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Album: By Country | By Date Egypt | March 2001 < Prev: The Pyramids at Giza | Next: Cairo to Luxor >
Travelogue: By Country | By Date Egypt | March 2001  

March 2001 - The Market, Mosque, and Mataba

Visiting Cairo places, including the world's oldest surviving university

Cairo rooftops from our hotel window.  There is a whole world up here.  Rubble-filled and dirty but with kids and chickens and houses and bicycles.
Looking out the window at the what is going on on neighboring rooftops The entrance to Pensione Roma.  (The red carpet is missing.)  You reach this lobby after a climb up one of the foulest stairwells I have ever seen.  It seems that many Cairo hotels are on the upper levels of genuinely foul buildings Looking at traffic at Pensione Roma
That's my definition of a tourist restaurant - a place where they serve liver and brains. Room at Pensione Roma.  Rather dirty but big rooms and very cheap. Sweet potato salesman in the market Maggie and Mark in the Market
Butcher shop Mosque of Syyidna al-Hussein, on Midan Hussein.  The Mosque supposedly contains one of the most holy relics of Islam: the head of Al-Hussein, grandson of the prophet.  It was brought here in a green silk bag, 500 years after his death, in 1153.  Al-Hussein was killed in a battle against the group that later became the Sunni muslims and is a Shi'ite martyr.  90% of all Muslims are Sunnis. Having tea in a shady spot on the side of the street.  Tea vendors work the street.  When you are done, you just leave the glass. Inside Al-Azhar Mosque.  The center of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world. It was founded by the Fatimids in AD 970 and was formally organized by 988. That makes it the world's oldest surviving university.
Maggie, wrapped in the robe the Mosque provides improperly clad women visitors, in a mihrab - a semi-circular niche which show the direction to Mecca.  (Monica needed the green outfit, because she came with bare shoulders. ) Al Azhar another mihrab
Courtyard in the Mosque.  The first mosques were modeled on the place of worship of the Prophet Muhammad--the courtyard of his house at Medina, and the basic structure remains the same. Minaret.  It is used by the muezzin ("crier") to proclaim the call to worship (adhan) five times each day. Nowadays he uses a microphone and a speaker system Other minarets Prayer room.   When muslims pray, the imam leads the prayers and everyone else follows.  If muslims are not in a mosque, one of a small group will act as imam and lead the prayers.  The imam is  in front with the others, touching each other, behind him.  One reason for this originally was to protect the imam from anti-muslims.
Prayer room.  Quiet and cool.  We saw students studying and a few people sleeping. Apparently sleeping is frowned on.
Beginning with Muhammad's own house, mosques came to be used for many public functions--military, political, social, and educational. Schools and libraries were often attached to medieval mosques.  That was the case here at al-Azhar. The mosque also functioned as a court of justice until the introduction of secular law. Courtyard in the mosque Tourist market and old gate of the city
Every city seems to specialize in cats or dogs.  Cairo has cats In the market   At the Great Cairo Library
The librarian kept bringing things to the kids, including toys, books, and art supplies The building was once a palace, formerly the home of Khedive Ismail's granddaughter. Khedive Ismail ruled Egypt for Turkey. Beautiful flowering trees on a Zamalek street.  Zamalek is a large island in the Nile and home to many embassies and a few fancy hotels.  The air is cleaner than central Cairo, though that's not hard, the buildings are newer and cleaner. At the internet place.  The people who run these places are usually interesting to chat with.  The usually know English and are young.  This place was no exception.  (It also served free tea.)  The owner, a Microsoft-certified system engineer thinks he could make more money in the States (almost certainly true) but couldn't leave Cairo.  After being here for a few days, I can understand that.