art of resistance, Egypt, travel

Cairo’s Souq El Gomma: A City within a City.

Jason Larkin is a photographer whose work I already introduced writing about Cairo Divided – The Escape of the Elites. He has done a lot of projects in Egypt, Cairo particularly, but each one of them seems so fresh and inspiring. His work never feels worn-out, it never screams been there – done that. There’s always a buzz of excitement and discovery  which just goes to show how Cairo is a true city of stories, a city of diversity, and a well of inspiration. And Larkin is great at capturing that.

Larkin’s project, Souq El Gomma, captures Middle East’s largest informal market gathering.

Artist statement:

” ‘A city within a city, built in the morning light, and which disappears with the last of the day. An infinite and intertwining network of commerce colliding for just a few hours a week.’

Invisible City, Italo Calvino

This story is an exploration of the myriad people, objects and spaces that make up Cairo’s Souq El-Gomma, the Middle East’s largest informal market gathering. Every Friday this trading metropolis materialises, with no formal direction or control, no one idea and ultimately no boundaries, it encompasses the aperture between the living city and the city of the dead. Colonised by the economically marginalised the trade is in the detritus of the city, here Cairo’s flotsam and jetsam is sorted, salvaged and sold on. This organic and dynamic entity offers up a window into the lives of other people and more fundamentally a window into the life of the city itself.

Commissioned by The National M Magazine. Published in Sowar Magazine, Ojopedez.”

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/all images © Jason Larkin/

For more of Larkin’s great photography, visit his official website.

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art of resistance, Egypt

Cairo Divided: The Escape of the Elites.

Jason Larkin is a photographer that keeps on “producing” great work. He is internationally recognised for his long-term social documentary projects, environmental portraiture and landscape reportage. For me, it’s mostly his work in and around Egypt that keeps me excited. He did a wonderful series Past Perfect, photographing the museums of Egypt. By deciding how the past is presented and memorialised, museums not only preserve the past, they also play an important role in the construction of our ideologies, identities and the understanding and interpretation of ourselve.  That is why Past Perfect was Larkin’s way of revealing one more layer of Egypt’s identity. In Suez: A Life Line, Larkin captures the importance of the Suez canal,  a 192 km passage dividing Africa from the Middle East and a crucial source of income and foreign exchange for Egypt. Larkin’s Egyptian project I wish to focus on today is Cairo Divided.

Artist statement:

From a population of one million at the beginning of the 20th Century to over 18 million today, Cairo’s expansion has been rapid. Most capitals are magnets, but the speed with which the Egyptian one has grown in the last century is testament to both its remarkable centripetal power and surrounding vacuum of opportunity.

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For centuries, Cairo’s growth has been checked by geography, bounded by a narrow strip of fertile, Nile-irrigated land, with nothing but desert beyond. Now, faced with the city’s barely contained chaos and alarmed by the growing slums, Cairo’s elites have begun to dream of escape. Along the Ring Road, billboards advertise exclusive new private developments – Utopia, Dreamland, Palm Hills, Belle Ville and The Egypt of My Desires. Cairo’s future, it seems, lies outside the city’s boundaries, in the desert, where it can be built from scratch.

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Drawn in to these vast spaces, and surrounded by the drone of construction, I was mesmerised by the exposed layers of new urban centers being developed among the desert dunes. In focusing on these landscapes I wanted to capture the reality of fantasy lifestyles in mid-production, to document the extravagance of a few whose wealth put sharp focus on the fact that 40% of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.

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The surreal remodeling of the landscape shows little appreciation for the environment it is rapidly colonising. From the decisions of a few, Cairo is morphing its periphery into its core whilst condemning the previous centre to a life on the margins. I felt witness to a mass exit strategy taking shape, and with the camera, recorded the foundations of abandonment in pursuit of self-interest and exclusive isolation.

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/all photos © Jason Larkin/

For more on this project and Larkin’s other projects, visit his official website.

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