22.11.2011 - 22.11.2011 18 °C
Well I had a great day today.. no being cooped up in my room watching crappy movies, I was able to get out and about in Cairo thanks to our ex-guide Sam! Today was Koreena’s last day and she wasn’t keen to come out with us as she had a day spa appointment (which it turned out she missed because she wasn’t feeling well).
Sam took me out and about with first stop being back in the old part of Cairo (where I had been earlier with the tour group). My main reason for returning to this part of Cairo was so that I could go and buy some old style photographs that were taken back before the first world war (before Cairo became the metropolis it is today!) Rather than take a cab to get to the old part of town we caught the Cairo metro! Cairo has probably one of the world’s smallest metros but I guess anything is better than nothing! The metro only has two lines both of which go right thru the middle of town and thru Tahrir Square… Believe it or not, the authorities have not closed down the metro stop for Tahrir Square so this is the stop where we changed trains from our line to the other line to get to the old part of town! I have to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about getting off at the Tahrir Square stop but Sam didn’t seem concerned and we really had no reason to worry! Plenty of men were getting off at this stop (probably to join their brethren up stairs) so the actual platforms were quite empty! The surprising thing about the metro is the fact that women have the option to ride in their own carriages on the train!! (now considering how busy the train network here is it seems a little unfair.. however, men really do treat their women like special prizes that need to be looked after.. it is quite nice to see that a lot of our old western gallantry is very much alive and well here in the Mid East—unlike home!!)
We hopped off the metro at the old part of town and went a touring! I really had no plan as I just wanted to wander about freely and soak up the old world charm of Cairo (and do anything other than sit in my hotel room for another day!) We went for a walk into the Church of St George (this huge Romanesque round church that I didn’t go in the other day). It is a Greek Orthodox church and must have been something else at some stage in the past as it doesn’t resemble any GO church I’ve been in before! The church is octagonal in shape so that the altar piece is up one side of the room with the congregation to be seated in a semi circle.
We continued our wander and entered this ultra cool, one stop shop for Egyptian souvenirs.. We discovered everything from a replica of King Tut’s throne, thru to chess sets complete with pharaohs.. you name it and this souvenir store sells it!! A big warehouse of useless dust collecting crap! We finished our tour with me getting done buying some old photos.. Although, can you class it as getting done if it’s something you really want?? I think the answer to that question by the way is YES but who cares?
From Old Cairo, Sam took me across town to see the Kan al Khalilli bazaar. The bazaar is one of the oldest in the world and rivals the bazaar in Damascus and Istanbul as one of the oldest! Unlike the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul the Kan al Khalilli is an outside market place and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful Arabic architecture I have yet seen. Rather than spend time shopping for more useless stuff I don’t need, Sam took me to see some really beautiful buildings and mosques. In particular, we entered one of the oldest mosques in Cairo (albeit a non-working mosque) and saw some unforgettably beautiful stained glass windows and mosaics.. The mosque is so beautiful and I actually felt disappointed for people of the Islamic faith that they no longer worshipped in such beautiful surrounds!!
We also entered a traditional Egyptian house (now a museum) to see more beautiful architecture. It actually reminded me of one of the James Bond movies (a Roger Moore—can’t recall the name of the movie).. in one scene Bond enters this Sheeshah den come bar and has a fight with a goon who is thrown thru one of those beautiful wooden shutters?? If you remember you’ll understand what this building looked like! Heaps of small rooms partitioned and framed by beautiful timber shutters! Sam told me that this type of building is almost non-existent today and that the art to making the shutters has almost disappeared… Very sad!
We ended our jaunt around Cairo having some Shawarma for lunch (Egyptian Doner Kebab) before heading back to the hotel to say goodbye to Koreena before she heads out to the airport for her flight to Uganda… Another one of my travel buddies bites the dust! I also said good bye and thank you to Sam as I plan to spend tomorrow in the hotel doing my blog and catching up on some zzzs before I head to Amman for the start of my Jordanian and Israeli trip!