Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cairo, Egypt

Things are a little crazy and busy around here these days, but I wanted to finish telling you all about my trip to Egypt!

We spent the following day touring the city of Cairo. The main attraction of the day was the Cairo Museum. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the museum so I will have to tell you about the highlights.I must first remind you that I am not into museums at all (which probably goes with the fact that I was not into history). There are only a few museums that I have truly enjoyed visiting. This was one of them. The Egyptian Museum is home to the most extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world and was built in 1901. It has 120,000 items...yeah, it is huge!

I really enjoyed the King Tut exhibit! Part of this exhibit also came to Memphis back in the 80s. King Tut died in mid-January 1343 BC. It is thought that an official murdered him because his skull was bashed in and only a person of great importance could get near enough to harm him. I believe he was only 18 years old when he died.

The majority of the world has come to know the tomb of King Tutankhamun better than any royal tombs because unlike the others, it was found mostly intact. Inside the tomb was a large collection of artifacts used throughout the King’s life. These artifacts range from a decorated chest, which was most likely used as a closet or suitcase, to ivory and gold bracelets, necklaces, and other decorative jewelry, to alabaster vases and flasks. The tomb is also home to many weapons and instruments used by the King. Although the tomb holds over 3,500 artifacts, it should be noted that this tomb was not found completely intact. In fact, there have been at least two robberies of the tomb, perhaps soon after Tutankhamun's burial.

The most well known artifact in King Tutankhamun’s tomb is the famous Gold Mask, which rests over the bandages that wrap around the King’s face. The mask weighs in at 24.5 pounds of solid gold, and is believed to represent what the King’s face really looked like. Many features of the mask the eyes, nose, lips and chin are all represented very well. If you Google King Tut, you can many of the artifacts that were on display in the museum.

Also on display were about 11 Egyptian mummies. This was probably the most bizarre, weirdest and scariest, things I have ever seen. I am surprised I have not had nightmares about these mummies. I was not prepared to see faces and heads (some with actual hair), feet and hands of actual people who lived over 3000 years ago. Wow. I really do not want to post pictures of these mummies, but if you are interested, I am sure you can look them up. I always thought mummies were wrapped from head to toe with linen. I suppose when they were found they had to unwrap the heads to identify them, but yikes.

One of the mummies on display was Ramesses II. He was born around 1303 BC and at age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his early 20s and to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for a total of 66 years and 2 months. He was once said to have lived to be 99 years old, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or 91st year. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881.

Up next was The Saladin Citadel of Cairo (Arabic: قلعة صلاح الدين Qalaʿat Salāḥ ad-Dīn). The location, part of the Muqattam hill near the center of Cairo, was once famous for its fresh breeze and grand views of the city, and was fortified by the Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din (Saladin) between 1176 and 1183 AD, to protect it from the Crusaders.

Only a few years after defeating the Fatimid Caliphate, Saladin set out to build a wall that would surround both Cairo and Fustat. Saladin is recorded as saying, "With a wall I will make the two [cities of Cairo and Fustat] into a unique whole, so that one army may defend them both; and I believe it good to encircle them with a single wall from the bank of the Nile to the bank of the Nile." The Citadel would be the centerpiece of the wall. Built on a promontory beneath the Muqattam Hills, a setting that made it difficult to attack, the efficacy of the Citadel's location is further demonstrated by the fact that it remained the heart of Egyptian government until the nineteenth century. The Citadel stopped being the seat of government when Egypt's ruler, Khedive Ismail, moved to his newly built Abdin Palace in the Ismailiya neighborhood in the 1860s.

While the Citadel was completed in 1183-1184, the wall Saladin had envisioned was still under construction in 1238, long after his death. The Citadel is sometimes referred to as Mohamed Ali Citadel because it contains the Mosque of Mohamed Ali (or Muhammad Ali Pasha).

This mosque reminded me a lot of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. The view from the wall. Inside the dome.Up next was the Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church also known as the Hanging Church (El Muallaqa) is one of the oldest churches in Egypt and the history of a church on this site dates to the 3rd century AD. The Hanging (The Suspended) Church is named for its location above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, the Roman fortress in Old Cairo; its nave is suspended over a passage.

The church is approached by 29 steps; early travelers to Cairo dubbed it "the Staircase Church." The land surface has risen by some 6 meters since the Roman period so that the Roman tower is mostly buried below ground, reducing the visual impact of the church's elevated position. The entrance from the street is through iron gates under a pointed stone arch. The nineteenth century facade with twin bell towers is then seen beyond a narrow courtyard decorated with modern art biblical designs. Next, we visited the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, also known as Abu Serga. It is one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century AD. This church is believed to have been built on the spot where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here for 6 months while Joseph worked at the fortress.

"An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise, take the young child and His mother, flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him.' " (Matthew 2:13)

After the death of Herod the Great, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, to tell him that it was now safe to return to the land of Israel. Joseph accordingly took Mark and Jesus and settled in Nazareth.

This is the crypt (no visitors we allowed to go down).Seriously, how cool is that?!

Next, we visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue. According to local tradition, it is located on the site of where baby Moses was found. It is so weird standing on such sacred ground! No pictures were allowed in the Synagogue, but I will tell you it was a beautiful place.Finally, we shopped in the Cairo Market, the most important shopping areas in all of Cairo and also very touristy. This was the place that 3 days before we arrived was bombed. Yes, I said bombed. Did you hear about it? Needless to say, I was very nervous. However, I do believe that security is a lot better after an incident. We were only there for about an hour...but an hour too long in my book. When I walked out to wait on our van to pick up us, I took out my Blackberry to check a couple of emails. I saw on that an American was attacked the day before (yes, just the day before I was to be walking around this same area) and was stabbed in the face. So, as you can imagine, I was so over that place and seriously ready to get out!


  1. Hi, I am a German in the USA, just moved here two months ago, I live the same life like you do just vice versa. Browsing your blog, you visited and experience place which are just so common to me, which I grew up with, which I belong to as European at heart. And having lived in South Africa too, I can feel your amazement. Home is where the heart is and my heart is with my American partner who decided to move back to the States and so we packed all and left Spain. I will pass by once in a while and wish you all the adventures you wish for. Have fun. Paula

  2. Oh my gosh am I ever glad you are safe! The news of the bombing is pretty scary. But aside from that wow did you see and do a lot. Its hard to take it all in. I loved the picture of the mosque, architecture like that is so unique and amazing. And the King Tut exhibit had to have been fascinating. For someone who claims not to have loved history, you sure got the details down!! Thanks for all the explanation... I love it!!

  3. Anonymous1:53 PM

    You may want to consider a career in teaching Tippa! Wonderful post. Great Pics.