Africa,  Cairo,  Egypt,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Day 12 in Egypt: Visit of Islamic Cairo

Today is our last day in Egypt. Good things go by quickly, too quickly

Reminder: if you haven’t done so yet, please read our previous travel diaries in Egypt first: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10 and 11

We look at the Sphinx one last time during breakfast from the terrace of the hotel. We are going to miss this place a lot, despite the chaos, the noise, the pollution..

Today’s program is very simple: wander around Islamic Cairo. All our suitcases are kept in the car with the driver and JB just walks around with our most precious belongings in a backpack (computers, passports…)

I admit that visiting the center of Cairo interests me moderately. But the plane leaves only at 6:55 pm. I’m still curious to see what it looks like, especially since Mohammed’s feast took place yesterday. Today is a holiday and everyone will come to the mosque (the holiday can be before, during or after the Prophet’s birthday)

We are deposited in front of a large gate called Bab al-Futuh . Bab al-Futuh is one of the three remaining gates within the walls of the old city of Cairo, Egypt. It was completed in 1087 and faces north. It stands at the northern end of Muizz Street

As always, there is a check point (which consists in asking how many tourists there are, they sleep in which hotel). But there it does not pass. The guide must give him a tip. He will explain us later that we do not have the permission paper (?) which declares the program of visit today. As the guide does not speak French very well, we aren’t sure to understand well, that seems surprising all the more as we cross tourists who do not seem to have a guide

We know that there is an authorization paper if we travel from one city to another by car. But here we come on foot, from Giza, just next door. I still didn’t understand

Masjid Al Hakim

We enter a first Masjid Al Hakim mosque which is unfortunately under construction, we will only see the courtyard. It suffers from the comparison with those we saw in Istanbul. But we cannot compare Constantinople with Cairo anyway. In any case the mosques here emphasize the courtyards while those in Istanbul put pennies in the domes inside

We go along a very nice street (The street is called Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatmi if you are interested). All along this street there are mosques, an old hammam, museums. It’s like an open and living museum

Another small mosque(al-Aqmar Mosque). People pray all the time even if it isn’t prayer time. Of course I have to cover myself by putting a scarf over my head. Everybody has to take off their shoes. The warden only asks for tips from strangers. We gave him 5 pounds. Business is business, even in places of worship

Look we aren’t going to give you more information than that because our guide has not been very useful to us except for walking around with us. When he speaks we don’t understand very well either. But we are well there, walking quietly. I notice the glances on us but that did not stress me as much as in Daraw I do not know why. In spite of the chaos, everyone seems benevolent, zen and smiling

We visit a large mosque right during the prayer hour. We hurry to go around and leave immediately because we feel that we aren’t welcome during the prayer. In any case it is a very peaceful and very beautiful place. It makes you want to sit on the clean and cool floor in the courtyard

Back to the small streets now. We go to the souk but not wanting to buy anything, we just watch the others buy

We end up in front of the Al Hussein Mosque. It is considered one of the most sacred Islamic sites in Egypt. And as it is a holiday following the birthday of the prophet, the whole city seems to meet here. Our guide is still young and he does not realize one basic safety rule: do not lose sight of the tourists. He brings us to the entrance behind the mosque and that’s it, we don’t see him anymore

Despite the chaos and a crowd around us, I sincerely feel neither oppressed nor worried. I found the experience amusing. We do not enter the mosque. It is still their party, we aren’t going to make our tourists curious. But so many people on this square, it made me happy. It is an authentic and pleasant experience

We then have lunch at the Naguib Malfouz, a restaurant recommended by the Routard. Everybody spends time at the café but as we were warned by our former guide (on the boat), we asked to be in the restaurant and not the café. To taste the famous stuffed pigeon that we like so much. JB takes the opportunity to eat the Om Ali dessert that he missed when he was sick on the boat. We are delighted with the quality of the dishes. We paid within 560 pounds for two drinks included. It’s expensive for Egypt but it’s worth it

Around this restaurant is the souk for tourists. It’s nicer and unsgrammable but it’s not the same products (too many souvenirs here)

On this, very tired, we ask to be dropped off at the airport while we still had an hour in front of us

Look at the red mini buses, it’s the local bus. The destination is written in Arabic and people get on and off like in a public bus. Money passes from hand to hand to the driver. I have observed several local buses, women also get on but often they are accompanied

Speaking of women, they are all veiled in Cairo, even the children. Clothes are less traditional or even tighter than in small Egyptian cities, but discretion remains the watchword. For the moment, I only see unveiled tourists. They aren’t looked at sideways, on the contrary

People say hello to tourists and thank them for coming to Egypt. The welcome is flowing, the smiles too. Frankly as I told you, I feel good. Then, if I was alone, would it have been the same? I don’t know

This is the end of our trip to Egypt. Thank you for following us. I will complete the articles with crisp details and tips later. As I write them “warm”, I may forget some details. To read and reread all the articles about Egypt, click here

To find out more about our overall budget for these 12 wonderful days, click here

To sum up, you really have to come to Egypt. When we talk about going to Egypt, the question of security quickly arises. Obviously the zero risk does not exist, we sadly learned it in France these last years, but we never felt unsafe and tourist places are very watched

There is something magical in Egypt, something inexplicable. You will see it when you are there. Come here, they need you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *