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.
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.
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 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
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.