What a packed day! It got up to about 37 degrees, but it was a dry heat. We started early and went to the Citadel – Saladin’s 12th century fort – to see what is referred to as the Alabaster Mosque and another older but less impressive one. We went onto the Coptic quarter to visit three fascinating churches – the ‘Hanging Church’ – which was built directly over the old Roman fort, as if to say, “We have out lived the Romans!” Next was St George’s, which had a museum including torture equipment used to solicit Christian faith! The last Church visited in the morning was referred to as the ‘Cavern’ church because it was built over a cavern where the Holy family stayed for three months after fleeing the wrath of Herod. This is one of twenty-six sites in Egypt which claim the family stayed there over the course of the three years there were on the run. We then went onto the Ben Ezra Synagogue – the only functioning one in Cairo. The story goes that the Christian church were in a bit of a bother over unpaid taxes and sold a church to Ben Ezra who turned it into a Synagogue. Another story goes that it was a lease for a hundred years – but no dated contract stating when the hundred years started has been found.
After a well-earned lunch we had the afternoon in Cairo Museum. Words fail to describe the overwhelming old-world charm and magnificence of this museum – the first ever built for the purpose of being a museum. It has over 100,000 items. Sherif our guide high-lighted a few items – including a stature of the builder of the 2nd Pyramid – they don’t how they were able to carve it out of the material with the tools available. We saw the copy of the Rosetta stone – the original is in the British Museum – the key to de-coding much of the ancient language of the Egyptians.
We arrived back at our hotel tired and hot and exhausted but with a sense of gratitude for a wonderful day.
After a gruelling long flight from Melbourne to Dubai, followed by a more pleasant flight to Cairo our travelling group of nine (Conrad, Ian, Robert, Judy, Daniel, Lewis, Carole, Janet and yours truly) have been warmly welcomed to Egypt. We were expertly shepherded through Cairo airport by Kerrid to be met outdoors by our tour guide Sherif. The drive from the airport to the hotel took us through the Presidential area of Heliopolis. We passed the sprawling Dead city cemetery to be amazed to learn that people live here among the tombs of the ancestors. 24 million people call Cairo their home! (Population of Egypt is 97 million). To house so many people we saw what Sherif called ‘Randoms’. These are towering apartment blocks built on any spare bit of land. Some are so close to each other that you could probably reach out and shake hands with your neighbour across the gap. There is one colour in Cairo and that is ‘mud brown.’
Other sights on the journey to the hotel included the impressive Citadel build by Saladin in the tenth century. We crossed the Nile into Giza and caught a tantalising glimpse of the Pyramids before turning into our hotel for the next two nights – aptly named the Oasis Hotel. It boosts lush green gardens and a spectacular pool. A relaxing place to recharge the batteries before heading to the Cairo Museum and the Coptic Quarter tomorrow.
A group of nine hardy souls will be taking the trip of a lifetime beginning on Friday 31 August in Cairo. I will be posting a regular blog about our adventures, along with pics! After this trip I head off straight away to the UK to join the Australian Welsh Male Choir as we embark on a three-week tour culminating in the London Welsh Choir Festival at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 13 October. Check in for up dates.