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Thread: going to Egypt

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    going to Egypt

    I found out yesterday I am going to Egypt with some friends in December to spend two weeks at the pyramids etc. I'm contemplating taking my lf gear, either my speed graphic (152mm) or my homemade 4x5/5x7. The only lenses I have right now are a symmar s 150 (210 image circle) and a 110 xl. Nothing in the long end...yet. I would like some input as whether to take the gear. Will there be restrictions shooting on a tripod? Any thoughts on b&w vs. color; speed to use. I would plan to DHL the film to the hotel and avoid the possible hassles at the airport. Any thoughts or considerations would be appreciated. Thanks, chris

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    going to Egypt


    I spent a month in Egypt back in 1990 (November). I only brought a 35mm with me (I wasn't as interested in photogrphy at the time). I do recall requiring the 28mm lens a lot when in the temples in Luxor. I would think a wide angle is a must. However, the 110mm will certainly be suitable for photographing the sphinx and pyramids in Giza. The weather will be great so I don't think the extra weight of the equipment will be as tiresome as in the summer months. Dust and sand can be a big problem so be forewarned. Security at the airport was tight but not unreasonable. It wouldn't hurt to document your equipment at the airport customs office before departing. That way there is no question as to what you are bringing in and out of Egypt. If you are connecting through Israel, airport security is very tight and can be time consuming!

    I can't answer you question about tripod restrictions. If I had to guess I can't imagine it being a problem. The culture is very relaxed and friendly. The Egyptians love to barter, especially in Giza and Luxor. If you are stationary for a while, you will be approached a lot by people. I just had to be firm and say NO a lot. Crime in Egypt is very low -- I felt safe walking down dark streets in Cairo at 3:00 AM (usually walking home from "The Tavern" in the Nile Hilton). Aswan was much more relaxed -- I especially enjoyed photographing the Nubians while there. If you can swing a day trip to the temples of Abu Simbel, I would highly recommend it. There are some restricted areas where no photos are allowed such as the "City of the Dead", Egyptian Museum, inside tumbs, etc. Egyptians are protective of their image and do not like tourists to take pictures of their 'dirtier' side. Supposedly, this concern has come from journalists taking pictures of trash and poverty and claiming it as 'the face' of Cairo. Obviously a tripod and press camera will attract attention!

    Color versus Black & White is a subjective thing. If you are shooting with 4x5, and will have several holders, I would shoot both. The bazaars are quite colorful and would be shown off better in color film.

    I think you will love Egypt! Of course, there are many websites that can provide you with useful information. Just be extra careful of the water (ice cubes, mouth closed in the shower, etc). Bottled water is everywhere and cheap. Have fun.

  3. #3

    going to Egypt


    If I recall correctly, there were tripod "fees" for many of the sites--notably the Pyramids and Abu Simbel-- you had to spend an additional bit of money to pay to use a tripod. I do not believe that you can use tripods in any of the museums or tombs.

    I carried a tiny Anba Ikeda 4x5 with me, two lenses, quickloads, and a very light tripod, and was happy with my kit purely in terms of its weight and size. I would not have wanted to go any heavier. If I were to do it again, I would probably consider bringing a small 6x9 Technical camera that could be handheld. Do bring proof of purchase of your cameras, and register them with US customs before you leave.

    The Egyptian sun can be a problem--very contrasty--so come prepared for n-2 and even n-3 development.

  4. #4

    going to Egypt

    About 30 years ago I spent some months in Egypt photographing with 35mm, 6X7, and LF 4X5. Alot depends on where you will go, what you want to photograph and what you will do with the pictures. I suggest you look at the website of ARCE - American Research Center in Egypt - and contact them in their Atlanta Office. One word of advice: Since I was taking so many pictures before seeing any of them developed, I thought that taking a few polaroids to check exposures would be helpful. That didn't work since the ambient temperatures exceeded the polaroid's limits. December might be OK in Cairo but I don't know about Aswan and Abu Simbel in December............
    Have fun!!

  5. #5
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    going to Egypt

    I was in Egypt in -92... In general I had no problems at all. I shot MF, and everyone thought I was using an "antique"; the 35mm shooters had it far less easy.

    At the pyramids I must have done something right by (sorry to say) bribing the first guard to approach me sufficiently that he acted as my guide and bodyguard for the whole day.

