I wake up around 4 AM, still have jet lag. Margie has been up since 3AM, writing in her journal. We decide it's ridiculous to try to sleep when your not really tired. We decide to shower and dress for the day. I remember not to drink the water. Not that it's bad, but I hear that the change can really upset your system. Everyone suggests bottled water for the short time we are staying. If we were staying for a couple of months we could drink the tap water and our bodies would adjust in time.
Breakfast is buffet style. I see several type of veggies, yoghurt, cereals, milk (cow, I think. It doesn't taste like goat milk.), rolls, sausages from lamb or beef (tastes weird) and hamburgers. I guess they think all Americans like MacDonald's at all times of the day. The coffee and runny eggs are ok. They just don't have mugs, they use demi-tas cups and you need several cups to get a mug's worth of coffee.
This is the first whole day in Egypt. We have a full schedule ahead of us. Mahmoud is our tour guide for the next several days. I guess he will be our mother, father, and leader for a while. He says that this will be an easy day, but we still have a lot to see. Today we will stay in Cairo to see the Citadel of Salah al-Din, the Egyptian Museum, Coptic (Christian) Cairo, and the infamous El Khalili Bazaar.
The Citadel was built by Salah al-DIn to ward off the Crusaders in 1176 AD. Napoleon's forces used it 1798. I'm not sure what the sign says but the script is very artsy. A large fortress, the Citadel contains the large mosque of Mohammed Ali. The mosque is built of alabaster and limestone. It is very beautiful inside. We all sit around while Mahmoud tell us about the Islamic faith. The lights are electric but were candles at one time.
Inside is the tomb of Mohammed Ali. The mosque is still used on Fridays, the Moslem holy day. Men on one side and women on the other. Mahmoud says that this causes less distraction that having a man bow with a woman bowing in front of him. Practical, I'm sure. We all go outside to view Cairo from the plaza.
On our way out we see date palm trees. And then all hell breaks loose. We are inundated with hordes of vendors wanting to sell us anything and everything. Post cards LE3, Papyrus LE10, bracelets, necklaces, trinkets, and other stuff. Some buy, some get on the bus. The hagglers try to convince Mahmoud to get him to sell postcards to those of us on the bus. There are a few takers. I have a feeling that there will be plenty of opportunities to buy over the next few days.
Our next stop is Coptic Cairo. This is a small section of Christians that have made a religious quarter for their dwindling faith. I guess they are in Cairo because of the flight into Egypt that Joseph and Mary made to protect their new born son, Jesus from Herod's death edict that all first born Jewish sons be killed to stop a prophesy of the Messiah.
Margie saw a man carrying ducks. I guess they were for the market.
The main attraction in Coptic Cairo is the Hanging Church. So called because it "hangs" on top of Roman Water Gate ruins. The church dates back to the 4th century AD. The church was undergoing renovation (I understand this is usually the case) but was still open for tour. This church still holds Sunday services.
Inside are various artworks, many are icons in nature, but noteably are two paintings. One of what appears to be John the Baptist and the other of the Virgin Mary. This painting of the Virgin Mary is called the Mona Lisa of Cairo. The tapestry shows the Coptic cross.
After lunch we went to the Egyptian Museum. This old museum houses King Tut's treasures as well as mummies, statues, columns, and other ancient artifacts. Unfortunately cameras and camcorders wern't allowed and all we have are memories. The one thing that struck me as sad was the poor shape the museum was in. The entire building is showing age, wear, and tear. A new museum is supposedly under plans but this has been going on for several years without any ground breaking seen within the near future. Such treasures need to be protected and showcased.
Our last stop for the day was the shopping district known as the "infamous" El Khalili Bazaar. I say infamous because it has become a ritual for most all tours to shop for bargains here. Vendors here are outright bold. They'll grab your shirt, stand in your face, and call you by nationality. Its all in good fun but it can be intimidating. Especially with jet lag setting in, a tired shopper makes dumb mistakes and can be a poor bargainer. We did get a few things, but were too tired to pursue shopping for any great length of time.
Tomorrow is Monday and we go to the Giza Plateau to see one of the highlights of the tour. The Pyramids!
1 - Arrival in Cairo
Day 2 - Tour of the Citadel, Egyptian Museum, Coptic Cairo, and the Bazaar
Day 3 - Visit to Giza Plateau to view the Pyramids, and Sphinx. To Memphis and Saqqara
Day 4 - Flight to Abu Simbel, Aswan city, Felucca ride around Kitchners Island
Day 5 - Tour of Aswan, Cruse down Nile to Kom Ombo and Edfu
Day 6 - Tour of Edfu, Esna Lock and on to Luxor
Day 7 - Tour Valley of the Kings, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon
Day 8 - Tour Luxor, Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple