My work in Egypt began before I understood its complexity. It was in mid-2005, a few months after my maternal grandmother unexpectedly passed away. Her death struck chaos in my family’s otherwise structured existence. Death is the ultimate disorder. It leaves vast holes that others have to compensate for. I witnessed the pillars of ‘family’ and ‘home’, as I knew them, destruct around me.
I turned to the streets of Cairo to escape the darkness of death. I wanted to connect to a people of whom I am one, but among whom I felt like a stranger. The byproduct of being a loyal child of the east who became an adult influenced by the west after studying and working in the US for nearly 10 years. It was a fragile moment in my life and this fragility stayed with me. The parallel narrative of my own search for identity and the larger story of what became an entire country’s struggle for identity was serendipitous.
I found Egypt to be a place of vast contradictions. Life prevails in the form of crowds and sounds that never cease. They exist amid a palpable tension, a hefty weight people are carrying on their shoulders. I found it to be a place where wrongdoings abound – corruption, humiliation. Injustices that made rights of wrong and wrongs of right. A place where people are struggling every day for dignity.
I found reflections of myself in the chaos around me. I was photographing myself as much as I was photographing my country.
In the Shadow of the Pyramids is a first-person account exploring memory and identity. With images spanning 2005 to 2014, what began as a look in the mirror to understand the essence of Egyptian identity expanded into an exploration of the trials and tribulations of a troubled nation. The result is dark, sentimental and passionate. Juxtaposing the innocence of my past with the obscurity of the present.