We hired a felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailboat, to enjoy a slow afternoon cruise along the Nile river and to get to a beach to chill and a sand dune hill to hike.
The felucca was manned by our skilled captain. He was a very nice guy who loved to tell stories. He was a Nubian and was proud of it. He believed that the Nubian were the stronger race over the Egyptians.
The felucca did not have an engine so we relied mostly on the wind and the current of the river. Egypt was blessed with a predominant southerly wind so even though we were going southbound which was going upstream, we managed to get to the Nubian beach. Some of us stayed on the beach while the rest took the challenge of hiking up the sand dune hill. Living in Vancouver, which has countless hiking trails, I learned to love hiking, so I was up for the challenge. From the bottom of the hill, it did not seem like a difficult climb. Little did I know that in a few minutes I would be cheating death.
We started to trek up the hill. Not long after I realized that it was not as easy as I thought. Every step up I took, I sort of slid two steps down. By midway, some people have decided that they should probably just enjoy the beach and went back down. I was thinking of “Survivor” the reality TV show. This was just mind over matter. I can not be a quitter. I should push myself and I moved on. The extreme heat and exhaustion started to kick in. I finished the last drop of water in my drinking bottle. I looked up and saw the others were already at the peak. All of a sudden, the world started to spin. I dropped to the ground and was facing the sky. I can only see white light. I thought to myself. This was it. It was my time. At least I saw light not darkness. It was a good sign. I was a good person after all. I closed my eyes. I felt my body was heating up. I thought that when a person dies they usually feel cold. Then I started to hear a faint voice. Could it be St. Peter? But it sounded more like a lady. She was actually calling out my name. My world stopped spinning and I could hear the lady clearly now. She was definitely calling out my name and asking how I was doing. It was my friend from the top of the hill shouting. With much encouragement, I stood up and managed to climb the last couple of steps and reached the apex.
This was the view from the top of the hill. I stood here thanking God that I was still alive and grateful for this beautiful world. I love my life and I want to live. This was a wake up call. I need to live life to the fullest. I also need to live a healthier lifestyle. Having this new positive outlook, I raced down the hill with the rest of the group.
We cooled down by dipping in the Nile River. The water was cold even on this sunny day. There were black things floating but I did not care. I was alive and I was swimming in the Nile River. What more can I ask for?
Aswan Egypt October 2008
It was a perfect setting; a sunny day, a camel and a desert. I was really looking forward to hop onto a camel to enjoy a ride across the Nubian desert. Here the camel boys were preparing their camels.
I picked one of the taller camels and hopped onto it. The camel stood up. The camel followed a particular sequence to stand up. From sitting position, it would first kneel with its two front legs so it will sort of push you back a bit. Then it would raise its two hind legs which would somewhat push you forward. Finally, it will raise its two front legs which would push you back once again. To avoid falling off the camel, it is advisable to hold on tight to the seat.
The camels dashed off.
I thought my camel would be one of the faster ones since it had longer legs. It was actually the slowest. I was not sure whether it had to do with the weight of the load but I refuse to believe that it was. I blame it on the camel boy who was not doing anything. He was just walking slowly behind chatting with his buddy.
Or maybe my camel wanted some alone time with this other camel. It was good to have company. I managed to take a close up shot of the other camel. It was so adorable with its beautiful long lashes.
Apparently, we were not the only ones enjoying the camel. Look at the pigeons feasting on the camel dung. Proteins. I remember reading an article before about people in India who collect seeds from camel dung to eat. No thanks. I will pass on that.
We stopped for a photo shoot.
We were on the final stretch and once again my camel was going really slow.
We reached the end of the ride and finally my camel boy appeared to assist in making the camel sit down. Again, sitting down had a sequence. It was the exact opposite from standing up. It had to kneel down first with its two front legs, then bend the two hind legs, and bend the two front legs. I got off the camel. I took this picture of the camel with the camel boy as a remembrance for this experience. The camel was actually named Ramses. The camel boy asked for more money. I did not want to argue and ruin my day after this fabulous experience so I ended up giving him a few more Egyptian pounds. He told me I was a good man. I did not know if he really meant what he said but I felt good. It’s not often that I get that.
