’We don’t need a guide, thank you’.
’I’d rather’, he made a gesture as if cutting his throat, ‘than ask you for money. Besides I’m not a guide, I’m a student’.
He now pushed a card under my nose and read it out to me: Cairo University 2000-2001. ‘It’s my old card’.
Yes, I could see that. The only Arabic I can read are the numbers. He turned out his pockets, ‘I must have left this year’s card at home’.
I smile at my husband. I’m sure this card is real, but I can’t read it. He may well be a cleaner and this is his authorisation to enter the university. But does it matter? We are on our way to the Citadel. Our new friend follows us closely pointing out things, it’s difficult to get rid of him, so we allow him to follow us.
The view from the Citadel is stunning. Below me I can see all of Islamic Cairo in the distance the pyramids of Giza. Only on clear days you can see them. Most of the time Cairo is covered by a hazy blanket of smog, caused by dense traffic, exhaust fumes, 18.000.000 people in Cairo, it’s unbelievable.
The citadel is perched on a hill above Midan Salah ad-Din. There are three mosques and several museums.
Opening hours: 8am–5pm winter/6pm summer. The museums close at 4:30pm. Entrance fee is 20 Egyptian pounds (4 euros). There is a separate entrance fee for each of the museums. If you want to take photos you must buy a photo permit.
In the Police Museum, you can see the assassination room, with a series of photos and captions showing the attempt on president Nasser’s life.
The Gawhara Palace and Museum shows costumes and scenes from court life in the 19th century. Some of the rooms have been reconstructed to show what they must have been like when Mohamed Ali lived here in the 18th century. Mohamed Ali rose to power after Napoleon’s French army had left.
National Military Museum here you can see ceremonial costumes and a scale model of the citadel. But why would you like to see this when you can see the real thing?
Carriage Museum contains some 19th century horse drawn carriages.
The Mohamed Ali Mosque looks like a Turkish mosque and reminded me vaguely of the Aya Sphia in Istanbul. This is the mosque with the two slender minarets.
None of these museums or mosques were particularly interesting. But the view over the city is worth going to the citadel.
We now wanted to continue our walk and who was waiting for us at the gate? Yes, our ‘friend’.
’Goodbye, and thank you’.
’Money’, he begged.
’I thought you’d rather’ I made a gesture as if slit my throat . . . .