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Tuesday, 02 April 2013

Exploring Côte d'Azur

Dear Shaded Viewers,

I have spent my Easter Holiday in south of France exploring a few cities I hadn't been to before.

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We started off in Cannes which has a special place in my heart for the nutella macarons we get from Jean Luc Pele in Rue D'Antibes. After a day there, we moved to Saint Paul de Vence where Marc Chagall moved in the 60s. The city itself is magical with its narrow streets, art galleries and breathtaking panaroma overlooking the green valleys. 

Right at its entrance, there's the famous Colombe d'Or which depicts original works of Miró, Picasso, Dufy, Signac, and Calder. Unfortunately by the time we got there, the kitchen was already closed so we just took a quick tour of the place then left to visit Fondation Maeght.

Fondation Maeght is relatively hidden in the mountain with a beautiful forest surrounding it. Founded in 1964, the fondation displays works of many famous artists such as Bonnard, George Braque, Calder, Marc Chagall, Miro, Giacometti and Leger. There was also an interesting exhibition of the artist Gloria Friedmann of whose works I photographed for you.

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Impressive, don't you think? Well, here is my favourite picture of the city:

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And this is what I added to my wish list for next Christmas, a real Chagall in an art gallery in Saint Paul de Vence:

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And this is what I saved for the last: the chapel dedicated to Saint Bernard near Fondation Maeght. Can you believe that the wooden crucifix was a gift by Christobal Balenciaga himself? 

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Ok, so the next day, we decided to go to St. Tropez as it was off season and we thought we could enjoy a nice lunch and some time at the beach. Thanks God the weather was fine so I could finally walk barefoot on the sand.

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A special thank you goes to Nicolo Milella for being the best tour guide.

Thanks for reading,

Yigit



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Friday, 22 March 2013

Sao Paulo Fashion Week -- TAKE 2 by Robb Young

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Osklen

 

Although some of Sao Paulo's more celebrated designers (most notably Alexandre Herchcovitch) seemed to be saying that now is time for a more subdued and reflective approach, not all was lost to the tenuous notion of Brazilian restraint.  Osklen's cue was the decadent Rio party scene which Oskar Metsavaht put through a jet-set kaleidoscope.  "Both sides of Ipanema: simplicity, beach culture and nature with the cosmopolitan life of the Vieira Souto buildings and festivities," he said backstage.  Jewel tones and cartoonish gem prints were the point of departure for a collection that managed to stay on a sleek road even when it occasionally veered off into rustic or playful territory.  Meanwhile, over at Neon and Amapo, the wild, extravagant, and vibrant side that both brands have become famous for kept audiences captivated -- and helped lift an otherwise quiet SS13-14 season at SPFW.

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Osklen

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Osklen

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Amapo

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Alexandre Herchcovitch,

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Alexandre Herchcovitch

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Vitorino Campos

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Água de Coco por Liana Thomaz

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Neon

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Neon

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Neon

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Sao Paulo Fashion Week -- SS13-14 by Robb Young

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Tufi Duek

After a hiatus from its longtime architectural home, Sao Paulo Fashion Week returned to Oscar Niemeyer's iconic Bienal building this season to mark an important transition for Brazilian fashion.  From this year, the southern hemisphere's most dynamic source of fashion will now be shown in tandem with the international sales cycle instead of showing winter clothes when the rest of the world is buying summer and vice versa.  Because of this, organisers Paulo Borges and Graça Cabral are banking on a new era for the fashion week which is now in its 17th year -- even if the line-up may be a bit sparse this season. 

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The Bienal's interior by Campana Brothers

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Fernando and Humberto Campana

Perhaps the biggest coup for SPFW this time around that they bagged the Campana Brothers to deck out the Bienal building, transforming it into an otherworldly atmosphere.    “Our inspiration was Brazil, nature, and indigenous people. We used piassava [a fibrous palm material] to line the interiors, and wood and cactus plants to transport Ibirapuera Park inside the Bienal building. Meanwhile, the golden cardboard creates a contrast between the glamour of fashion and the purity of nature,” said Fernando Campana, one half of the duo famous for their passionate embrace of the vernacular -- both in their most humble and monumental design projects.

