Tuesday, January 26, 2010

City of the Dead, Garbage People and Islamic Cairo

By Claire
Today's tour started with Islamic Cairo. We were picked up this morning by Jim and our driver Tarek. We headed for the Citadel, a huge complex built by Salah ad-Din in 1176 to guard the city against the crusaders who never came.

We visited several mosques, walked through the area exclaiming over the gorgeous architecture and beauty of this amazing city. Have I said "amazing" just once two often? The thing I noticed right off as we flew into Cairo was how tan it is. Everything is sand colored and it has a very desert feel with palm trees here and there but mostly building after building in various shades of tan.

Mohammed Ali Mosque

The Citadel

Mosque interior. It's hard to see but that's a fifties style rectangular clock just under the circular Arabic caligraphy.

Tongue and groove wood work in mosque

This guy guarded our shoes when we were inside the mosque. He thinks he looks like Omar Sharif.

Door being restored. Note the dark section that hasn't been restored.

Man loading potatoes and onions

We were so lucky to be able to go up inside a minaret. A guard came with us to keep us safe--from what?

View of the city from minaret

View from minaret

View from minaret

We next drove to the City of the Dead. This is an entire community within the city made up of a cemetery full of tombs. The tombs had rooms for family to come and visit. Pressures for cheap housing caused people to move in with the understanding that they would care for the tombs. The area now has a complete infrastructure with schools, mosques, electricity and plumbing. It goes for miles in this city of 22 million.

This is a one pound note with a picture of the mosque we went into in the City of the Dead.

This is the dome of the mosque on the one pound note.

We had heard about the garbage people who take care of all the trash. They separate it and recycle it by selling it, making it their living. Pictures can't quite capture what this neighborhood is like.

Finally, lunch. We wanted an authentic but safe place to eat, health wise. Jim knew about a place serving Koushri, a one dish meal consisting of macaroni, chick peas, lentils, rice, spaghetti, and fried onions with tomato sauce. Delicious and filling! LE 27, €3.38.


Bread delivery

Fortified, we drove to the Khan al-Khalili, a 14th century shopping bazaar. We loved it. Chuck wanted a Gallibiya, an Egyptian caftan and I needed a card. Jim knew where to take us.

Gallibiya salesman

We bought a few things from this very elegant, sweet man.

That's an iron on the left and notice the numbers on the telephone.

Tired but very fulfilled, we headed for the famous Fishawi Ahwa (coffeehouse), an institution for over 200 years, for tea and coffee.

Sheesha--fruit flavored tobacco

Mint tea and coffee

Walk like an Egyptian

I can't say enough about how great it is to be picked up, driven around the city and guided by an expert. All we have to do is show up and ask questions, and we had plenty! We are learning so much about this wonderful city, Islam, architecture and history.

Expenses for today:
Guide and driver: €150
Citadel: €6.50 each
Lunch: €3.38 for three
Tip for guide and driver (each) €6.50

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language. ~ Walt Disney

1 comment:

David said...

Wonderful photos! Almost like being there with you.
And the pyramid photos were really outstanding. Wow!

Continued safe travels. What an adventure!