Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
October 1, 2003
The best is to combine this walk with visits to either Ibn Tulun and Sultan Hassan or the Citadel. After viewing Sultan Hassan, you walk right next door and see the more modern Mosque of al-Rafai. Not as magnificent as its neighbor, Sultan Hassan, al-Rafai is still a fabulous piece of architecture, especially on the inside where the remains of the Shah of Iran and others are housed. From al-Rifai, proceed north up Muizz ad-Din Allah Street. The street is one giant market, full of people selling everything you could imagine. On one side are olives, fruit, and a kushari stand, on the other side you’ll find people selling dish detergent in plastic bags, wig sellers, or people selling used plumbing pieces. The street is rather narrow, and at first you may find it hard weaving yourself in at out of the constant rush of people in both directions, but don’t be deterred, and keep moving on. One of the things that makes this walk great is that unlike the Khan, tourists rarely frequent this place. You most likely will not see another one during your whole walk, and the upside to that is that you won’t have every single shopkeeper yelling out jumbled phrases in English, German, French, or whatever language it is they happen to know. This street is dressed up for tourists like the Khan is, it is where real Egyptians go to shop, and thus you will find that almost nobody speaks English, so it would be wise to learn a few Arabic words and numbers before venturing on to Muizz ad-Din. You likely will not find much that you want to buy on the street, save for some delicious olives, but it still is a fantastic experience.
The real joy of the walk, though, comes when you hit Shaaria al-Mukhayameen, Street of the Tentmakers. This is the only covered bazaar left in Cairo, and it is filled with artisans who have mastered the art of appliqué. I highly suggest you peruse some of the shops and look at the marvelous works of calligraphy created by the artisans. They make wonderful souvenirs. The Street of the Tentmakers ends at Bab az_Zuweila, the only remaining southern gate of the old city. Here you can hop into Mosque of Al-Muayyad, and climb the minaret to get a great view. After admiring the view head back down and complete the short walk to Khan el-Khalili where you can indulge those shopping instincts.
From journal Islamic Cairo: Go beyond the Pyramids
December 25, 2002
The streets were dirty and wet. Taking into account that it never rains in Cairo, you can easily guess where the water came from. Cars don’t drive here and the life goes on literally on the streets. Men are siting in the coffee-houses, watching old TVs, socialising, and playing dominos, the favourite pastime of Egyptian men. A young carpenter is making a bed, another craftsman is making some kitchenware. And all this directly on the streets. The work doesn’t seem to be tedious, there is always time to have a cup of coffee with a neighbour or have a chat with a passing friend. There is time for everything, and I was taking my time exploring this hidden place.
There were many moments, that I wanted to capture on these streets, but most of all people. Unfortunately, most of the times this was impossible. Egyptians that stick to their old traditions usually fear to be photographed because of religious reasons. On the other hand, you might find many people, especially kids, who absolutely loved to pose. In any case, before making a picture, I had to ask every time for permission. I was refused most of the times (What a contrast to the pyramids, where photos with local people are done easily for a small bakshish!). At the end I gave up, and have hidden my camera.
This was the time when I regretted the most not speaking Arabic. The place is not frequented by tourists, and local people do not speak foreign languages. There is no hassle and pleas for "bakshish" (tip), that annoy around tourist attractions and make you forget the famous Arabic hospitality. There is no harassment of men, who treat each Western woman as easy, or offer you thousands of camels, traditional gift to a bride. Here everything is strikingly different from the tourist Cairo. This was the other Cairo, and surprisingly, I felt myself invisible. Traditionally clad man were avoiding looking at me. Only one small boy was following me with interest. But when I decided to buy him sweets, he shyly (or maybe proudly?) refused. Only once, when I was standing confused not knowing which street to choose, did I realise, that I was surreptitiously observed: all people started waving into one direction, as if they knew what was on my mind. Of course, this was the way to a mosque.
From journal Veiled face of Cairo
July 25, 2002
The vast courtyard is spacious (covering over 6 acres) and a covered arcade encircles it. There is no imagery on the surfaces, just stark and simple patterns, emphasized by the rhythmic repetition of elements. There is a good amount of gypsum decoration on the surfaces along with some lacy stonework.
You can reach the top of the minaret, entered from the outside of the mosque, by climbing the distinctive exterior wraparound staircase for interesting views of the city. You will need to remove your shoes in respect of Muslim traditions, and you may need to ask a gatekeeper to allow access to the tower.
From journal Bill in Egypt - CAIRO
March 1, 2002
The mosques were beautiful and unique. I found myself preferring to look at the artistic architectural details, absorbing the mosques visually, instead of listening to our guide describe each pattern on the ceiling, walls, dome, stairway and ablution area. At one ablution area, we sat for an hour listening to such details. Information overload. I found myself tuning out. (It didn't help that our tour zipped through lunch. No food or water in that hot sun until 4pm made me a little dehydrated and crazy.)
We spent most of our time at the Citadel, a fortress perched high on a hill overlooking Cairo. This walled complex housed those who ruled Egypt from 12th to 19th century. It contains three mosques and several small museums. Mohammed Ali was the last ruler to live in the complex, and his palace and mosque dominate the structures. Inside his Diamond Palace, his throne and furnishings still exist from 1811. The large reception room where Ali invited 500 of his allies, then slaughtered them after a celebration feast can be seen--even the massive wooden benches that concealed the weapons.
The Mosque of Mohammed Ali, built in 1830, was gorgeous. The interior (Prayer Hall) had elaborate patterns and decorations on the ceiling, which included five huge domes, fifteen smaller domes, and 365 lanterns. Expansive red carpet invited us to sit, relax and appreciate the beauty. Locals were seen praying on their rugs along one wall. The spacious courtyard outside contains an ornate ablution fountain, where Muslims carefully wash each body part prior to going inside to pray.
Mosque of Sultan En-Nasir, also located in the Citadel, dates from 1318. The most impressive feature of this mosque was it's unique wooden ceiling from India.
Next we visited Mosque of Ibn Tulun, on Kadri Street. Built in 876, it is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. This one looked and felt old. I liked the rather simplistic style and quietness that permeated through the massive limestone structures. No tourists here either. Just one person praying in a sun-filled courtyard decorated with colored, patterned tiles.
Hours are generally from 8-5, but visitors are not be allowed during the five prayer times each day, including a two hour block Friday afternoons. Admission to the Citadel was 20 pounds and 6 pounds for other mosques.
From journal Honeymoon in Cairo