On the runway, highlights from the first 48 hours were provided by the houses of Forum and Ellus.  Forum's Marta Ciribelli reinterpreted nautical themes for a bossa nova cruise with meticulously embroidered raffia and lace while Ellus's Adriana Bozon took the audience along with her on a motorcycle ride through India.  Over at Cavalera, Alberto Hiar pumped up the volume for a rowdy and riotous trip through musical memory lane (for those of us old enough to remember) the landmark American series 'Soul Train'.  Only in Brazil could fashion models -- who are notoriously po-faced anywhere else in the world -- manage to get down and jive down the runway wearing genuine smiles and with real rhythm. 

FORUM

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ELLUS

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Lindsey Wixson backstage at the ELLUS show


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CAVALERA

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ADRIANA DEGREAS

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Monday, 18 March 2013

My stay at the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt. Photos & text by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

Because wintering in St. Bart's or South Beach is so two decades ago, I now winter in the south of Egypt, in Aswan, ensconsed in the Nubian Desert and on the most beautiful part of the Nile. Here, the culture of the Nubian tribes and the proximity to Sudan gives this part of Egypt a more African feel than the rest of the country. The days are hot and dry, the air is clean, the breezes from the Nile are refreshing and the desert nights are bracing. It is a divine place to pass the days away when much of the West is submerged in frozen February gloom.

The grandest, and most famous, place to stay in Aswan is the Victorian palace known as the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel--"old cataract" referring to the first waterfall one encounters as one travels up the Nile. The Sofitel brand is known for buying and revamping colonialist legacy hotels--like the Metropole in Hanoi, where I stayed in 2004. The Old Cataract was founded by Thomas Cook and built in 1899. Through the years, famous heads of state, dignitaries, authors, actors and jet-setters have stayed here, from King Farouk of Egypt to Francois Mitterrand, from Winston Churchill to Agatha Christie (both of whom have suites dedicated to them at the hotel--more on that later.)

The hotel had a facelift a few years ago with a chic makeover by French interior designer Sybille de Margerie (Moorish arches, Persian carpets, ruby red chandeliers, modern Italian lamps) which resulted in the original building being renamed the Palace Wing. I stayed in the new building, the Nile Wing, which has a more contemporary feel (and a spa) and overlooks the Victorian-era building. The Old Cataract is probably best known for being the place where Agatha Christie wrote part of "Death on the Nile" (the hotel is a backdrop in part of the story) and also where scenes for the film version (featuring Bette Davis and Maggie Smith in an S&M relationship, and the divoon Jane Birkin) were shot.

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 One of my glorious views from my suite's long terrace. Here you can see the original hotel, now the Palace Wing.

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 I took this photo as soon as I arrived. In lieu of a check-in desk, guests are escorted upon arrival to a tufted sofa in the plush salon near the bar and offered a choice of cold drink. I can't remember what I had, but it was something like Nectar of Isis.

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 And voila, my Master Bedroom in the Prestige Suite where I stayed for 4 ultra-relaxing nights. I was mad for the pale-green and white color palette.

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 While bathing in my freestanding tub by Villeroy & Boch (I love the colored tiles), I had a lovely view of Elephantine Island through the terrace doors of the bedroom. It was espeically enchanting at night when the Nubian tribes were playing their drums and when the Muslim Call to Prayer (which sounds more supernatural here than in Cairo) started up. I took to referring to the result as the "Nubian Desert remix of the Call to Prayer." Spellbinding.

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 There was a living room and off to the right by the lamp, a study and library.

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 My terrace

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 This is what I woke up to every morning....the Nile, Elephantine Island (with the Ruins of Abu) and the golden Nubian Desert.

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I zoomed into the Ruins of Abu from my terrace (and also strolled around them one morning before visiting the Nubian Villages). It is said that Khnum, the ram-headed god of the cataracts, lives here. I should have liked to meet him.

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Engraving of Khnum

 

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 View from the famous terrace of the Palace Wing.

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 All hail the heroic Gin Fizz! I thought this was the proper British colonialist cocktail to sip while watching the hotel's famed view of the sunset

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 Beyond Elphantine Island is the Mausoleum of Aga Khan.

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 The sunset viewed from the terrace.

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 I felt quite regal walking through the gilded entrance of the Nile Wing to my suite.