Aswan Egypt October 2008
We boarded a boat once again to get to The Temple of Philae. The temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus. The story surrounding these three characters dominates the ancient Egyptian mythology. Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his brother Seth. Do Cain and Abel ring a bell? His body parts were scattered all over Egypt. The exact number of body parts was a bit confusing since every Egyptologist we met who told the story had a different number. Isis searched and found all the body parts except for the most important one, the penis. Apparently, a fish munched on it. Nasty. Isis gave birth to Horus. How did this happened? The first immaculate conception. Sound familiar again? When Horus grew up, he eventually avenged his father and killed Seth. How’s that for a Shakespearean tragedy? Isis is therefore known as the Mother of God, giver of life, a healer and protector of kings.
The Temple of Philae now sits on Agilika Island which was half a kilometer from its original home on Philae Island. The temple was relocated due to flooding caused by building of the Aswan dam. The temple was nearly lost under water until it was rescued by the Egyptian government and UNESCO. The temple had to be dismantled and transferred stone by stone. Every stone was marked such that the temple can be replicated in its new site. This project took 9 years to finish.
Thanks to the saving efforts, now people can explore this temple. This was the first pylon, which was a great traditional pylon with two towers and an open forecourt which led to the second pylon.
This was the second pylon which led to the hypostyle hall with the usual columns and then vestibules leading to a sanctuary.
This was the Kiosk of Trajan which originally served as the main entrance into the temple from the river. There were 14 columns supporting the architraves but the wooden roof was not preserved. There were paintings of the Roman emperor Trajan who was making offerings to the gods.
We finished exploring another temple and learned more about Egyptian mythology. It was interesting that a lot of these ancient stories were somewhat similar to stories told from other religious books.
This was the third temple we have seen so far. I felt like I was losing the wow-feeling. I looked at the itinerary and realized that there were four more temples to visit. I started to feel a bit concerned but was ecstatic when I remembered that I will be riding a camel next. We boarded our boat and headed to the Nubian desert.
Aswan Egypt October 2008
Today we explored a Nubian village. The Nubians are believed to be the first human race on earth. They settled around the area of Aswan and northern Sudan. Due to the building of the Aswan Dam that triggered a flood, the region was inundated and the Nubian people were displaced to either Egypt or Sudan.
We boarded a boat which brought us to the west bank of the Nile River.
We were met by the chief of the village. He was also the doctor (shaman), teacher, priest and for today, our guide. His English was surprisingly good. He can also speak the Nubian language which is only a spoken language.
The roads in the village were narrow. They were not big enough for cars to pass.
This was their school. Notice how there were no tables and chairs. The students actually sat and wrote on the floor.
I can not recall what this was. It could be a church or their town hall.
And of course, the most important, as with any other place on earth, the coffee shop. Watch out Starbucks this may be your toughest competition.
We met one of the villagers who had a baby crocodile.
I took a shot of these villagers doing their laundry. It has been a long time since I have seen people hand washing clothes in a river. The lady in the middle was not happy that I took their picture. She was mumbling, probably cursing me.
There was a certain odor that was not pleasant. It must have been from the animals. There were sheep everywhere. The roads were also not that tidy.
We ended the exploration with a visit to one of the villager’s home. The second floor of the house had interesting art pieces that the owner was selling. Here were crocodiles hung on the ceiling.
This was the view as I looked over the balcony. Not bad for a waterfront property. After a quick refreshment we thanked our host and boarded the boat and headed back to our cruise ship. This experience reminded me of the countless immersion trips I did back in school.
Aswan Egypt October 2008
We arrived at Kom Ombo the night before so this morning we were one of the first people to explore the Temple of Kom Ombo. Today was free time for us to explore the temple by ourselves. To make the visit more interesting, our tour leader challenged us to find and interpret the Egyptian calendar. If we figure it out correctly, she will sing in the Galabeya Party tonight.
