Sketch like an Egyptian

I try to maintain a vague link between what I write on this blog, although as I jot this down and consider what my next topic might be it does occur that I should define what the continuity is. ‘Things that look nice’ strikes me as the best tagline with the sub heading ‘and me trying to make things that look nice’. In that vein here comes my latest communication; me visiting Egypt (which looks nice) and trying to sketch bits of it (trying to make them look nice).

Egypt is really nice and I recommend. I spent nearly two weeks there over Easter and was taken in by almost everything it had to offer (except for the obligatory hassle). It has so much going for it; relatively short flight, 1 hour time difference, a totally fascinating history, sunshine, beautiful and ancient monuments, the red sea for some beach time and relatively few tourists. No, it really isn’t that dangerous!

Hopefully these, photos from the trip give a better sense of the place than I can write.


Aside from photography I also took a sketchbook along with me and made some quick sketches at a few of the monuments we went to. It was a relaxing to pause in a beautiful spot and attempt to capture its likeness on paper. There is something about a sketch which is particularly alluring, more so than a photo. It captures a place in a certain time as seen by the ‘artist’ – however inaccurate the sketches are (see mine below).


There is also something more about sketching which captures my sense of nostalgia/the historian in me. I am a bit of a sucker for Victorian exploration, not the exploitative aspects of it of course but the sense of adventure and glamour. David Livingstone, the early Victorian explorer, – him of ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’ fame, followed the Nile into the interior of Africa in the mid 19th century. For the most part, he was stepping foot into territory which no European had ever seen. He existed before mass photography, before Iphones, before the internet and before fake news. Sketches and paintings of what he had seen made their way back to the UK and were the only images of this ‘far off land’. They played to the adventure and exoticism of travel. Travel back then was genuinely adventurous, it was also hugely dangerous.


I am happy with my comfortable hotel, malaria prophylaxis, mobile phone and motor car but what I do want now and again is to have my cake and eat it. I want to find amazing monuments to history and feel as though I am in some way stepping on virgin territory. The link, for me, between sketching and travel is a sense of storytelling. However amateur my sketch might be there will only be one if it, it also allows me to depict (skill permitting) my idealised vision of the place I am sitting in. No instagrammer is going to post that same photo online and suddenly undermine my sense of adventure and discovery!

I am not claiming that my sketches are going to find their way to the British Museum. I simply like the idea that, however amateur, they are at least unique and like the Victorian images – rather idealised. I also hope that through practice they will improve…..fingers crossed.

Finally from me, the Egyptian tourist board and their democratically elected president I do recommend visiting Egypt, whether or not you bring a sketchbook.



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