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 The pool in the Nile Wing's spa. I never got around to using the spa, alas. I couldn't tear myself away from all the spectacular views around the hotel. And then of course there were expeditions, like my 8-hour trip to the Temples of Abu Simbel.

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 View of the hotel at night, with Coptic church in the background.

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 I dined at 1900, the hotel's exquisite French restaurant that was built in 1900 to commemorate the premier of the Old Aswan Dam.

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Salmon appetizer

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 Glazed duck breast with hibiscus and marmalade sauce served with a tarragon brioche and garnished with a stalk of lemongrass. Superb. It paired nicely with a glass of red Jardin du Nil, my favorite wine du moment.

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 View inside 1900

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 On another night, I dined in The Oriental, the hotel's Egyptian restaurant, and had pigeons stuffed with two kinds of rice, a traditional Egyptian dish.

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 The hotel's general manager took me on a tour of the property, which included a requisite stop in the Winston Churchill Suite.

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 The foyer of the Churchill Suite.

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 A view of the suite's giant living room.

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Churchill master bedroom

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 The private terrace of the Churchill suite is very spacious.

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 Onward to the Agatha Christie Suite....

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I much preferred Ms. Christie's living room....the throw pillows are dreamy.

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 The French version, naturallement.

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 I adored the view from Agatha Christie's desk. But of course those divine Italian lamps were not there during her stay back in the 1930s.

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 Another view of the Agatha Christie Suite's living room. I was positively over the moon for the gold-leafed cabinet in the background, which served as Ms. Christie's personal mini bar....

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 As the Suite has a kitchen, if you're in the mood to whip up some French delicacies, Ms. Christie thoughtfullfy left behind her cookbook.

The price per night in the Churchill or Christie Suite? $8,000 USD. A mere bag of shells, doll...

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 Feluccas on the Nile. I took a felucca ride one idyllic afternoon.....Aswan really transports one back to the past....

And if you're still nervous about visiting Egypt....you couldn't be in a safer place than Aswan. If you're worried about the political tumult in cities like Cairo (which is also safe) and Port Said, fear not--there is nothing going on in the southern part of Egypt. It's the most peaceful place on Earth.

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Sunset at the Aswan airport.

Thanks for reading.

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

 

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Monday, 04 March 2013

My stay at the Four Seasons at the First Residence Giza, Cairo. By Glenn Belverio

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Above: The show-stopping stained glass in the Four Seasons' Piano Lounge


Dear Shaded Viewers,

Last month I flew to Cairo for some bucket-list sightseeing and to cover Cairo's Fashion Nights which was held at The First Mall. The Mall is connected to the ultra-luxe Four Seasons at the First Residence in Giza where I was invited to stay for 3 lavish nights. Never before have I experienced such warm, attentive service. If you like to be spoiled--and who doesn't?--you'll definitely want to check into the Four Seasons in Giza. As soon as I arrived, I made a beeline for the expansive pool to soak up some Egyptian sun. The weather was picture-perfect. (It was grey, cold and damp when I left New York, so this was much-needed.)

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Yes, dolls, I had a view of the Great Pyramids of Giza from the terrace of my room! Magical. The haziness made them seem as if they were merely a mirage. Reality meshed with illusion. "Truth and illusion, George, you don't know the difference!"

 

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Before I moved to the Pyramid-view room, I spent one night in room that had sun-drenched Nile views.

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 I was greeted with gold-leaf adorned pastries when I checked-in my room...

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I stayed in a King-size room, but if you really feel like splurging, here is what the Royal Suite looks like.

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Lamb

The cafe by the pool, Aura, is lorded over by Chef Nidal who hails from Syria, the food is Syrian-Lebanese (Shami) and there's a poolside grill for shish kebab etc. On my first day I had lamb shawarma (above) flavored with mint, tahini and tomatoes and it was out of this world.

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Aura also boasts a fleet of sheesha pipes.

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 Egyptian honeycomb for breakfast? Yes, please!

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 On my first morning at the hotel, I had breakfast with Hibba Bilal, the director of PR. She had the chef whip me up an absolutely heavenly Egyptian breakfast: falafel (which I think was made with green peas instead of chickpeas? SO delicious), ful (fava) beans and those feathery slices of divinely buttery bread, forget what it's called, but you drizzle it with honey, inhale, and repeat.

