2022 Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Use of Audio Storytelling finalist

Saving the sounds of an ancient city


About the Project

What are the sounds that remind you of your childhood, or your college years? Is it the ice cream truck driving down your street? Is it crowds of fans singing the school fight song at your university football stadium? Maybe the sounds that you remember no longer exist. As cities change, so do the soundscapes that define them. Nowhere is that more true than in the ancient city of Cairo.

This metropolis of millions is expanding, rebuilding and modernizing. But in the process, as more people leave the center of the city for calmer, more modern neighborhoods, they are also hearing less and less of the hums that define the cacophony of the Egyptian capital.

Two young Cairenes, afraid that these sounds may one day fade away, have started recording and preserving them. The Washington Post’s Cairo bureau chief, Siobhán O’Grady, heard about their plan and called them before she even landed in the massive city a year ago. The result was this immersive, transportive project — a love letter to a region that has long endured challenges and yet whose beauty still shines through.

Readers responded with the memories of their childhood.

“I could feel myself transported back when I was 10 years old walking through the streets of Homs. Going to my grandparents home. I feel so nostalgic. I miss it,” said Loulou Sheikha, a Syrian American living in Chicago.

“You’ve reminded me of the sound that accompanied the best times of my childhood,” another reader recalled. “It was when the ice cream cart came passing by our home and the vendor calling loudly: Boza Omaya (with the variety of choices); Lemon, chocolate, vanilla and Freez (strawberry). This beautiful sound no longer exists.”

We hope this project will bring back some of your favorite memories, too, and inspire you to pay closer attention to the sounds around that may not be here forever.