This temple was unusual as it was a temple dedicated to two gods: the falcon headed god Haroeris and the crocodile headed god Sobek. From the main axis, everything was duplicated. There were two entrances, two courts, two colonades, two hypostyle halls and two sanctuaries.
Armed with only a map, we explored the temple grounds. The temple had the usual massive columns with intricate paintings in the hypostyle hall.
The walls all over the temple were also carved with paintings rich in ancient stories about the gods and various offering scenes.
The Hathor’s Chapel had a mummified crocodile on display. It was believed this location was an ancient habitat for the Nile crocodiles.
There was also a Nilometer located close to the temple. This was used to measure the water level of the Nile river especially during the annual flood season.
I have not forgotten about the challenge and I was persistent until I found the calendar. Now the only problem was to interpret it. Trained to be resourceful, I patiently waited in that section until a group arrived with a tour leader explaining the site. First there was a Japanese group; no luck understanding that at all. The next were the Germans. I could recognize some of the German words but was not enough to really understand it. I almost gave up until a mixed European group came along. The tour guide started with Spanish which was good. Having been born and lived the early years of my life in the Philippines and learned the native language helped since a lot of the words were borrowed from Spanish. I thought I got it right and was reassured when the tour guide did the explanation again in English. Nice one.
There were 3 seasons in a year, 4 months in a season, 3 weeks in a month and 10 days in a week. That was a total of 360 days plus 5 days at the end of the year.
Now having the answers I was excited to go back to the cruise ship but not until I got to take a night shot of the temple.
Back in the cruise ship, when we met our tour leader, I told her that she should have researched on the background of the people in the group. I told her I have been studying Egyptology for the past year and have studied the Egyptian Calendar. I convinced her once I told her the answer. =) So here she was singing a French song during our Galabeya party that night as a result of her losing the bet. It was a fun night. Another awesome day spent in Egypt.
Kom Ombo Egypt October 2008
The M/S Melodie, our cruise ship, started her engine and off we went heading south to Aswan. We will be spending the next couple of days cruising along the Nile river to get to Aswan and then back to Luxor. In between, there will be several stops.
After settling down in the ship, we all went up to the deck to enjoy an afternoon tea. It was a perfect time as the sun was about to set. It was refreshing and relaxing. Then it finally started to sink in that I’m actually cruising along the Nile River. The Egyptian civilization depended on the river during the ancient times and continues to rely on it at the present time.
The calmness was suddenly interrupted by a clamor. It appeared to be coming from the river below. The shouts continued as I looked over the deck. A couple of men in small boats were rowing towards the cruise ship. What was happening? Were we being attacked by modern day Egyptian pirates?
It turned out they were actually merchants trying to sell their goods. It was interesting how the Egyptians find every possible chance to sell their products to the tourists. These men were standing on the small boats balancing themselves while doing their sales pitch. Once a buyer was interested, they would put their goods in a plastic bag and throw it over the deck or right through the windows of the rooms of the ship. Then the buyer would throw the bag back with the payment. It was interesting to see how the business transaction was conducted.
While this spectacle was going on, the ship was approaching the Esna Lock. This was where the water level of the river was being controlled.
The chamber was big enough to fit two cruise ships. Our ship got in first and this was the other ship. The doors closed and since we were going south, the water level was raised. Once the water level reached the appropriate level, the exit door opened and off we went to our next stop: Kom Ombo
Esna Egypt October 2008
This was one of the more interesting paintings on the walls of the Temple of Karnak. It never fails to make the women giggle and possibly some men as well. This is Min the god of fertility. He was usually shown as a human male with an erect penis, standing with both legs together, an arm raised holding a flail, the other arm missing and wearing a low crown with twin plumes.
Notice how the flail forms an inverted V and how his arm was thrusting into it which was symbolic of sexual intercourse.
He must have been a popular God since he was all over the walls of the temple.