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 After breakfast, Hibba took me on a tour of the Four Seasons' current art show, which is up until the end of March. There is a heavy emphasis on art at the Fours Seasons at the First Residence and it was a delight to be surrounded by so many wonderful paintings. There are shows up on a regular basis and all pieces are for sale. If you are interested in any of these works, do not not hesitate to contact the hotel. I will now walk you through some of the artists who are currently showing. (This painting, and the next three, are by Atef Ahmed.)

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 Atef Ahmed, born in 1969, is a member of the Plastic Artists Syndicate, the Egyptian Society of Folk Arts and Cairo Atelier. He likes to paint the average Egyptian person, in his or her local surroundings. Since 1990 he has held several solo and general exhibitions in the Arab world and China.

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Atef Ahmed

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 Atef Ahmed

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 Mohamed El Tarawy, born 1956, is currently the press illustrator at Rose al-Youssef and Sabah al-Khier magazines in Cairo. Among his many accolades, he has received the State Honorary Award of the Arts. I was mesmerized by his ethereal watercolors of Egyptian women.

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 Mohamed El Tarawy

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 Dr. Guirguis Lotfi was born in Alexandria in 1955. A Coptic Christian, his work is a re-interpretation of Coptic art from the 5th and 6th centuries--and he uses many of the same methods and materials that the original Copts used.

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 Detail from a work by Dr. Guirguis Lotfi

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Rana Chalabi is an established Syrian/Lebanese artist who has lived in Cairo for over 30 years. Her energetic paintings depict Sufi dervishes. "Movement is life, and I want the viewer to feel that movement," she says.

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 Mohamed El Tarawy

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 Mohamed Abla was born in Mansoura, in northern Egypt, in 1953. In 2007, he founded The Fayoum Art Center where artists meet, work and collaborate. In 2009, he established the first caricature museum in the Middle East. He works between Cairo, Fayoum and Germany. I'm told he was quite active in the 2011 Revolution and you can sometimes find him camped out now in Tahrir Square. I really loved his paintings of buildings in Cairo.

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 Some of the Four Seasons renowned flower arrangements, against a backdrop of the Nile.

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The red wine of the Pharaohs! I really enjoyed discovering this Egyptian wine, Jardin du Nil. It won a Silver Medal from the Challenge Millesime in France in 2011. It was the perfect wine for a chilly night by the pool with Ahmed and Daki who were showing their jewelry collection at Cairo's Fashion Nights the night before....

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I had a fantastic stay at the Four Seasons at the First Residence and because of its close proximity to the Pyramids of Giza, it's a must-stay for that big bucket-list visit to Egypt.

Thanks for reading.

Previously on 'Glenn Belverio in Egypt':

My report on Cairo's Fashion Nights

My drive-by photos from the streets of Cairo

My report on The Citadel and the twin mosques in Cairo

 

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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Sunday, 03 March 2013

My stay at the Sofitel El Gezirah Cairo Hotel and dinner at Cairo Kitchen with Ahmed & Daki of Sabry Marouf. By Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

I was in Egypt last month, as you may have heard, and while now back in the New York groove, am trying to catch up on my reportage from that fantastic country. If you've been reading the news about Egypt lately, you've probably noticed that it's only focused on the disastrous things that are happening there. Well, I'm here to tell you that not only is it perfectly safe to travel to Egypt, but it's also a marvelous time to enjoy the sights without dealing with huge crowds of tourists. That said, I sincerely hope their tourism industry picks up again soon.

During my time in Cairo, I was invited to stay 3 nights at the Sofitel El Gezirah Hotel. The hotel boasts a rather covetous location, as it is situated on the southern tip of Gezirah, an upscale island in the middle of the Nile that features a swanky country club, ritzy boutiques and, further north in the Zamalek district, trendy eateries. Staying at the Sofitel El Gezirah is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of "mainland" Cairo.

The views from my room were rather spectacular. The above photo is me looking north up Gezirah and the tower on the right is the Cairo Tower, purportely the city's most famous landmark after the Pyramids. Built in 1961 and designed by Egyptian architect Naoum Chebib, the latticework casing is meant to evoke a stylized lotus plant and is the tallest structure in North Africa.

The tower is a symbol of Egypt flipping the bird at the U.S. In the '50s, the U.S. tried to curry favor with Egypt by giving $6 million to President Gamal Abdul Nasser. As is typical of the Amerikkkan Empire, they expected Egypt to spend most of the money on arms. Instead, Nasser used the money to build the Cairo Tower. Take THAT, Evil Empire!

