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, United Kingdom
April 21, 2004
Every mosque that we entered was ‘free,’ but all expected a donation when you went to retrieve your shoes on exit (there are no shoes to be worn inside). It’s therefore important to keep some smaller notes on you, as on one occasion I only has EGP 20 and expecting change certainly isn’t the norm.
The main mosque within Cairo is the Al Azhar mosque, which is featured on the 50 plasters note. On our way to this mosque, we stumbled upon a much newer mosque, which we mistook for the Al Azhar. This mosque is across the road and, while impressive from the outside, is less so on the inside. You’ll know when you have found the Al Azhar mosque by the magnificent marble courtyard inside.
For a change, we decided to have a guide and he was excellent. His English was excellent, as was his knowledge of the mosque. As is the custom, the guide was also ‘free,’ but our tip was warmly received.
You may wish to time your visit so you either miss or catch one of their times for prayer. Prayers are held five times daily. Friday is the most holy day and the mosque may be closed to tourists.
From journal Round The World -- Destination 1 Cairo
December 25, 2002
My most pleasant memories are associated with the Sarghatmish Medersa. I’ve seen a few of mosques by now, but this time it was something special. I wanted to get some information about this place and therefore addressed a man, who seemed to work there. He showed me around the open courtyard, the mosques and study rooms. He also invited me to climb the minaret, something I assumed was forbidden for non-Muslims. The view from above was astonishing. The skyline of Cairo was pierced with lean minarets. I was allowed to take pictures of the mosque yard from above (before, when I was down, it was forbidden). I also took a few photos of another mosque, bigger but simpler one, that was located very close. Only later back home I’ve learned that this other mosques was the famous Mosque of Ibn Tulun, one of the biggest and oldest in the world.
My guide was a very pleasant man, even though he couldn’t tell me much because of his poor English. When I was leaving the mosque I decided to give him bakshish (tip). Very often bakshish constitutes a sizeable amount of income in Egypt. Knowing this I felt responsibility to be generous now and then. This was the first time, however, that I wanted to do it not because of the sense of duty but pure generosity. But the man rejected it. This made me feel like a welcomed guest, rather then a tourist.
From journal Veiled face of Cairo