Egyptian museum of antiquities
Today began with a visit to the Egyptian Museum which has 136,000 items. We worked our way through with Samir, our wonderful Egyptologist and guide, taking us to the most interesting displays and explaining them in detail. We spent 3 hours and it included the King Tut exhibit with 17,000 items and the Mummy Room with about 12 mummies. No photos were allowed in the museum so you’ll just have to imagine, or better yet, come to Egypt. It was all quite fascinating. The sheer number of things found inside King Tut's tomb is staggering even if it is considered a small tomb. The mummies were the first I had ever seen and very interesting. But to think that we saw Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut is thrilling.
After a great lunch in central Cairo at a place where I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists, we enjoyed Koushri again, this time with rice pudding for desert. Lunch was Samir’s treat.
We drove to Coptic Cairo, which is part of old Cairo and the Christian area of the city. 10% of Egypt’s population is Coptic Christian and they have their own pope. We started with the St. Sergus Church which was built above the cave where Jesus, Mary and Joseph stayed after fleeing Herod who ordered the death of all male children under two years of age. Once again, no photos allowed.
In the shell of a 4th Century Church is the 9th century Ben Ezra Synagogue. Tradition holds that this is the spot where the profit Jeremiah gathered the jews in the 6th century after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Jerusalem temple. This is also the place where the pharaoh’s daughter is said to have found Moses in the reeds and where Mary drew water to wash Jesus. We were able to hear the chanting of a service going on upstairs.
With Samir--his height makes him easy to follow!
Roman Water Gate
The Hanging Church dates back to the 9th century and has a collection of saint’s relics and an icon of Mary. It is incorrectly called the Hanging Church—it is simply built on top of the Water Gate. The interior geometric designs are only distinguishable from Islamic designs by the tiny crosses in the pattern. We found it interesting to see how similar the Christian church, the Jewish Synagogue and the Muslim Mosque are. They all had the tongue and groove wood work designs and marble columns. We were lucky to observe a service in progress—delivered in Arabic and Coptic.
Hanging church inside
Amr Ibn Elaas Mosque is a large, but simple mosque, the first built in Egypt and in Africa. We sat with Samir and talked at length about Islam. He is so knowledgeable and open and makes the subject very interesting.
Samir--what a gentleman
The women stay behind the wooden partition or in the back during prayers, this being more comfortable than bending over and praying in front of the men.
Some images around Cairo:
Expenses for today:
Egyptian Museum, €15.50
Mummy Room, €20.64
Samir and driver, €150
If you are interested in having Samir guide you, check out his website, Real Egypt. He is worth every penny.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ~ Mahatma Gandhi