As legend has it, one of the first visitors to the Cairo Tower was Katherine Hepburn! If you decide to stay at the Sofitel El Gezirah, I highly recommend requesting a room that faces the tower.

 

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When I looked to the right of my room's large window, I had this view of the Nile which was especially lovely in the early morning, when I took this photo. In the distance is the Qasr al-Nil Bridge aka the Lion Bridge, where many of the skirmishes between police and protestors have taken place. Just past the large white building is Tahrir Square which you can almost see from the hotel. But despite the proximity of the square, you do not feel the demonstrations at the hotel. All is rather tranquil in this part of Cairo.

The Sofitel El Gezirah Hotel is also conveniently close, by taxi (about $4 USD), to the extraordinary Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. And even though the Museum is quite close to Tahrir Square, again, you do not feel the chaos. Despite the sometimes hodgepodge order of the museum (there are literally hundreds of sarcophagi and mummies lying around in huge cabinets that reach up to the ceiling, or out on the floor, with no information cards) which actually adds immensely to the place's charm, you will see some of the most magnificent treasures in existence, meticulously organized with accompanying information.

I didn't realize until I arrived that almost all of the Treasure of Tutankhamun are here, including Tut's gold sarcophagi and golden death mask, which nearly caused me to faint dead away. And because there were only a smattering of tourists, there was plenty of space to take in and contemplate these masterpieces. The Royal Mummies, especially that of Ramses II, are absolutely divine. Such elegance! Such grace. Such poise. When I pass, I should like to be mummified...so people can hate me for being thin for thousands of years.

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Photos are not allowed in the museum, so I pulled this image from the web.

 

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 The energetic walls of Cairo Kitchen in Zamalek, which is basically the NoLita of Cairo.

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 Daki, me and Ahmed. Daki and Ahmed are Cairo-based jewelry designers. After a fun day of shopping, architecture-gazing and sheesha smoking in Fatimid Cairo (post to come) we drove to Cairo Kitchen for a delicious meal of Egyptian comfort food.

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 I had the Egyptian moussaka and lentil soup, which were both supremely delicious.

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 I forget what Daki had but it looks yummy. I think it was also the moussaka?

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 Ahmed ordered Cairo Kitchen's most famous dish, koshari, which is a typical Cairo street food. It's made of rice, lentils, chickpeas and macaroni, topped with tomato sauce and fried onions. I tried some and became an instant fan. There was also some cold ful (fava) bean salad which I also loved.

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Me looking maybe a little "high" from the sheesha smoking at Al-Fishawi Cafe in Fatimid Cairo earlier. Ahmed was excited to get a copy of my book!

Thanks for reading.

Previously on 'Glenn Beverio' in Egypt:

Political street art on Gezirah Island

My report on Cairo's Fashion Nights

My visit to the astonishing Temples of Abu Simbel

 

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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Sunday, 24 February 2013

My trip to the Citadel of Saladin & the twin mosques in Cairo. Photos by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

I squeezed a lot of sightseeing into my recent trip to Cairo and because I'm mad for Islamic architecture, I hired a taxi driver for the day and after touring Coptic Cairo (post to come) we drove out to the gigantic Citadel of Saladin. Saladin began building the Citadel in 1176 A.D. and it was home to Egypt's rulers for 700 years. 

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 In the early 19th century, Mohammed Ali was in power. His Turkish-style alabaster mosque is pictured above and it took 18 years to build.

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 Inside the Mosque of Mohammed Ali.

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I got goosebumps when I walked out into the mosque's courtyard, which was completely empty of visitors. I often have dreams about being alone in places like this.

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 View of the twin mosques, and Cairo, from the Citadel. I had someone write their name down in Arabic so my non-English-speaking driver could take me there.

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 This was my favorite mosque, becaue it had an understated elegance. It was completely empty save for a mullah who pointed out some details for me. Built in 1318, the Mosque of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala'un is the only Mamluk (Egypt during the Middle Ages) work that Mohammed Ali didn't abolish.