Luxor Egypt October 2010
We hopped onto the horse-drawn carriage which brought us to our next destination: The Temple of Karnak. The temple was in ancient times part of the upper Egyptian city Thebes which was the capital and cultural center of the Pharaoh’s empire. It was known as the city of the hundred gateways.
This was the main entrance to the temple complex where Ram-headed sphinxes were lined up on both sides of the path. I was not familiar with this temple so I did not expect much from this visit. But after exploring the temple grounds, I was just so amazed with what I have seen and learned about the temple. This was one of the best moments of my trip to Egypt. It was like watching a movie that you have not heard of and end up experiencing catharsis at a different level.
Upon entering the temple grounds, we were faced with the Colossus of Ramses II with his favorite daughter Bent’anta who eventually became his wife. This statue was massive and was about 20 feet tall.
The next section was the most fascinating part of the temple; The Great Hypostyle Hall. There were 134 columns in 16 rows which supported a 54,000 square feet ceiling. The 2 middle rows were higher than the others standing 80 feet high with a circumference of 33 feet. Although the roof had fallen, I was humbled by the size of the columns and amazed by the fact that they were still standing after all these years. The building of the hall started with the reign of Seti I from 1290 to 1279 and completed during the reign of Ramses II from 1279 to 1313. I can not imagine how they were able to build this back then. Notice that the columns were covered with hieroglyphs which depicted the life and the heroic deeds of the pharaohs and the Egyptian mythology. Although most of the colors have faded, you could still see some remnants in areas not exposed to the sun.
Here’s a closer look at the colorful hieroglyphs.
Going further into the temple, we came to a narrow court where the tallest obelisk in the complex was erected. This 97 feet tall obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut was dedicated to Amun.
This was the giant scarab near the Sacred Lake. It was not unusual to see people circling around the scarab. There were different reasons for doing this. Some say that if you walk around the scarab seven times then you will never have love problems. Others say that whatever you wish will come true. I thought it was probably a way for the locals to make fun of the tourist. I did walk around seven times but I am still waiting…
While exploring the temple, my friend and I were summoned by an old man to a section of the temple which was probably not open to the public. We took this shot and he started asking for money. I can’t believe people here will try all sorts of ways to get money from tourists. Another common thing was for locals (i.e. the police) to offer to have their pictures taken with you and then later on ask for money. It was also the same with our horse-drawn carriage driver. When he was driving us back to our cruise ship, he kept talking to me in Arabic. I figured out later on that he was asking for extra money. I guess you just really need to be careful in these places and learn how to say no if you don’t think it’s reasonable.
Luxor Egypt October 2008
When in Egypt, never go out without a pound with you. This is very important especially when nature calls. In almost all the public washrooms that I have been to in Egypt, from Cairo to Luxor to Aswan, one thing was common. Using the public washroom was not free. Typically there will be an attendant standing outside with a roll of toilet paper and some sort of cash container to collect money. You need to pay an Egyptian pound before entering the washroom. The attendant would give you a few strip of toilet paper. As with most public washrooms anywhere in the world, they were always not the best maintained facility. What makes it worse in Egypt was you still need to pay to use it. I was just so grateful that I had a reliable Sphincter ani externus that I did not have to use the public washroom to defecate.
Egypt October 2008
It was time to move on to another city. We grabbed our backpacks, checked out of the Salma Hotel, and headed for the train station in Cairo. Tonight we will be taking the overnight sleeper train to Luxor. Here we were on the station waiting for our train. It was loud and filled with lots of commuters. Each time a train stopped, I felt a bit more worried. Some of them were really in a bad condition.
The train finally arrived. This was where I slept for the night. It was not too bad. Better than what I have expected. I had to share the 2-berth compartment with a total stranger. I was hoping not to end up with some crazy guy. Fortunately, he was a soft-spoken Korean architect working in Angola and was spending his vacation traveling in Egypt all by himself. He is one brave man. We were served dinner and went straight to bed. I got to sleep on the bottom. I woke up early and went to the shared washroom down the hall. It was a challenge to brush my teeth and wash my face with the tiny sink while the train was moving. Water was splashing everywhere. The toilet was uninviting so I did not use it. It had a sign that says “Do not flush when train is not moving”. I thought it was probably safer to flush when the train was not moving. Later on I found out that flushing the toilet actually just drops the stuff out to the railroad track. So if the train was not moving, it was most likely stopping on a train station. Well we do not want those smelly stuff around the train station do we? We finished breakfast and finally arrived at Luxor.
