Vacation 2013 - Egypt & Greece, Day 5 "Discovering the Religious Side of Cairo"

Sunday, April 28, 2013 – Day 5

Today was our day of exploring Cairo - and its horrendous traffic.  

 We were still bemused by all the sights as we drove around the city. Hey, that's one way to transport a camel, right?!
Cairo is one of the most polluted cities in the world, so we were often viewing the city through a filter of smog. In the distance, we started to make out the Mosque of Muhammad Ali at the Citadel.

It was even more impressive up close.

Allah (God) in Arabic
We removed our shoes before entering and then took a seat on the carpeted floor while Maha talked to us about the Islamic faith and shared some of her personal beliefs with us. 

Cairo is such a sprawling city - so much of it is made invisible by the smog.

We then made our way over to the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar to do some shopping.

In the bazaar - and in Egyptian commerce in general - bargaining is expected.  Here is one of the places where we were most grateful for Maha's company.  Going in, she told us that if there was something we wanted, let her know and she would do the talking and negotiating. Basically, you're not supposed to accept the base price of ANYTHING here.  If you do, you're just perceived as a gullible tourist and the shopkeepers will take advantage of you. I much prefer our good old American fixed prices system and found this rather tiresome.   

Here is a quick video of Maha doing some haggling for us.  

And this was just haggling for a magnet! I probably would have bought more if it wasn't for this practice. As we made our way out of the bazaar, a merchant called to us, "I'm not sure what you are looking for, my friend, but I'm sure I have it!" :) 

Next was another "sales stop." We went to this Papyrus Museum where we were shown how papyrus is made and then given time to browse the shop. They create artwork from the original Cyperus plant, and there was a variety of scenes displayed on papyrus of various sizes. We bought a smaller piece of papyrus art, and then Maha took us a couple of stores down to a perfume factory. We were given different scented oils to try, but these were very pricey and we managed to stand our ground and not get suckered into buying something we didn't want.   

 We ate lunch at the buffet-style Soiree.  Lots of cool foods to try here. 

 Onwards to Coptic Cairo, a part of old Cairo with many Coptic churches and historical sites.  The Copts are the native Christians of Egypt. Coptic Cairo was a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt until the Islamic era, though most of the current churches in Coptic Cairo were built after the Muslim conquest of Egypt. It is believed that the Holy Family visited this area and stayed at the site of Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, the entry to which is depicted in the top picture below. 
It was insanely crowded everywhere in this area because it was Palm Sunday, the week before the Orthodox Easter.  We weren't even able to go in the church when we first passed by it, but on the way back, the crowd had thinned out some, so we made our way in to stand where the Holy Family had once stood. 

Our last stop was the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities - another place where we were not allowed to take any pictures. There was much to see here, but the highlight was the contents of King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

On the drive back, we marveled at the Arab billboards for products we recognized like Sprite and 'Arab' Idol while we questioned the sanity of Egyptian drivers and the soundness of their traffic laws.

We took some time to wander around the hotel grounds one final time and made our way back over to the hidden viewing area for the pyramids. 

For our last night, we ordered room service - we had a sampler platter and some gorgeous desserts. 


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