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Sherif Sonbol

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Full Name
Sherif Sonbol

Cairo University


Sherif Sonbol


Known for

Sherif Sonbol httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

December 6, 1956 (age 67) (
Giza, Egypt

Egyptian Palaces and Villas, 1808-1960

How sherif sonbol photographed old cairo

Sherif Sonbol (born December 6, 1956 in Egypt) is a photographer specializing in architecture, scenic fine arts and photojournalism.


Sherif Sonbol The quiet passion of photographer Sherif Sonbol graces Warsaw

Early life

Sherif Sonbol httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons22

Sonbol was born in Giza, Cairo.

He studied insurance at Cairo University and attended the Chartered Insurance Institute in London. He worked for the Egyptian Reinsurance Company as a marine underwriter. He was the accidental witness of a riff-raff between the company's marine hull insurance manager and the chief of the syndicate. Caught up in a delicate bureaucratic situation, Sonbol was told testifying about the incident meant the end of his career in insurance. As a result, he decided to pursue one of his passions -photography- and tried his luck at Al-Ahram, where he soon started working as a freelancer.


It only took a few months for him to become a full-time photographer at Al-Ahram under the auspices of Antoun Albert.

Although achieving professional goals and popularity at Al-Ahram, at a certain point Sonbol saw the need of leaving the newspaper in order to be recruited by the American Embassy's as official photographer. This position was finally not materialized but still the American Embassy incorporated him to its computer department as graphic designer and computer trainer for newcomers,

He managed to combine these roles with his work in the New Cairo Opera House, where he had been taking pictures since it opened its doors in 1988. Eventually Sonbol resigned his place at the American Embassy and returned to Al-Ahram; this time to the Al-Ahram Weekly.

He stayed six years as main photographer of Kalam-El-Nass. On his last year there, the Maraya-El-Nass magazine project saw the light. This was an interior design magazine belonging to the same group as Kalam-El-Nass. The project's key artistic responsibles were to be writer Moguib Rushdi and himself, so he was fully transferred to the new magazine. Here too he managed to "shake the foundations of Egyptian interior photography with his use of natural light".

Currently Sonbol manages to combine his responsibilities as chief photographer in Al-Ahram Weekly and in the Cairo Opera House with other projects.
As a freelancer, he occasionally contributes to other publications -including Kalam-El-Nass-. He participates in photography campaigns and other job assignments too. He has also collaborated with important cultural centers such as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. His work has been displayed in various exhibits worldwide and has been the subject of doctorate thesis

He has given seminars at AFCA (Académie Francophone Cairote des Arts ) and teaches photography at the Ahram Canadian University since 2008.

Through one of his most recent freelance projects, Sonbol tries to bring Western and Arabic cultures closer together in order to promote a better understanding and communication.

Technique and style

  • One of Sonbol's trademarks is his use of natural available light; a technique he developed under the encouragement of Antoun Albert.
  • An acute sense of timing is also characteristic of his images. This is especially evident in his ballet shots and The New York Times referred to it as "a particular agile eye" adding that "Even when Sonbol concentrates on stillness, he exemplifies Martha Graham's adage that a pause is not a pose but "an act of accomplishment" ". Sonbol developed his eye for dance under the supervision of Erminia Gambarelli Kamel, former prima ballerina and currently artistic director of the Cairo Opera House Ballet.
  • Critical reception

    "Nothing is more beautiful than to express art through art…" -Naguib Mahfouz, Nobel Laureate

    "Rare is the photographer who looks at a familiar art form and shows it in a new light. But Sherif Sonbol’s stunning and revelatory dance photographs [show] a particularly agile eye… apt to shoot from a catwalk above the stage or from the wings, frequently abstracting shapes into dynamic and explosive bursts of color." -Anna Kisselgoff, New York Times

    "An artist has reached the pinnacle of his profession when his work can be recognised without his signature being written…" -Mounir Kenaan, leading Egyptian painter

    Additional reading

  • Opera 1988–1993, (Cairo Opera House 1993)
  • Aida, (Cairo Opera House 1999)
  • Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten : Nefertiti : Tutankhamen, (Bullfinch Press & Boston Museum for Fine Arts 1999, ISBN 0-8212-2620-7 & ISBN 978-0-8212-2620-9 ) Contributor.
  • Swan Lake for Children, (Cairo Opera House 2000)
  • Mulid! Carnivals of Faith, (AUC Press 2001, ISBN 977-424-519-9 & ISBN 978-977-424-519-0)
  • Mamluk Art: The Splendor and Magic of the Sultans (Museum with No Frontiers & Transatlantic Publications 2001, ISBN 1-874044-37-6 & ISBN 977-270-667-9)
  • The Pharaohs, (Bompiani Arte & Thames and Hudson 2002, ISBN 88-7423-023-0) Main contributor.
  • Der Turmbau Zu Babel – Ursprung und Vielfalt von Sprache und Schrift (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien & Skira 2003, ISBN 3-85497-055-2 & ISBN 88-8491-534-1) Contributor.
  • 40 Pyramids of Egypt and their neighbors, (Cyperus Press 2005, ISBN 977-5052-17-3)
  • 40 Pyramids of Egypt and their neighbors, Arabic version (Al Hayaa Al Masriya Al-Aama Lel Ketab 2005, ISBN 977-419-690-2)
  • Egyptian Palaces and Villas, (Abrams Inc & AUC Press 2006, ISBN 0-8109-5538-5 & ISBN 978-0-8109-5538-7)
  • The Churches of Egypt: From the Journey of the Holy Family to the Present Day, (AUC Press 2007, ISBN 977-416-106-8 & ISBN 978-977-416-106-3). 2nd Edition AUC 2012
  • Arts of the City Victorious (Yale University Press 2008, ISBN 978-0-300-13542-8 & ISBN 0-300-13542-4) Main contributor.
  • Christianity and Monasticism in Wadi al-Natrun: Essays from the 2002 International Symposium of the Saint Mark Foundation and the Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society, Edited by Maged S.A. Mikhail & Mark Moussa, (AUC Press 2009, ISBN 978-977-416-260-2) Cover image.
  • Opera 1988–2008 (Cairo Opera House 2009)
  • Al-Tahra Palace, A Gem in a Majestic Garden (CULTNAT / Bibliotheca Alexandrina 2009, ISBN 978-977-452-144-7)
  • The Nile Cruise, an Illustrated Journey (AUC Press 2010, ISBN 977-416-302-8 & ISBN 978-977-416-302-9 )
  • Wonders of the Horus Temple: The Sound and Light of Edfu (AUC Press 2011, ISBN 977-638-900-7 & ISBN 978-977-638-900-7). Introduction by Zahi Hawass
  • The History and Religious Heritage of Old Cairo: Its Fortress, Churches, Synagogue, and Mosque (AUC Press 2013, ISBN 977-416-459-8 & ISBN 978-977-416-459-0 )
  • References

    Sherif Sonbol Wikipedia

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