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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

CAIRO, OLD AND NEW

 
Rooftop View
 


Minaret
 


Park
 
What about Cairo? Did I feel any danger there? In spite of the two revolutions and the pending elections at the time I was there, and the spate of unfavorable media coverage about Egypt, travel warnings from embassies, that has diminished their tourism by 90%, I felt absolutely no sense of danger. In fact, there was good security in place everywhere. And what impressed me so much was the people. I have never met such gracious, generous, friendly people anywhere before. Young, old, men, women and children approached me and my travel companions on the street with smiles. “Welcome! Where are you from? Welcome to Egypt!”  You know the saying “Walk like an Egyptian?” Now I know what it means. These are proud people, open and friendly, who walk with a noble stance, proud of their country and heritage and greet you with welcoming smiles.

Linda and some lovely young ladies in Old Cairo
 
The only real ‘danger’ I felt in Cairo was the traffic. They drive like maniacs, weaving in and out with no regard for lanes or right of way, always with their hands on the horns blaring their way through the chaos. I learned not to look out the front of the van window after several heart-stopping moments. Our driver, Magdi, was an expert and managed to get us everywhere safely. I’d highly recommend the services on land and river offered by the Escapade Travel who offer professional, friendly service.  www.escapadetravel.com.eg

Cairo is the capital of Egypt, and the largest city in the Middle East with a population of about 7 million people. Of course there are areas of the city that look run-down. One area in particular with blocks and blocks of half-finished apartments that we were told were part of the corruption, and built on land not designated to be developed for housing. And of course we didn’t see everything, just a glimpse.
 
River View

Cairo’s modern ‘downtown’ is on the east bank of the Nile. It was built under the influence of French architects and there are many beautiful mosques as well as Copic sights to see. There are other more affluent suburbs of the city. On the west bank of the river are the great Giza pyramids and farther south the archaeological sites of Memphis and Saqqara.
 
It isn’t a city that I, as a female solo traveler, would want to venture to although I recently met a Canadian woman who has been teaching there for seven years and loves it. I’d certainly not hesitate to return to this marvelous country in the company of a tour group. A couple of people in our group did go out exploring one night to Tahrir Square which was the focal point of the revolution against former president Hosni Mubarak, and today is the usual place for demonstrations. (Usually on Fridays, we were told by the Egyptologist, because that is a ‘day off’ in Egypt.)  They took a taxi and wandered around, went to a restaurant for dinner and back to the hotel. No problem.
Tahrir Square

My room at the Fairmont Nile City was on the 19th floor overlook the river so it was quite relaxing to enjoy the beautiful view and pleasant surroundings. There was a lot to do in the hotel including the relaxing lobby where you could order drinks and snacks and watch a large video screen of musicians playing that gave the feeling they were right there in person. The service at the hotel was superb and the staff most congenial and friendly.  There is a pool on the roof of the hotel where I spent one afternoon swimming and tanning.  There is also a spa and fitness centre, casino, exquisite dining rooms, bars, movies and shopping area.  www.fairmont.com
Sunset View from my 19th floor room
 
 
Very cozy accomodations
 

Treats left in my room

 
Relaxing before dinner
 
 
The music video in the lobby
 
 
Desserts!

A tastey seafood appetizer plate

All kinds of seafood

and desserts!
 

 
The chefs
Rooftop Pool
We were taken on several excursions while in Cairo. Of course the main interest for me was the Egyptian Museum located right near Tahrir Square.  This was the only place I really noted a big army presence but it was all very unobtrusive, parked on the little side street by the museum. During the revolution in 2011 people broke into the museum and stole some of the precious artifacts as well as damaging others. So there is a lot of security at the museum. It contains the world’s most extensive collection of paranoiac antiquities. I saw the King Tut exhibit when it was in Seattle but those treasurers were insignificant compared to what you will see on display here:  magnificent golden chariots, precious jewelry, and countless other incredible treasures as well as coffins, mummies and other artifacts from prehistoric through the Roman periods The museum houses approximately 160,00 objects in total.  We were told they plan to build a new museum so that more of the treasures can be displayed.



In Old Cairo we visited several churches including the oldest Greek Orthodox Church and the Ben Ezra Synagogue which dates from the 9th century and is the oldest Jewish place of worship in Egypt. We also visited the 4th century Hanging Church which is built on the bastions of the ancient Roman wall and ‘suspended’ above the level of the Nile.  In one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt we entered the crypt-like area below where there is a small room that is supposed to have been where Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus found shelter when they fled to Egypt.  Old Cairo also had an excellent bazaar for buying souvenirs, some very expensive and others modestly priced including furniture and jewelry.


Greek Orthodox Church



The Hanging Church
 




Jewish carving on door lintel
 

 Synagogue
 
 Bazaar

We stayed in Cairo for three days and visited several other important sites outside the city including Giza and the sphinx, Memphis and Saqqara.

NEXT: Giza and the Magnificent Sphinx.

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