The taxi driver told us that 30 million Egyptians crossed this bridge over the Nile River on their way to reach Tahrir Square in October of 2011 as part of their country's revolution. To be in that spot where history had been made was very special.
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa. Its name means 'the victorious city.' It is located on both banks of the River Nile near the head of the river's delta in northern Egypt and has been settled for more than 6000 years, serving as the capital of numerous Egyptian civilizations. Cairo is known locally as 'Misr,' the Arabic name for Egypt, because of its importance in Egyptian life.
Since it was only about ten, our room wasn't ready so we dumped our bags and then walked to the metro station in Tahrir Square which was only a few blocks away. Being in a place that had led every TV newscast around the world for so long felt like we were reliving that time in Egypt's history.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: Hardee's was on the corner of one of the nine streets that feed into the enormous square.
We took the metro to the Coptic part of the immense city so we could visit the city's oldest church, the oldest mosque and the oldest mosque in addition to a beautiful museum. I would think that, if you're at all like me, you would equate Cairo pretty well exclusively with the Muslim faith especially in light of its more recent history too. But the Copts are the original Egyptians; before the Muslim invasion, all Egyptians were Christian. The Copts played an extraordinary role in understanding the distant past of Egypt because the ancient Coptic language on the Rosetta Stone was key to deciphering hieroglyphs.
Coptic Cairo, we read, was a maze of ancient and modern churches and monasteries set within the walls of the fortress of Babylon founded in the 6th century BC and expanded by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 98 AD. At one time, more than 20 churches were clustered in just one square kilometer of this area of Cairo. We were just visiting a few of those that remained; the first one was the Hanging Church.
The ebony and ivory inlaid screens which hid the altar showed the same intricate geometric designs that were only distinguishable from Islamic patterns by their tiny crosses.
One of the granite columns was much darker than the others; it is believed to represent Judas.
With its three barrel-vaulted, wood-roofed aisles, the interior of the church felt like an upturned ark that rested on 13 Apostles symbolizing Christ and his Apostles.
More photos of the first courtyard we entered:
A good photo of Egypt's flag blowing in the wind at the base of the steps to the very special Hanging Church.
Just steps away from the Hanging Church were the Roman Towers. In 98 AD, the Roman Emperor Trajan enlarged an existing fortress here called Babylon. All that remained are two round towers from Babylon’s Western Gate.
They were part of riverfront fortifications and the Nile would have lapped right up against them. Emperor Trajan also reopened the canal that ran through the area connecting the Nile to the Red Sea.
We visited the Coptic Museum which was next to the church and the Roman Towers. Founded in 1908, it housed Coptic art from the earliest days of Christianity in
According to what we read, textiles are the most characteristic product of Coptic art. The term 'Coptic textiles' is used to designate a huge amount of textiles - tens of thousands of them - found in Egypt and dating from Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. Most of the textiles come from burials but illegal digs at many important grave sites during the 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in textiles appearing on the antiquities market. As a result, it is very difficult to date them with any precision. The textiles provide information about the social classes, daily life, beliefs and customs of the people who not only made them but who they were made for. The major fibers used were linen and wool although cottom was also used.
Isn't it amazing that this 4th-5th century linen and wool tapestry has survived all these centuries later? The colors were still so very rich too, I thought.
Ankh from Sakkara: The ankh or key of life were the first crosses seen in tombs.
5th-6th century limestone tombstone carved with a cross resembling the monogram of Christ between two crosses formed the ankh sign.
The trees in the interior courtyard didn’t have much room to grow any higher before hitting the roof!
Two pages from the Nag Hammadi Codex on papyrus dating from the 3rd quarter of the 4th century: The left page shows the beginning of the Gospel of Thomas; the right page is part of the composition 'On the Origin of the World.' They were translated from Greek into Coptic.
From 1226, the four gospels in Arabic and a miniature of St. John in tempera and gold.
Thanks to the arid climate, Coptic Egypt has preserved more evidence for the study of daily life in Roman and Byzantine times than any other country. Daily life scenes such as grape gathering and hunting were popular in Coptic art.
Pull along toys from the Byzantine period: Don't they look remarkably alike wooden toys that can still be bought today?!
The word 'icon' comes from the Greek word meaning image. Coptic churches, both ancient and modern, are always decorated with icons. A number of medieval icons were in the museum; they were painted in Cairo in the 13th century when the city was the center of an organized workshop of Christian painters responsible for icons and wall paintings and manuscript illumination.