Egypt Gallery ~ Cairo
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Africa's Biggest City
April 30, 2002

Our first day in Cairo we were in love with the city. By the end of the second day we considered leaving Egypt on the next plane out. There is something to be said for a city that does that to a person but we don't know what that something is, except to say that its a city you just have to experience for yourself. Cairo has the best and the worst of Egypt and there just aren't enough eloquent phrases or expletives to convey it to you.

 

The Teashop
April 29, 2002

Rivaling the laid back men's club atmosphere of the teashops in Burma, Cairo's teashops have the added bonus of offering Dominos and Backgammon boards to busy the fingers and big Sheesha water pipes to cloud the mind. On our first night in Cairo, Mohammed befriended us on the street and invited us for tea. Under the guise of teaching us dominos, he made himself look good by thrashing us soundly.

 

The Pyramids
May 1, 2002

Soon after the last king abdicated and Egypt became a republic in 1952, the government, on the advice of its new leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, made visiting the Pyramids a legal requirement for all foreigners entering the country. Upon arriving at the airport, tourists are fitted with a tracking bracelet that...
Seriously folks, can you go to Paris and not see the Eiffel tower? Can you go to Vermont and not, well, erm...well there must be something to do in Vermont that is like going to the Pyramids in Egypt. I hope. This is not an unpleasant or unfruitful compulsion though, for the Pyramids are way better than the Eiffel tower and if I could think of anything in Vermont, I'd say it beats that too.

 

The magic, the size...
May 1, 2002

Under duress I might admit to being underwhelmed by some of the places we visited in Egypt (ahem, Valley of the Kings...). We are all so familiar with the monuments of the Nile from photographs or film that finally seeing them in person can often be a let down. Going to all the effort of going somewhere makes admitting this painful.
This was not the case for the Pyramids at Giza. Their shear size, perfect symmetry, simple shape combined with complex calculations and logistics that went into the construction is all so pleasing, so awesome, that no amount of prior familiarity can strip away their magic. This photo, going some way towards showing the scale of Chephren's Pyramid, included.

 

Chains of Love
April 29, 2002

The Chapel of St. George in the Coptic Christian area of Cairo has an unusual relic attributed to St. George. As the patron saint of England I felt it my duty to investigate.
It seems that King Dadynos was upset with St.George for being a Christian so he did what any sensible person would do when a disagreement over religion arises. He killed him (A tradition still honored, it seems, to this day).
Before he was killed St. George was trussed up in these chains and tortured. The blood that was spilled has infused these chains with the power to heal the sick and banish evil spirits from the body.
I watched as everyone from fashionably dressed women to young boys filed in, wrapped themselves in the chains and mouthed a fervent prayer. All under the watchful eyes of two ancient nuns from the adjoining cloister.

 

The Egyptian Museum
May 1, 20002

The funerary mask of Tutankhamun is without doubt one of the most beautiful artifacts possessed by any museum in the world. Less famous are the numerous pieces of exquisite jewelry and furniture that were also found in his small tomb. King Tut died at 19, a very minor king. Of the hundreds of tombs on Luxor's west bank that have been excavated, his has been the only one not pillaged by tomb robbers. Makes you wonder what the tomb of a King like Ramsis II, who ruled for almost 70 years and conquered vast territories, might have held.
Many important pieces of antiquity were plundered more recently and now reside in museums in London, Paris and New York (where they are no doubt better labeled and displayed than here). Nevertheless, the Egyptian museum in Cairo is worth at least an entire day.

 

The Spice Souq
April 30, 2002

'Modern' Cairo still does business the old way in the alleys and streets that make up old Islamic Cairo. Though it is relaxing these days, traditional Muslim city planning is still clearly in evidence with various crafts and goods focused on certain streets. The tinsmith street is a deafening cacophony of hammer blows while the spice souq is an almost overwhelming olfactory experience. I feel like I'm writing for the tourist brochures!!

 

Where have all the intellectuals gone?
May 2, 2002

Cafe Riche was once the favorite haunts of Cairo's intellectuals and academics (not to be confused). It was closed for some years but is now open for business as usual. It is hard to tell it was ever closed as the atmosphere and the furniture seem as though they've been here ages. It is hard to tell it is open for the place was always deserted when we visited, feigning intellectualityness and academicality.

   
   
   
   


   

 

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