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 My arrival at one of the twin mosques. I didn't know anything about these mosques, only that the Four Seasons concierge recommended them. My plan for this day was to tour Coptic Cairo, which I did in the morning, the Citadel, these mosques and then a stroll through Fatimid Cairo, even though the hotel kept trying to talk me out of it. (Once you're there you realize the reason: if you're alone and an obvious tourist, the harrassment by touts hitting you up for money and trying to get you to buy things is NON STOP. This happened almost everywhere on my trip and yes, it is very exhausting. And some of the touts are smooth talkers, so they might trick you into walking to their friend's shop, etc. But then you don't want to ignore everyone because you can't just visit a city like Cairo and not talk to the everyday people on the street. And ultimately you forgive everyone for the constant harassment: Egypt's tourist industry has dwindled down to almost nothing, so everyone is broke.)

I didn't make it to the streets of Fatimid Cairo beyond these mosques on this day, and as I was wandering around this mosque I said to myself, "Oh, my friend Christopher will be so disappointed that I didn't try to find the mosque where the Shah of Iran is entombed." Maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday, I thought, if I have time.

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 Just as I was about to leave, I noticed a brightly lit room off to the side and thought I better check it out. When I walked in I was astonished to see the tomb of the Shah of Iran! I had no idea it was in this mosque. Named the Al-Rifa'i Mosque, it was built between 1869 and 1912. Reportedly, the Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) was buried here because the mosque has great symbolic importance. The last royal rulers of two monarchies are buried here: Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran and King Farouk of Egypt, his former brother-in-law. Here are their tombs, below. I was led into this room, which was behind an closed imposing wooden door, from a mullah lookin for a tip.

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 If I had known I was going to visit the Shah, I would have worn my gold-threaded Giorgio Sant'Angelo kaftan and the turban that Joan Crawford wore in "The Women" accented with a Jean Schlumberger emerald-and-ruby turban pin.

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I then visited the mosque next door, the much older Mosque-Madrass of Sultan Hassan, completed in 1359. The Sultan liked to look down at this mosque from the Palace of Yalbugha al Yahawws in the Citadel.  

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Thanks for reading.

Previously on 'Glenn Belverio in Egypt':

My report on Cairo's Fashion Nights

My visit to the Nubian Villages of Elphantine Island

Street art in Cairo

 

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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Friday, 22 February 2013

Happy birthday to the eternally chic Ramses II. Photos by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

I took this photo in The Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel near Egypt's border with Sudan last week. The sun is supposed to shine into the temple on his birthday and illuminate these statues: Ra-Horakhty, Ramses II and Aman (Ptah, to the left, is not meant to be illuminated.) However, since they moved the temples back in the '60s to escape flooding from the Aswan Dam, they are not in the precise same location in relation to the sun. As a result, the birthday illumination happens one day later.

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Previously on 'Glenn Belverio in Egypt':

My full photo report on the Temples of Abu Simbel

My report on Cairo's Fashion Nights & interview with Susan Sabet

Women's protest in Cairo near Tahrir Square

 

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Cairo's Fashion Nights + interview with Pashion magazine editor & CFN organizer, Susan Sabet. By Glenn Belverio

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Susan Sabet wearing a ring from Sabry Marouf at CFN

Dear Shaded Viewers,

I'm back in New York after 11 glorious days in Egypt. At the suggestion of my friend Susan Sabet, the editor-in-chief of Pashion magazine whom I met during Alta Roma in 2009, I traveled to Cairo to attend the 2nd edition of her event Cairo's Fashion Nights. This edition was held at the upscale First Mall, which is next door to the Four Seasons at the First Residence where I stayed for 3 luxurious nights.

I really enjoyed meeting the young and established Egyptian designers; seeing their work and making new friends, and having long conversations with Cairenes who work in fashion, interior design and PR. We discussed everything from Cairo's salad days of the Roaring Forties to today's state of affairs. Besides fashion, I learned a lot about the nuances of Egyptian life, religion, class and, of course, the current political situation. While people were having a great time relaxing with wine and fashion, more than a few could not refrain from filling me in on the current political troubles. It was quite illuminating, and a refreshing change from the specious, sloppy and agenda-ridden reporting on Egypt by the Western media.

While fashion might seem frivolous to some in light of Egypt's current situation--the country's journey on the long, rough road to democracy--many see it as another example of the vitality and resilience of the Egyptian spirit. The culture of fashion emphasizes the importance of the larger role that creativity plays during times of civil unrest.

