After another restless night of sleep at the beautiful apartment in Maadi, I inhaled a Turkish coffee, and began the trek to the Islamic part of Cairo, where the infamous Al-Azhar Mosque lies, as well as the Hanging Church, which dates back to 400 a.d. Inside the mosque, I admired gorgeous marble floors, sky high carved wooden arches, and adorned the traditional and respectful dress of Islam.
me at Al-Azhar Mosque
The Hanging Church, while under construction, was still an interesting and beautiful place to see. The Holy Family was rumoured to have been there, while they were traveling through Egypt on a three year stint, before making the rounds back to Jerusalem. When I asked how this was proven, I was told ” It is written.” And so it is, my friends.
Next up, we ventured forth to the astonishing and bustling Gran Khalili Bazaar. As an Irish-looking tourist with an American passport, I was accosted on so many levels here, that it was kind of funny. I became enamored with the plethora of Egyptian gold. The sights and smells were breathtaking. More than once, I was told, “Come back. I kill my wife for you.” That was a hard line to say no to, but I resisted.
Finishing the shopping day after procuring few items, Eman and I settled into a traditional Egyptian coffee house to smoke Sheesha, drink tea with mint and talk about the day. Many vendors weave themselves in and out of the tables, selling their goods. I could’ve had my shoes shined, henna on my hands, or a new pair of Ray-Bans during this short stop.
After the intermission, we wrapped up our time in Gran Khalili to move back to Maadi, where I engaged in a brief nap, because I was worn out. I got up, got dressed, had dinner with a fellow American (Hi, Simon!) in Maadi, wandered around bookstores and soap houses, before going back to bed for my first well-rested night.
On my third day, we went back to the desert, to see the Step Pyramid, or Mastaba, the Saqqara, and the statue of Ramesses II, which is located in Memphis. Stupidly, I inquired if this was, in fact, the original Memphis, or if ours came first. My tour guide calmly explained to me that the city of Memphis has been in existence for over 4,000 years. That settled that.
his bellybutton, my eye
Ramesses II ruled Egypt for 67 years, living to the ripe old age of 90, and fathered as many as 50 daughters and 50 sons.
The tombs are adorned with art which has lasted for thousands of years, and shows people living their daily lives. My tour guide’s son was along for the ride. Being a 14 year old boy, he brought a bouncy ball into the tombs, engaging in a quick round of handball against the art-adorned, sacred tombs, before his mother threatened to remove his fingers….with her eyes. Moms sometimes don’t have to say a word, you know?
After that, I was asked if I wanted to venture inside the Pyramids. I chose not to, but I can’t tell you why. More a feeling, then a philosophy. Better to preserve the mystery.