Visits in Cairo

Finally after two weeks I am back in Rome, missing Cairo already, but enjoying the calm traffic and cleanliness.

Cairo was quite an expierence, there was a lot to process and the city never stopped moving. I was unfortunately not able to go out to Alexandria, but visited the Pyramids, Memphis and Sakkara and Old Cairo.

Though I was very excited about the Pyramids, I will admit much like the Collosseum, unless you are super into the history, you can just drive around the outside of the grounds, see all three pyramids and the Sphinx without having to pay.

ImageMemphis and Sakkara are much cheaper and very interesting. Both are small areas, best to hire a driver because they are far out of the city. Memphis includes most artifacts, including a large statue, of Ramses II. Sakkara includes the step Pyramid, older than the Great Pyramid and inside some of the sanctuaries surrounding this pyramid is the priests original script on the walls.

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Apologies for the sideways photo, but WordPress will not allow me to rotate it!

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What was sad to see, is that most of the ancient cities were built over before they were known about, and now cannot be investigated, this is very unfortunate because it leaves a large gap in the knowledge of the ancient area of Cairo. There is some digging going on beside Memphis but it appeared as most had been stopped since Post-Revolution.

As far as Ancient Egypt, that was about all there was,along with the museum.  In Heliopolis, the neighborhood I was staying it, there was once a site of a large temple to Ra, all that remains is a single obelisk placed in the center of a large road.

The Museum is located beside Tahrir Square, right next to the old Parliament building, It is definitely worth a visit. There is so much to see, but the Museum is kept more like a storehouse than a museum, there is very little information on the artifacts. The only very exhibit like sections were that of King Tut’s funerary items and Mask (which was absolutely gorgeous), the jewelry, and a small room for Akhenaten, which included funerary items of his wives, and very large statues of him and his family.

There is also a small room for animal mummies which was very interesting, though the human royal mummies are in a separate exhibit. This Royal Mummies room cost more to enter than the museum itself (at least if you enter the museum with student discounts, as I did). Though of course mummies are always intriguing, this room was not that big a deal, just about 12 royals laid out.

Moving into the Middle Ages, there was much more to see, mainly in the area surrounding the Citadel, known as Old Cairo, this is also the area which includes “Coptic Cairo”. Here there is the market Khan el Khalili, the “Hanging Church”, The Citadel, and the church which Mary and Joseph stayed on their trip through Cairo. These are only a few places I personally visited, but there are many more churches and mosques.

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All these places were well worth the visit, and costed nothing but the drive there.  Prices at Khan el Khalili definitely depended on tourist vs local. Having an Egyptian with me I was able to get pretty decent prices for most presents I bought. They have fantastic glassware, clothing and spices.

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The Citadel was built by Salah al Din,  as protection from the Crusaders, the mosque inside the walls, which follows the same architecture as the Blue Mosque in Turkey, was built later under Muhammed Ali. Inside the walls of the fort was where the Mamluks  were slaughtered by the ruler Muhammed Ali, so that they would not rise to power above him. He is also buried within the Mosque.

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Ceiling within the Hanging Church

The Hanging or Suspended Church is built on top the foundations to a tower, so the foundation is lifted off the ground and is only covering a small section under the church. The decoration inside is very beautiful, with Coptic style paintings, ebony and ivory decorations and handmade stained glass windows.

Though the area has many churches, the rest of “Old Cairo” includes many small mosques, and is a dirtier, more chaotic section of Cairo. I loved seeing the very local cafes and small winding streets, however my boyfriend told me to put away the camera and stay close, so it is not the best place for tourists.

That’s it for visited places, later I will post another piece on the modern city and my experiences.

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