 

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Susan and I at CFN. I could say I look a little dazed from the jet lag, but I often look like this.

 

Glenn Belverio: As you know, American Vogue launched Fashion’s Night Out in the fall of 2009 in response to the economic downturn that started with the market crash of 2008. Anna Wintour wanted to inspire people to go shopping again. But lately, many fashion critics, particularly Cathy Horyn, have rightly complained that there’s no need for the event anymore, which is held in many cities from Milan to Paris. I think the New York version has become a pointless free-for-all for bridge and tunnel hoi polloi who would otherwise never be invited to a fashion event. Plus, the American economy is up and people are shopping again. Now Fashion’s Night Out just feels like a Vogue branding ego fest. 

However, in Cairo it’s a completely different situation. Egypt is in the middle of a political transition, to put it mildly. Amidst tumult and uncertainty, Egyptians are just trying to get on with their lives. What were some of your hopes and goals for this edition of Cairo’s Fashion Nights?

 

Susan Sabet: Based on the initial idea of Vogue's Fashion’s Night Out to get the retail business up again, we launched Cairo’s Fashion Nights in November 2011, ten months after the Egyptian revolution.  Another year down the road, retail is still not what it used to be in the pre-Revolution era, and people need encouragement and extra enticement to go down to basically resume their old way of life. The full house we had I think is proof we succeeded. But Cairo’s Fashion Nights is also aiming to promote the many young Egyptian designers that have started to appear on the scene in the past couple of years. Many of them do not have the means to open up a store or find it difficult to find local key retailers that specialize in high-end international brands to display their products. So an event like this is the perfect platform to get their name and product out there.

 

GB: You have a delightfully refreshing gung-ho spirit when it comes to organizing CFN. You were running around the First Mall, dressed for the event, but schlepping rolls of backdrop paper, tripods, glue guns and mannequins up and down the escalators, like a determined, hands-on producer putting on a play at a renegade theater. “The show must go on!” What was your creative process for launching this event and how did you decide who would be hawking their wares and services at it?

 

SS: Unfortunately there are always last-minute hang-ups and unexpected bad surprises, so I prefer to take care of the final details myself. CFN’s first edition was held in the Zamalek district, home to many high-end retailers and local designer ateliers. This set-up had the charm of moving from store to store, even if more difficult, as we do not have shopping avenues as in Europe or NY and stores are scattered. Hence, we had to do the event over two nights to give shoppers the opportunity to be able to visit all the participating stores. Due to the political turmoil in the past months, I felt it is easier and more encouraging to find a compact outlet that boasts high end retailers as well as offers space for visiting designers. So the First Mall Cairo was the obvious choice and right partner to go with.

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 GB: What are some of the things you think Egyptian designers can contribute to the worldwide fashion industry? How is their viewpoint different from, say, designers in New York or Paris?

 

SS: Young Egyptian designers like most young designers in the world aspire to show one day in NY, Paris, Milan or London. They are exposed to international fashion through local retail, media and travel and follow the international trends. I think that the ones that are using traditional local fabrics and  handcrafts, or take inspiration by our culture and know how to adapt it to the current trends, are the ones that will succeed to stand out, provided of course they get the chance to show abroad and can deliver the quality needed to compete.

 

GB: What do you think the future holds for Egypt’s fashion industry under the current political administration? How do you think it can adapt to the changes in the economy and society?

 

SS: Egypt’s fashion and textile industry has always been big. The current situation has maybe slowed down many of the businesses but it is temporary, I believe. After all, we are 91 million people that need to be dressed.

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Susan & Anna Tarabolsi

 GB: What advice would you give to young, emerging Egyptian designers for making it in the local and global markets?

 

SS: Whether it is to succeed in the local or global market your product has to be in demand and of high quality. I tell them to go and visit trade shows in Paris or Milan to see what the designers show, what sells, what the prices are and where they can position themselves to find maybe a niche they can fill to lure buyers with something special.

