Saturday, 16 August 2014


“He who hath not seen Cairo hath not seen the world: its soil is gold; its Nile is a wonder; its houses are palaces; and its air is temperate”
The Jewish Physician, A Thousand and One Nights

I apologise for the break in blogposts last week, but as you can guess from the quote above, I’ve been on the move. My paints were packed, my little seedlings were carefully wrapped up, and we travelled north to Cairo.

View of the Citadel from Al Azhar Park , oil on canvas ©Shevaun Doherty 2009

Cairo is big, noisy, chaotic and yet utterly fascinating. From my very first visit 26 years ago, I have been inexplicably drawn to this city. It’s vibrant, exciting and full of mystery- the city of a thousand minarets. The air is no longer as sweet and fresh, but away from the traffic, the gardens are lush, and there is a wealth of history to be discovered and explored.

The view from our apartment in Cairo
Our home in Cairo is in a quiet area on the outskirts of the city, surrounded by beautiful gardens. This stay was a just short one, mainly taken up with family visits and shopping. With all the distractions going on, it was hard to find time to paint, so I concentrated instead on finishing the page of quick little studies that I started in Sharm for the Nature Sketchbook Exchange I will stick this page of Little Egyptian Treasures into Sigrid Frensen’s sketchbook when I get back to Dublin.

Checking out his portrait
Before I left Sharm I managed to rescue a large scarab beetle from the pool. What a feisty little chap! Even cooling him off in the fridge didn’t keep him quiet for long… he was determined to escape. However I couldn’t resist doing one little painting of him… I especially loved his little antennae. I’m always amazed at how observant of nature the ancient Egyptians were- their scarab beetles are quite anatomically correct.

Another scarab beetle painting with a pectoral amulet from Tutankhamun  ©Shevaun Doherty 2011
Scorpion tail, Scarab beetle, Monkey's Ear Seedpod and Coral Tree seedpod  ©Shevaun Doherty 2014

In the gardens in Cairo, I found some wonderful seedpods. The first was from the delightfully named Monkey’s Ear Tree, Enterlobium cyclocarpumThe seedpods ripen to a rich black colour, giving the tree it’s name, but I decided that an immature green seedpod would look better on the page. I also painted the very elegant seedpod of the Coral tree, Erythrina lysistemon. I love this tree- the flowers are stunning too and are always the first to bloom in spring.

Strawberry shell, gecko egg and lovebird feather
Pages like this are a great excuse to dig out the little treasures that I have found over the years. I added a tiny gecko egg, a strawberry shell (Clanculus puniceus) and a couple of feathers from a lovebird that we once had.

Sigrid has a young son called Bertus, so I thought that it would be fun to complete the page with a scorpion’s tail. I found this scorpion on a trip down the Nile a few years ago- I had to smuggle it back to Cairo because my daughters were horrified that I would want to keep it! Alas all that remains is the tail, but I think it still looks quite impressive.

The remains of the scorpion found in Kom Ombo

The completed page of  Little Egyptian Treasures  ©Shevaun Doherty 2014

Alas our trip came to an end. 
I waved a sorry goodbye to Egypt, "Om il Doonya, Mother of the World", and headed back to Dublin. What an inspiring summer it has been! I already have my return ticket for next year.


  1. I'm so glad you go to Egypt every summer as you take us with you... through your blogposts and wonderful paintings. All these little objects are such gems. Thank you!! x

    1. Terri, what a wonderful thing to say! Thank you!!

  2. Shevaun, Terry is right, each item is like a little gem to be studied and enjoyed. It's fascinating to hear a bit of the story behind some of them--so exotic and beautiful. Your delicate shadows are just the right touch to bring them alive. I like your landscapes as well.

    1. Thanks Janene! I was thinking of you and your post on travel sketches as I looked through my sketchbooks this week. You are very encouraging!

  3. What a wonderful page of treasures - lucky recipient indeed. All the images on this post are beautifully co-ordinated and I love all the colours, they are very harmonious. A lovely post.

  4. Thanks Vicki! It's for Sigrid... I hope she likes it! I certainly enjoyed painting this

  5. Oh, my! Such a lovely, lovely collection. Please tell us how your date seeds are coming along.

    1. Thanks Candice! I've just put a date seed update on the next post, especially for you!

  6. This is a glorious blog, Shevaun. The information is fascinating and all the artwork is beautiful. I love the scorpion's tail; lucky Sigrid and Bertus x.


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