual arts scene in Egypt, and a comparison between the local and global art scene.

“There are many places that deserve attention and people don’t know anything about them because there is not much awareness around them. I want cultural tourism to be as important as popular tourist spots,” explains El Khodary.

Qahrawya aims to expand to other districts of Cairo, such as El Darb El Ahmar, Heliopolis and Harraneya.

Follow Qahrawya on Instagram to find out more about her tours and upcoming events.

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