Today we were going to see the Temple of Karnak. But before that we had to drop off our stuff in our cruise ship. This was the M/S Melodie. This was where we will be spending the next couple of days cruising along the Nile River. It was smaller compared with the other ships docked there. It was not as fancy too. But it was nice and cozy.
This was my room. It had a tiny washroom that was big enough for one person to stand in. We just had time to drop off our backpack and we were all ready to take the horse-drawn carriage to the Temple of Karnak.
Cairo/Luxor Egypt October 2008
I was really distracted when the Egyptologist was describing the mummification process. I just can not help but think that I was about to actually see The Great Sphinx up close and personal. All I remember was that all internal organs were removed from the corpse except the heart. The heart was important because it recorded all of the good and bad deeds of a person’s life and this was needed for judgment in the afterlife. The heart was weighed against the feather of truth. If the heart balanced with the feather, it meant the person had led a decent life and was worthy to live forever in paradise with Osiris. If not, then the person will suffer the complete death. I wonder how I would do with the weighing of the heart. Maybe I’d be better off being interrogated by St. Peter.
The Great Sphinx is probably the most recognizable sculpture in Egypt. It has a human head with a lion’s body. This magnificent work was built of soft sandstone and survived all these years since it was buried for so long. It is located close to the Pyramid of Khafre and Egyptologists believe that it functioned sort of like a scarecrow to guard the tomb.
Here is a closer picture of The Great Sphinx. Until now Egyptologists are unsure who the figure personify. Some say it was King Khafre and some believe that it was the face of his guardian deity. Notice that part of the uraues (sacred cobra), the nose and the ritual beard are missing. The crumbling of the statue were caused by wind, humidity and pollution. It is also believed that the nose was the unfortunate victim of target practice by the Turks during the Turkish period.
This was where most tourist would take those cheesy shots of kissing or punching The Great Sphinx. While everyone else took pictures repeatedly to get that perfect shot, I was just sitting there admiring The Great Sphinx. I remembered being fascinated when reading about it and looking at the pictures back in elementary school. Now I’m actually sitting here looking at it. It was just amazing.
This is another shot of The Great Sphinx with the body and the legs.
Finally it was time to leave Giza. The experience of getting scammed by an Egyptian boy while exploring the The Great Pyramid of Giza, the trek into the burial chamber of The Pyramid of Khafre and the up close encounter with The Great Sphinx will forever be considered as one of the most remarkable things I have done. I was so grateful for being able to just be there and experience it. One would think that the pyramids were in some far off desolate desert. But notice how urbanization is slowly creeping into the complex. I just hope that these great landmarks would stay for many more generations to experience.
Giza Egypt October 2008
The pyramids were built to house the remains of the deceased Pharoahs. The Egyptians believed that a portion of the Pharoah’s spirit, known as Ka, remained with his corpse. In order for the Pharoah to perform his new duties as the king of the dead, proper care of the remains was needed. Therefore various items made of clay, stone and gold such as furniture, food, doll-like represenation of servants were also placed in the pyramid. Also, the body of the king was embalmed and placed in the burial chamber for protection.
There are three main pyramids in Giza. On the left is the Great Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid of Cheops or the Pyramid of Khufu. It is the most popular, largest, tallest and most intact. In the middle is the Pyramid of Khafre also known as Pyramid of Chephren. It is somewhat smaller although it may appear larger because it was built on a more elevated location and with a steeper angle of inclination. On the right and the smallest of the three is the Pyramid of Menkaure also known as Pyramid of Mykerinos.