    Don't worry about high contrast in the winter, the sky is often hazy and I found the contrast to be lower than at home in Norway. So was the temperature, by the way...

  6. #6

    going to Egypt

    Sounds like you've already gotten some sound advice. My Egyptian experience isn't so recent, so I'll just offer some brief impressions.

    Egypt seems to run on "baksheesh". If you don't know what it is, you will learn. It can make even tripods welcome.

    The environment isn't quite the cleanest. If shooting 4x5, ReadyLoads and Quickloads will save a lot of spotting.

    Egypt is predominantly Muslim. Although some people will want to be photographed (for baksheesh), don't assume that you can just take someone's photo; especially women; especially women wearing veils. Cairo may appear fairly modernized in some areas, but the more rural areas are not. You will find a lot less western influence in upper Egypt.

    I wished for a camera with a waist-level finder. (See above.)

    If you're equipment is not yet insured, this is a good time to do so.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 1998

    going to Egypt

    I took a one month trip to Egypt, by my own, in December of 2003. December is quite cold and windy in Egypt. I brought my Rollei medium format camera with 3 lenses and my Contax G2 also with three lenses, packed in my Lowe Pro Photo Trekker. I can confirm that you have to pay a fee equivalent to an adult entrace fee for your tripod for many popolar sites, especially in Cairo. Tripod is no-no in the muzeums and tombs.

    December is not the best season to photograph Egypt IMHO as it is oftern quite hazy, especially in Cairo, but it is also off-peak season for travel so there will be less tourists. To make the effort of carrying LF equipment worthwhile, I strongly suggest you take the two-day-cross-desert-safari trip from Siwa to Baharhia. You will see beautiful dunes, and sleeping in the desert in quite an experience. You must prepare yourself for the Arabian merchants

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    going to Egypt

    I would probably take a good MF system with three lenses, but a 4x5 is quite doable. I would carry film with me.

    There's usually a lot of light (tropics, after all) but interiors are usually not well lit. Generally photography inside mosques is discouraged but I got some nice pics from the top of al-Azhar. Many of the hotels in Cairo and Alexandria overlook town squares and provide great perspective. The scenery can be spectacular and overall there's a lot to photograph in almost any town in Egypt. I would also suggest the Sinai and the Red Sea coast, which has some of the best scuba diving anywhere.

    I am recognizably from India, and people were quite friendly, although that didn't prevent the hucksters from approaching me in the cities. You should take the travel warnings about Middle Egypt quite seriously, some areas are strongholds of the Muslim Brotherhood and there have been several attacks on Europeans and Americans.

    The death penalty is imposed for drug possession (pot included).

    I travelled to Egypt about six years ago, so some of my info may be outdated.

  9. #9

    going to Egypt

    I lived in Cairo back in the late eighties and as I usually travelled with locals I rarely had any sort of problems. The only photography I did was 35mm and had no particular issues, so long as I paid the usual respect towards people, especially women.
    There was a clear hierarchy of dislike towards foreigners, and I'm afraid the USA came at the top. (Watching some of them, it was not surprising with terrible arrogant, hectoring attitudes). Pretending to be Australian, Canadian, Irish or English could be useful (though perhaps not the latter these days).
    It way well be worth booking a taxi for the day, your driver can help negotiate with local guides, security etc. Agree a price up front and add a reasonable tip. Finally, learn some basic Arabic (hello, goodbye, thank-you, please, etc) and the basics about local customs (the left hand is reserved for dirty tasks, sit properly etc).
    On the whole Egyptians are a very friendly people with a long and illustrious history, treat them with the kindness and respect you would to a visitor to your town and you'll get on fine.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Vittorio Veneto; Italy

    going to Egypt

    Dear Chris,

    I have been in Egypt on business several times (more than 15) in the last 7-8 years and I can definitely tell you that taking with you a large format camera can really spoil your trip. A country like Egypt poses to the large camera user many more logistic problems than you could find travelling in the States (e.g. loading/unloading the plates, going around in small taxis, visiting overcrowded sites, etc.). The only camera with a "good negative size" I can reccomend is a TLR like the Rollei. It is unobstrusive, easy to conceal in the big crowds you will find during the pick season). If you need any advice about restaurants, hotels or photo sites in Cairo, feel free to contact me at my address.

    Luca Merlo (Vittorio Veneto, Italy)

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