Today was the first day that the “Friends Group” and the Band were not together, and with good reason. The Band headed north to Tanta University in Tanta, Egypt for a concert and special visit. They will not return until late tonight. The Friends were busy seeing the sites of “Islamic Cairo” and depart early tomorrow morning for a few days in the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. As we have an early flight, it was decided it would be best not to head north with that group today and have such a late return to Cairo.
That said, we’ll talk a bit about the visit to Islamic Cairo and when Ben returns tonight, he will have a posting ready to tell you about the Band’s day. (I’m anxious to hear about it too!)
Islamic Cairo is a maze of old narrow streets and is unique as can be. Our first stop within the area was at the Citadel and its main attraction being the Mohammad Ali Mosque (yes, we know what you are thinking, but THIS Mohammad Ali was once the ruler of Egypt from1805-1849). The Citadel has an imposing location, high atop a limestone hill in the middle of this area. While the Citadel is older (1171 or thereabouts) the Mosque was not constructed until the mid 19th century. The Mosque is a somewhat Turkish design with a great central dome. There is a clock in the center which was a gift from King Louie-Philippe of France…….the clock broke when it arrived from France (in 1869) and has never been fixed. J
|Alumni/Friends group at the Mosque of Mohammad Ali|
|Courtyard of Mosque, where purification rite begins|
|Inside the main prayer area of the Mosque|
|Interior of the Mosque dome|
Our group enjoyed the lessons we learned of what a Mosque is, and how Muslim’s worship within them. We had many, many questions and we learned so much.
After leaving the Citadel, we went to see the oldest and one of the largest Mosques in Egypt, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. He, too, was a former leader of the country. The Mosque is known for its large courtyard (sahn) and one of two Spiral Minarets in the world. This one was inspired by the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq and for those who like steps, it rewards the climber with wonderful views of the city.
And now, one of the funniest moments of our trip………the drive from the Mosque back into the narrow streets of the old city. To hear the screams of delight from the bus and yelps of “Did you see that?” one would think that these “Friends” had never been out of the Dakotas! It was a scene to remember however, as our windows were full on both sides with people, shops, donkeys, bread, kids, moms, shopping, donkeys, goats, sheep and more. A riot of sounds, sights, and smells – I thought I would have to pass out valium to get everyone to settle down!
FINALLY, we walked the streets ourselves, and ended up at the gates of Khan al-Khalili or Cairo’s most infamous shopping district/bazaar. Traders here sell everything from soup to nuts, scarves to canes, and just about all of it is “made in China!” What a crazy experience. Where these people (my “friends”) are going to put all this stuff is beyond me, but I guess that’s half the fun. And Melinda, dear, I have yet another Rolex. J I mean, how can you refuse a “deal?”
Students will be doing this day tomorrow and they will LOVE it. I hope no one gets left behind in the market as they may never be seen again!
|Cairo traffic. Too crazy for words.|
|Our ladies, wearing proper headgear, at the Mosque.|
|Our guide and friend, Ahmed|
AKA, Cairo Cover/Posterboy....and future Minister of Tourism in Egypt!