Here is a closer look at the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Khafre. Notice that most of the polished limestone covering or casing stones are gone except for the top portion of the Pyramid of Khafre. These were stolen by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century to build houses and Mosques in Cairo.
Entry to the Pyramid of Khufu was limited. They only allow a number of vistors a day. Unfortunately, when we arrived the tickets were all sold out. According to the Egyptologist, there are three chambers in this pyramid. The first one is below ground level which is the unfinished burial chamber and is inaccessible. Further up to the heart of the pyramid is the second chamber known as the Queen’s Chamber although it has nothing to do with a queen. It was used for storage. Further up is the third chamber which is the real burial chamber of King Khufu.
Fortunately, entry to the Pyramid of Khafre was unlimited. I was so excited waiting in line holding my ticket. There was not a long queue and it was constantly moving so I did not have to wait long to get in. There were two entrances. The visitors go in through the lower entrance which begins at about ground level. The passageway was not high enough, so most people would have to bend while walking down the descending passage. For a short while, the only thing I saw was the bum of the person in front of me. I started to feel a bit claustrophobic. After awhile the passage sort of levels out and then the passage started ascending until I got into the main burial chamber. It was stuffy and humid inside. I guess it had to do with the number of people in there sweating and breathing the same air. The only thing in the chamber was a black granite sarcophagus. At that point it just felt so surreal. I can not imagine that I was actually inside a pyramid’s burial chamber. I took a mental shot of the scene as cameras were not allowed. I could not remember the trek going back out as I was lost in another world. It was truly an amazing experience.
Later that night, the Egyptologist had a few drinks with some of us. He must have been drunk when he started telling a story about him taking his date inside the pyramid and ended up having sex in the burial chamber. I did not know how to make of it. It reminded me of a scene in The English Patient where Hana was lifted up by Kip with ropes and pulleys inside a darkened church, illuminated by flares, viewing Renaissance frescoes. It was sort of at that level of awesomeness and romantic. But when things started to register, it was more like creepy. Just imagine doing it in a cemetery or a mausoleum. What do you think?
Giza Egypt October 2008
As we were headed towards Giza, I started seeing a glimpse of the pyramid from my window. I got all excited and filtered out everything that the tour leader was saying. As soon as the van parked, we all got down and the Egyptologist gave a quick overview of Giza and the pyramids. We were then free to roam around the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as Pyramid of Khufu and Pyramid of Cheops) which is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in Giza.
As I walked towards the base of the pyramid, this Egyptian boy came up to me and offered a couple of what he claimed as precious stones as a gift. Ignorant with Egyptian culture I accepted the gift thinking that it would be impolite to decline. This was my first mistake. I should have listened to the tour leader when she warned about this.
After a short conversation, he managed to convince me to wear his turban and insisted on taking a picture of me. Second mistake, now he has my camera. He then led me to a corner of the pyramid where his dad and camel were waiting and took the picture.
Now both the dad and the boy were insisting that I should hop onto the camel. This was when I started to get really uncomfortable and told them that I can not because I was allergic to camels. They started to get frustrated and I just wanted to leave. We ended up taking this picture at the base of the pyramid with me forcing a smile. They returned my camera and asked for money. I returned the stones and told them that this was not right. They should not scam tourists and give Egypt a bad reputation. After what seemed like an endless argument I decided to give 10 Egyptian Pounds. The dad complained that it was too small while I walked away.
While on the van going to the next stop and thinking about the experience, I thought that it was good that this happened. Although the amount was minuscule, it was the principle behind the dirty business transaction that I was really against. It made me realized that I do not need to be nice at all times. I should learn to be more assertive if a situation requires it.
Giza Egypt October 2008
The Khan el-Khalili Bazaar is a must to visit when you are in Cairo even if you are not a big shopper. The experience itself of walking through the labyrinth of narrow streets with a Medieval atmosphere, getting lost in the crowd, and dealing with the aggressive merchants were all worth the visit.
