The City of Horus..
It seems to be more and more evident that the level of expectations regarding cities that I’ve never been to before is way off. The cities that are well known and seem to have a good reputation, appear to be a lot less than hyped, while others that are barely mentioned are becoming the go to recommendations of this trip. Im no longer surprised, rather waiting for the next hidden gem, the next beautiful city that will prove to me how special Egypt is and how much we underestimate the rest of it.
A place is defined by many things, but most importantly its people. They define what that place feels like through what it means to them. Its more like an exchange where a place is considered a body and its people act as its soul. One can’t exist without the other yet; its always the soul that’s creates the connection. There are certain signs to a cities’ good soul, like the way strangers smile at you for no reason or how someone would strike a conversation by asking simple questions, or by the amount of people on their way home right before Iftar that invite you for Iftar at their homes.
It’s rare for the people of a certain place to check all those boxes, but somehow, here they did. When you see a small city on the map in the middle of the delta surrounded by what seems to endless farms ,you can only expect a less developed city catering for the surrounding towns. But then, you are told that it was named the city of Horus, the ancient Egyptian God for what significance it had throughout the thousands of years it existed, things start making sense.
The city of Damanhour with its wide streets, neat urban design, and classic architecture, is a city that refuses to follow the trend of demolishing older buildings and rebuilding them into towers. Walking through it, transports you from areas of older looking buildings designed in the 60s and 70s and progressing through time, until you find the more modern areas with the same urban consistency.
One of the amazing things about Damanhour, is the weather. There is a significant distance between the inland city and the Nile, but for some reason wind flows steadily inside the closed city. Damanhour is the perfect mixture of older beauty and modern cleanliness. A small branch of the Nile passes through the city with bridges crossing above. Crossing one of those little bridges I witnessed the best sunset view since I started this journey.
Damanhour is nicknamed by it’s people “the city of a thousand cafes” which made sense after passing by one cafe after the other. The amount of restaurants though isn't as much which made my job a bit easier. To the extent that amongst all the listings on Google only one was in need to having proper pictures taken. I was granted access to photographing the restaurant almost instantly. The owner was available on site as do most owners before iftar.
Maybe I got more comfortable explaining the concept to others or maybe they had already felt the need for some online presence, but the owner didn't hesitate for a second. After visiting a bunch of restaurants during Ramadan and specially before iftar with everyone fasting, one specific person acts like a warrior. The person that has to withstand the great amounts of heat in-front of the grill. A person not only cooking for other while he fasts but also withstanding the heat from a huge grill for hours on a summer day.
The series of helpful stranger encounters continued, while waiting for the daily sunset time-lapse to finish. Amongst the dozens of people that crossed over that bridge, only a few were interested in the fascinating view and one stood there watching and started to take pictures. Abdel Rahman a complete stranger, connected by our mutual interest in photography, became my dedicated guide of Damanhour.
We literally walked all around, he took me everywhere and explained the different parts of the city in great details. He was extremely generous with his time and knowledge about his home town. Time flew as we walked and talked until past midnight. A new friend and a knowledgeable guide that enriched my stay in Damanhour.