Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cairo, Egypt, Part II

On our last day in Egypt, we saw the Citadel, an enclosure in the district of Islamic Cairo where many past rulers of post-pharonic Egypt lived. Part of the Citadel is a huge mosque where the prophet of Islam, Muhommed Ali is entombed. We were slightly disappointed that the mosque (and many others in Cairo) are in disrepair, needing a good cleaning and a lot of lightbulbs replaced.

We also visited the National Police Museum where we read about famous murders and assassinations in Egypt’s history.

Many sections of the Citadel were closed for restoration so we decided to move along to one of the largest mosques in Cairo, Ibn Tulun. We paid a bit of baksheesh (tips) and were allowed to climb the minaret, which can be likened to the steeple of a church. This is where the speakers that announce Islamic calls to prayer are placed in order to achieve maximum distribution of sound. Muslims are called to prayer five times a day, starting with sunrise and ending with sunset.

The view from the Ibn Tulun minaret unimpressive at best. Cairo is very crowded and dirty and many of the building are almost in ruins despite the fact that many people are living them. The rooftops and spaces between buildings are crammed with garbage and seeing the filth made me wish I was home in Madison.

We stopped for lunch at the hole-in-the-wall Egyptian Pancake house, where we had our first taste of Egyptian fiteers – baked phyllo dough stuffed with whatever you desire – cheese, mushrooms, olives, powdered sugar, raisins, jam and more. They were definitely greasy and reminded us of a cross between pizza and a thin pastry.

After lunch we headed to Khan al-Khalili, Cairo’s famous souk. The souk was different from other souks we had visited because it was like a labyrinth, with many narrow, winding passageways instead of one large street. Because we’d already done most of our shopping we picked up a few last minute items but mostly just browsed. We did have a nice shopkeeper take us to an off-the-beaten-path gold factory where all the gold from the souk is made. Eva bought a couple silver charms and got a great deal on them. Plus the guys polished our rings that we already have so they're nice and shiny. It was fun to see where all the jewelry that we've been seeing is made:

We also got henna tattoos on our hands which are supposed to last for a month, but we’ll see. It’s not like we’ll be going back to the shop to complain if it doesn’t!

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in a beauty parlor because I wanted to get my legs waxed. I was taken to the upstairs, women-only floor where I sat in my underwear in front of seven non-English speaking women. The waxing procedure itself was very rustic – a ball of wax was heated up over a candle and then spread on my legs and pulled off quickly. Not very glamorous, but it got the job done! It also cost about one tenth of the price it would have in the United States.

We met Tyler back at the hotel and ate kushari (Egyptian takeout), cakes from the bakery next door, and a selection of Egyptian beers. It was cheap, but definitely hit the spot for our last dinner in Egypt.

This morning, we had to wake up at 4am to get to the airport for our flight home. Right now, Eva and I are sitting in a coffee shop in the Heathrow Airport writing this on my laptop. By the time I have internet access to put this online, we’ll already be safely home.


Blair said...

Kelly, I'm Tyler's brother. Writing from Beverly Hills. He's really lucky to have met up with you guys to hit up the pyramids and send those great pix home. I've got one of him on a camel as my desktop background.

Thanks for the digital love!

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