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Cairo 1975

17 April – 21 June 2008

The photographs included in this exhibition were taken in and around Cairo in February, 1975. A year and a half after the Ramadan/Yom Kippur/October War, the situation in Egypt and the Arab World was tense but stagnant, with a whole nexus of events of far-reaching regional and global importance about to happen, but not yet discernible. King Faysal of Saudi Arabia was about to be assassinated, and the Lebanese Civil War about to begin. In Egypt, still dependent on Soviet weapons and support, Sadat would soon turn towards the US, asking his National Assembly to abrogate the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union; relations with the USSR were cooling, though not yet replaced by an active US presence or financial aid.

But none of these impending events had happened; Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem and the process which led to a peace treaty with Israel and the recovery of Sinai were not yet imaginable. The economy was growing, but more slowly than the population: in 1975, there were 37 million Egyptians, half the population today; 6 million lived in Cairo, again half the current number.

Ted Gorton’s photos show the juxtaposition between the life of the people and the omnipresent backdrop of decaying relics of the past. The photos provide a reminder of the dynasties and empires that have governed Egypt, each striving to outdo its predecessors in building monuments to its eternal glory, or vanity; with images of the Cairenes just before the dramatic development and modernisation that started a year or two later, and has transformed the city beyond recognition.