 

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The fashions of Deana Shaaban

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Susan, Amerigo Lopez and Nadia Zorkani

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 I chatted a while with designer Amina Khalil who founded her brand, Amina K, in 2009. Amina studied fashion design and marketing in London and it shows because she comes off as very savvy and versed in the international fashion scene. The brand is inspired by and dedicated to Egypt: Amina almost exclusively uses Egyptian resources, fabric and workmanship. (However, the much-touted Egyptian cotton is often hard to find. The global demand is so high--all those high-thread count Egyptian-cotton sheets!-- that most of it gets exported.) Her limited-edition pieces put a modern Western spin on traditional Egyptian silhouttes. I really like how she does the layered look...all those scarves and other knit pieces are so chic for hanging out in the desert.

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 Layered look from Amina K

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 Designer Deana Shaaban and CFN reveler. Hedda Hopper is looking up from Hades, green with envy over those hats....

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Jewelry designer Azza Fahmy, Indjy Hosny and Rawah Badra. I visited Azza's workshop outside of Cairo during my trip--story on that to come, stay tuned.

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Rana Kandil, who does PR for Azza Fahmy, models one of Azza's pieces.

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 "I'm just crazy about Tiffany's! Nothing very bad could happen to you there." Especially when they're serving Egyptian sparkling wine, which was pretty top-drawer. At one point, the young waiter shot a cork cannon-like across the small boutique and it almost split a yellow diamond like an atom, and we all laughed and drank 8 more glasses and thought it divinely tres fou. Hibba Bilal, my host and the Director of PR at the Four Seasons at the First Residence, and I chatted at length about Egyptian society, pop culture, art and politics.

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Hibba, me and Ricky Martin outside the Bulgari boutique. We went in and ogled the bijoux for a few moments.

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 In the middle of the evening, there was a catwalk show of Egyptian designers. Here's a look from Nevine Altmann.

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 A look from Hany El Behairy

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 My new Egyptian friends! Jewelry designers Ahmed Sabry and Daki Marouf of the brand Sabry Marouf. I will be doing a longer post on their work next week, but here are a couple of their very cool pieces:

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 Sabry Marouf necklace accented with bullets. Radical chic, darlings! The Revolution will be gilded.

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 Sabry Marouf Ankh necklace. "The Love Machine", Egyptian-style!

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Me modeling a Sabry Marouf silver-plated metal tie. I like how it looks with my pink Paul Smith shirt. Fashion! Turn to the left.

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Shahira Fahmy, Susan and Laila Al Far. I had a long chat with Shahira. She is a real renaissance woman. She used to design for the brand Mix' n Match and now does creative direction for them. She also designs interiors and did the suites at the Four Seasons at the First Residence and other hotels in Egypt. She really filled me in on Egypt's political situation, it was very informative.

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The night more or less climaxed with a rather giddy French wine and dance party at a club in the First Mall called 35. The party was hosted by the French Embassy and the theme was "The Best of French Fashion in Cairo" and there were new looks there from Nina Ricci, Lanvin, Celine and Kenzo. Pictured above is Camilia Galey (left), the wife of the French Ambassador to Egypt, Nicolas Galey. Mrs. Galey really tore up the dance floor and was the life of the party! I had pizza with her and her husband, cousins and friends afterwards and it was a hoot. She is from Algeria and we talked at length about the Middle East and New York.

Thanks for reading and please visit Egypt and support Egyptian fashion and tourism! Egypt is safe if you possess common sense and now is the time to visit some of the world's most spectacular sites without having to deal with huge crowds of tourists.

Previously on 'Glenn Belverio in Egypt':

My visit to the Nubian villages of Elphantine Island in Aswan (Upper Egypt)

My drive-by photos of the streets of Cairo

My visit to the astonishing Temples of Abu Simbel

 

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Some scenes from the streets of Cairo. Photos by Glenn Belverio

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Dear Shaded Viewers,

I'm back in New York, jet-lagged, cold and hoping my lost suitcase turns up. I took these photos on my third day in Cairo during a madcap taxi ride to see the Coptic churches. I travel the world a lot but nothing had quite prepared me for my first full-on exposure to the chaotic streets of Cairo. It was a bit unsettling for the first few minutes, but that wonderful high of culture shock--my drug of choice--soon set in and I was instantly addicted to Cairo's raw, raucous energy.

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Previously on 'Glenn Belverio in Egypt':

Political street art in Cairo

My visit to the astonishing Temples of Abu Simbel

My arrival at the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan Hotel overlooking the Nile

 

Salam,

Glenn Belverio

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