This weekend’s adventure took us Old Cairo. This stretch of Cairo has many different mosques, museums and beautiful structures to look at.
We started our day at the Ibn Tulun Mosque. When we entered the man working at the front put booties over our shoes. They were like the blue ones that you would find in a hospital or the dentist if you live in Sheik Zayed. My guess is we had to wear them try to keep the mosque as clean as possible. Which I think that’s a great idea, after all this is the largest and oldest mosque in Egypt. The first stop we made was the bathroom. I’m pretty sure it was a communal bathroom since when we walked in the urinals were on the wall and then there were individual stalls with doors on the side. Now a rule in Egypt is to always have tissue with you because most of the time the bathrooms do not have any toilet paper. This especially important for girls, obviously. The next rule concerning bathroom usage is to be prepared to hold it because you might just have to walk right out of the bathroom because it’s so gross. This has not happened to me yet and I’ve went in some really questionable bathrooms. If you gotta go, you gotta suck it up and go. Now today the bathrooms were clean but there was a new situation awaiting me – the lack of the toilet. Yes, there was basically just a hole in ground. But I’m not complaining by any means – a clean bathroom with no toilet beats most bathrooms in general here.
Enough about bathrooms – let’s move on to walking around the mosque. As I was walking around looking at the architecture and all the detail that was put into building this structure it amazes me to think that it was all done with out the tools and machines of today.
Second stop was a house that they have turned into a museum, the Gayer Anderson Museum. Robert Gayer-Anderson was a British officer, who lived in the house in the 1930’s and restored the entire house using different cultures influence to decorate. The house was large and had many different levels. Inside there was artwork, craftsmanship, and many different architectural images to look at.
To continue our journey we decided to walk to see more medieval time mosques and buildings. We headed toward the north gate and walked through the market place and streets were all the vendors were set up selling various items. As you walk through the streets each section is selling a different item. The first section we went through was general items and food. Then we came to the tent makers. As we walked through here there were fabulous colored fabrics to look at as well as hand made sewn blankets, rugs and tapestries. There were also shoe makers and repairs. The last section was filled with jewelry – gold and silver.
Once we entered the medieval part of Cairo we were once able to look at amazing architecture among buildings and mosques. This part is know as the the Khan a Kililli. These vendors are more geared toward tourists and are selling more Egyptian like tourist items. One thing that I noticed right away was that the vendors were speaking much more English as we passed them. All day we were greeted with nothing but warm hellos and welcome to Egypt. To the locals as they see us walking around they assume we are here visiting and wish us a welcome. Even though we live here we are still visiting in the country as well as trying to experience and see all we can while we are here, so the hello’s and welcome’s are nice to hear. My biggest concern walking through the market and Khan was the worry of how are all of the business surviving? Tourism plays a major part to Egypt and with it being down I really wonder how everyone is able to stay open? There are many skilled workers such as tent makers, jewelers, shoe makers, etc that their trade is going unused. I can only hope that things will turn around sooner than later.
To end out trip we stopped for dinner at Blackstone Cafe in Zamalek. Blackstone is an American cafe with great food. On the way there all I was hoping for was an ice tea. Well Blackstone did one better – mint cinnamon iced tea, it was amazing!
Later skaters –