The merchants were shouting out the products that they were selling in an attempt to get my attention. I kept shaking my head and gave my most disinterested look. Without feeling defeated, they would try to strike a conversation and would typically ask “Where are you from?”. The bystanders would guess “Japan”. I guess there’s not much Asian visitors here except the Japanese. I did not want to be impolite so I would answer and say “Canada”. They would answer back with “Canada Dry” or “Alaska”; the former is a ginger ale pop and the latter we all know is not part of Canada. The mischievous side of me was curious about what they would answer if I say some other place. There was this one time when they asked and I answered “Mongolia”. They all looked confused and I was able to move on to another shop. =) It was also common for the merchants to offer a drink of Hibiscus tea. This was their way to entice you to go into their shop hoping that you will end up buying their goods. Being a cynic, I did not accept any of the invitation. Looking back, I thought I should have been more open and trusting and it would have been a whole different experience.
The bazaar is famous for its unusual souvenirs and handmade crafts. I ended up getting a bust of King Tut for my niece. Keep in mind that the prices here are not fixed and remember to bargain to get the best price. I was able to get the bust for only E£30 down from E£70. Not bad for a novice haggler.
In front of the bazaar were cafes and restaurants serving typical Egyptian food and beverage. You can also get to try smoking Shisha here.
Al-Hussein Mosque is also located in this area. The mosque houses some very sacred items such as the oldest believed complete manuscript of the Qur’an
Cairo Egypt October 2008
The Mosque of Mohammad Ali Pasha was built in memory of Muhammad Ali’s oldest son Tusun Pasha. It was built between 1828 and 1848. It has a central dome surrounded by four semicircular domes and two Turkish type cylindrical minarets. It is situated on the summit of the Citadel of Salah al-Din which was a fortification built to defend Cairo from the crusaders back in the late 12th and early 13th century.
This Ottoman mosque is the largest to be built in the first half of the 19th century and is the most visible mosque in Cairo.
Here we sat in the courtyard as our tour guide explained the history and architecture of the mosque. Notice that we were all barefoot. This was required for all visitors. Dress code was quite strict. Since this is a religious place and knowing that men are sexual beings that can easily be tempted (thanks to Adam for the genes), women are required to cover their shoulders and legs. Men are also not allowed to wear shorts that do not cover their knees. I guess some men find other men’s knees quite sexy or maybe it’s the hair in the leg.
The mosque is nicknamed as the Alabaster Mosque for its exterior stone sheathing. This is the prayer room in the interior of the mosque with lofty ceilings and huge low-hanging globe-lamp chandeliers.
This is the brass clock tower which was presented to Muhammad Ali by King Louis Philippe of France in 1845. In return France received the obelisk of Luxor which now stands in Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Here’s another shot of the mosque.
Since the mosque is perched on the summit of the Citadel of Salah al-Din, we got to see a panoramic view of Cairo and a realization on the quality of air we were breathing.
Cairo Egypt October 2008
I have always been fascinated with ancient Egypt. Egypt has always been on the top of my list of places that I wanted to explore. I was finally able to go in October 2008.
My first stop was the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The museum contains over 120,000 artifacts of ancient Egypt. The main galleries were arranged in historical order, from Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, Modern Kingdom to Greek and Roman period. It would take days to fully explore the museum. I was able to get a good introduction with the limited time I had. The most popular section of the museum was the exhibit on the treasures found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. It was just amazing to have seen the famous funeral mask which was made of gold, the sarcophagus, and all the fine jewelries. The other highlight of the museum was the royal mummy room. This section required an extra fee but it was money well spent. Where else can you get a chance to see actual real mummies from ages ago? It was interesting to see strands of hair and teeth that were still intact. I was left in amazement. Too bad cameras were not allowed inside the museum. The pictures would have described the experience much better. I ended up taking these pictures from the outside of the museum.
Obelisk is a monolithic stone with a quadrangular base that is placed upright and having a pointed top. It symbolized the sun god Ra.
Notice that most statues have the left foot in front. The Egyptologist explained that this symbolized power, advancement and looking forward to the after life.
Cairo Egypt October 2008