Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 2: Cairo and Islamic Cairo

Day 2 - Cairo

The start of the day was slow... that jet-lagged, hung over dizzy headed dehydrated feeling. I was up early after a good sleep while pillowhead Sherrill slept in late (for the record, Sherrill was actually jet-lagged and got up at 3:30 am...so was very deserving of a few more winks when she finally fell back asleep at 5am). We had a quick breakfast of bread and various cheeses and were off to the races to find another room. Our plan for Alexandria went out the window when we saw how much there was to see in Cairo.

We moved over to the Santana Hotel, the joining point for our tour. It was not as nice as the Havana because of the mildew smell and damp carpets (cleaning, apparently), but it was spacious and we quickly got settled in. We needed more money because in Egypt "nothing is free, everything has a price" - literally, so we had to find a bank.

We wandered down the Nile river towards the Sheraton which has an ATM machine and a currency exchange. Passing through the hotel metal detectors is a constant reminder that there have been problems in this country in the past. With a pocket full of cash, we were off to find some lunch.

Since it is still Ramadan (when Muslims only eat from sunset to sunrise), finding a place to eat packed with locals was somewhat difficult, so we reverted to our old standby, "Go American". We strolled down the Nile, avoiding traffic and ended up at TGI Fridays. Yes, that is what we chose, but it was better than the KFC that Vince wanted. After lunch, we were off to the Islamic district.

We started at Al-Azhar, the holiest of the holy mosques in Egypt. We had to remove our shoes (as per custom) and Sherrill, being the harlot she is, had to wear a full length hooded garb that would cover her from head to toe. She looked cute wearing her little backpack. We learned that the mosque was a place of learning over 1,000 years old. During prayer times, up to 1,000 people can attend the service lead by the Sheikh, the top religious figure in all of Egypt. Sherrill got to visit the women's-only lecture hall while I had to make uncomfortable small talk with Guardian touring us. The mosque was stunning... anyone who has played Assassin's Creed would quickly recognize the minarets, mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca), domes and other architectural features.

Al Azhar Mosque

Sherrill & Vince in the Mosque - Even with pants, she was showing to much flesh...

After that first mosque, we visited several other mosques and places of worship. We also hit Khan al-Khalili bazaar for some atmosphere. We hit the bazaar close to when the Ramadan fasting ended, so the place was bustling with people picking up food in preparation for the break in fast (breakfast... the origin of the word, maybe...). The food looked and smelled incredible, minus the flys. We also sought out the Fishawi cafe, famous for sheeba smoking and coffee sipping. Since it was 35 C out, we did not feel like hot drinks or smokes. We wandered the bazaar and saw all sorts of antiques, pipes, papyrus and trinkets. After working up an appetite, we decided to have an Egyptian meal and stopped at a Egyptian pancake house. Egyptian pancakes taste like crepes, but get filled like a quesadilla. I had a savory pancake with meat and Sherrill had one with bananas and sugar.

Bazaar with Mosque Minaret in Background

North GaAlign Centerte of Bazaar

After a long, hot day, we finished it off by arranging our trip for Sakkara the following day.

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