The Writings on the Wall – Street Art + Graffiti in Cairo

Author’s note: Today I am featuring the work of JoAnna, a Canadian expat living in Cairo, Egypt who writes the intriguing blog, For the Intolerants. We’ve been following each other’s work for awhile and I asked her if I could feature her most recent post on my blog. Here it is….Enjoy!

The Writings on the Wall – Street Art + Graffiti in Cairo

Prior to Egypt’s revolution/uprising there was little to see by the way of graffiti and/or street art around Cairo. Sure, there were a couple pieces here and there, but there was nothing striking, nothing poignant and certainly nothing big enough to warrant attention. Everything changed on January 25th, 2011 when slogans, banners and artwork popped up across the nation’s capital as people demanded the former president step down from power.


Ganzeer’s infamous “Tank vs. bicycle” under the 6th of October flyover. My favourite by far. All photos credited to JoAnna and taken with Nikon D90.

Literally overnight, artwork – some small, others quite large in scale – could be found everywhere. They were under overpasses, sprayed onto the sides of buildings, slapped on police trucks, fixed under boutique awnings and adorned statues in the center of town. Cairo (along with other cities across Egypt) was instantly transformed and what oozed forth from that moment was a deluge of work executed by fired-up citizens (mainly youth) who were ready to demand change.


Practical, no? “Clean your brain yourself, so that nobody washes it for you.”

Since 2011, urban artwork has gone up, been painted over and gone up again in heavily populated parts of the city like Zamalek and Heliopolis (close to the presidential palace), and especially in areas adjacent to the infamous Tahrir Square and Kasr el Aini and Mohamed Mahmoud streets.


I’ll protect you. Former mural in Zamalek.

Through stencils, murals, motifs and posters, Egypt’s artists and activists have used Cairo’s walls as blank canvases to express their socio-political views and hopes for the future of their country. If it gets painted over, they’re back the following week putting something bigger and more provocative in its place.

DSC_0003One nice thing about the graffiti/street art in Egypt is that it hasn’t been the work of young men alone. Egyptian women have also taken to the streets to express their views on a host of issues and to let the rest of the population know they’re ready to get down and dirty when it comes to highlighting the issues that matter to them most (education, religion, equality and sexual harassment).

CAIRO, EGYPT_Mural off of Ismael Mohamed Street in Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt_The graffiti has since been painted over_Photo by JoAnna Pollonais_DSC_0137

Mural off of Ismael Mohamed street in Zamalek.

About JoAnna


Female, Canadian, yogini, expat and traveller…JoAnna is an Intolerant, but the really nice kind. Always on the lookout for delicious intolerant-friendly food (sometimes vegetarian, often without gluten and always dairy-free) JoAnna also enjoys discovering unconventional things to see on her travels and uncovering places to indulge in glass of wine and/or score a vintage handbag.

JoAnna rants about all the goodness she comes across on Twitter and her blog For the Intolerants.

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  1. The street art is a fascinating insight into our understanding of the struggles of Cairene youth. Thank you JoAna and Nicole.

    • Their work does indeed show us a side of Egyptian life we’d otherwise not be privy to. It certainly strips away many of the stereotypes we have about what we think Egypt is like. It’s such a diverse and complex country.

  2. TBM

    What a great post. Art, throughout history, has been the visual interpretation of current events. And I’m happy to hear that there are male and female artists voicing their opinions. Loved learning this, thanks for sharing. Now I’m going to hop over to her blog. Take care

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