Remembering Cassandra C. Vivian (1942–2021) 

A native of Pennsylvania, Cassandra C. Vivian was a historian, experienced photographer, and scholar, and the author of numerous books, including Egypt: Touching the Land (AUC Press, 1982); Islands of the Blest: A Guide to the Western Desert; Father of Rivers: A Travelers Companion to the Nile Valley; The Western Desert of Egypt: An Explorer’s Handbook (AUC Press, Revised Edition, 2008); and Americans in Egypt, 1770–1915: Explorers, Consuls, Travelers, Soldiers, Missionaries, Writers and Scientists. She passed away in the United States on December 13, 2021.

Consumed with wanderlust from the moment she joined the Girl Scouts as a girl, Vivian first arrived in Egypt in 1974 and ended up staying for twenty years. In a tribute to her achievements and pioneering research in desert studies, one of her colleagues wrote: “Cassandra’s Egyptian treks are a story of a woman’s courage, dedication, and caring.”

On her blog ‘readmebeforeidie,’ Vivian talks about her photography. “I shot every aspect of Egypt: the rich, the poor, the middle class; Cairo and all its districts including the suqs and the European quarters; the Nile valley from Alexandria to Aswan; Sinai, the Eastern Desert, and my beloved Western Desert and its Oases. My greatest gift was the ability to have access to the women. They allowed me to photograph them and photograph I did. I will present them here and all the stories that go with them. It will be an amazing journey.” Click here to view her photography entitled ‘Remembering Egypt: A Photographic Journey.’

In one of her numerous papers entitled ‘My Life in Small Bites’ posted on her profile, Vivian writes: “Come walk with me through the memories of my life. . .  boy, do I have tales to tell you. You will have great belly laughs. You will feel great sorrow. You will scold me for my misdemeanors and maybe even get mad at me for my bad behavior.  But if you like the life of a vagabond and enjoy reading of adventures you wish you would have done, read on!”

At the beginning of 2018, Vivian donated much of her black-and-white photographs of Egypt spanning more than three decades, detailed travel notes of her keen exploration of the Western Desert from the 1970s, as well as archival notes and dispatches acquired from the British Army, to the Rare Books and Special Collections Library of the American University in Cairo. Click here to read more.



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