We entered the Cairo bazaar known as Khan Al-Khalili where Cairenes have plied their trade her since the khan was built in the 14th century. The shopkeepers were very friendly and were not aggressive in contrast with the salesmen at the Istanbul bazaar.
Photos strolling through Khan Al-Khalili:
We walked through the tin makers’ area. There were also more of the local markets that sell anything and everything (sewing machines, meat, car parts, etc.) that we didn't need, but gave us a small look at Cairo through commerce.
We also saw shops of gold, silver, copper, brass close to shops that sold exotic spices, silks, water pipes and handicrafts. What we especially liked was that there were very few tourists.
Some parts of the area reminded us very much of the architecture we saw last December while visiting Kathmandu, Nepal.
I was impressed at this woman's balance as she carried a heavy weight atop her head.
Men carrying massive loads of boxes had been a common sight in Cairo. I kept waiting for someone to drop the boxes as I couldn't imagine how they could possibly see where they were going but no one ever did drop anything.
The mosque is one of the most sacred Islamic sites in Egypt and also the reputed burial place of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Most of the building dated from around 1870 except for the beautiful 14th century stucco panels on the minaret. The modern metal sculptures in front were elegant Teflon canopies that expand to cover worshippers during Friday prayers.
The death of Hussein in Karbala, Iraq, cemented the rift between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, also claims to have his head, a Shia relic, even though both mosques were established by Sunnis.
We had seen a lot of women wearing henna tattoes on their hands. Since this woman and I had chatted for a bit, I felt comfortable asking her if it were OK if I took a photo. You can see by the smile on her face that she didn't mind at all.
There was also a thriving market outside the complex but not the same sort of almost festival atmosphere I had experienced earlier at the Hussein mosque.
The not so pretty side of Cairo but an omnipresent sight, sad to say.
We stumbled across Wikala of al-Ghouri and were able to poke our heads in for a minute or two even though we declined to pay the admission fee as we didn’t feel like lingering. Built by the Mamluk Sultan al-Ghouri in 1504 AD, it was designed as an inn for traders following the caravan routes from the east and west.
The stone face was beautifully restored. The upper rooms were artists’ workshops and the former stables have been converted into craft shops. The courtyard was set up as a theater for dance performances.
We figured since we were in the area more or less, we’d return to the Tentmakers’ Market and check out some more beautiful embroidered hangings because we had not purchased enough last night!
Shots of the Tentmakers' Market:
This fellow should have had a nice smile on his face as I bought a number of his beautiful hangings. The problem was trying to decide which designs and sizes to purchase as I really liked so many of them - what a first world problem to have, I know.
The previous evening, we didn't make it down to the end of the alley and hadn't noticed this woman and her shop of just scarves. Darlene: I know you're probably laughing at me now as you're reading this, wondering why on earth I would go even near any shop selling scarves considering all the ones I bought last year in Asia! You are absolutely right, there wasn't one I 'needed' at all but there was a salmon-colored one that caught my eye!
Shoe-making was a going concern also in the same alley as all the appliqued items.
Again like last night, we walked back to the hostel. This time, though, our bags of purchases were even heavier on the 45 minute trip. Our room was lovely but getting to it was not - the sorry state of the elevator up to our hostel!
10/22: This morning we received another email from the State Department about the worsening political situation in Ethiopia. Essentially it said that all non-essential travel there should be suspended immediately because of a six month state of emergency that had been imposed by the Ethiopian government. We figured that it was no longer safe to travel there so we began looking at a map of the world trying to figure where to go to instead for the 10 days we were supposed to be in Ethiopia.
Ironically enough, just a few days ago, we had made a list of countries we'd like to visit in the future at some point if at all possible. Since Sri Lanka was on the list and not that far away relatively speaking, Steven began looking into flights from Muscat, Oman, our last stop before our planned trip to Ethiopia, to Sri Lanka. To say all this threw a monkey wrench into our trip would be an understatement certainly after I, particularly, had done months and months of planning every possible detail of our trip. Oh well, things invariably come up with a trip of this length and with the huge number of places we had hoped to see.
After a while, we put future plans aside and decided to head back to another area of the Islamic part of Cairo to see the Citadel. We got a taxi from near the hostel for 25 Egyptian pounds – about $4 – which was a great deal considering it was over 40 minutes away. The Saladin Citadel is a medieval Islamic fortification on Mokattam Hill near the center of Cairo that was once famous for its grand views of the city.
It is now a preserved historic site, with mosques and four museums. The Citadel was fortified by the Ayyubid ruler Saladin between 1176 and 1183 AD, to protect it from the Crusaders. As it was built on such a high spot, that made it difficult to attack. The Citadel's location was considered to be so important that it remained the heart of Egyptian government until the 19th century.
These had to be the youngest tourism police/security guards ever! I may be wrong but they looked lie they were both in their teens still.
Unlike most other mosques of Cairo, its outer walls weren’t paneled and it had little decoration. The result was a rather austere appearance which was probably accounted for by the military nature of its setting.
There have almost always been free religious books on Islam available in all of the bigger mosques we’ve visited and this one was no exception.
Girls wanting to take my photo:
There were a good number of these rah rah signs depticting a soldier from the Egyptian army in a non-militaristic pose.
British flood night energizer used in WW II and also in the 1948 war with Israel:
Captured tanks during the 1973 war with Israel:
There was a spot for panoramic views of the city but the haze or pollution was so bad we couldn’t see a thing. I wonder how often people are able to see much of the city from this vantage point?
Touring the Citadel was important to get another sense of all that is Islamic Cairo today but I had found our time meandering through the many neighborhood markets and being able to have at least superficial interactions with the locals so much more rewarding.
Posted from Muscat, Oman on November 7th, 2016.