Mosque Hopping

Trip Start Jan 22, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, February 15, 2010

This past Thursday after morning classes we hopped in to a bus and drove to Islamic Cairo (the older, original part of Cairo) and toured about three different mosques- it was supremely fascinating! The first was the Ibn Tulun Mosque (fun fact: "Ibn" means son in Arabic), one of the oldest mosques in all of Cairo. We entered the same time as the noon call to prayer - it was really interesting to be inside a mosque during the call to prayer- the call to prayer is heard 5 times a day and you can hear it wherever you are in the entire city. It's so fascinating how a whole city stops during the day to pray- it's kind of beautiful. After touring the inside of the mosque we were able to climb to the top of the minaret (a minaret is an essential peice of architecture on every mosque, where the imam gives the call to prayer so the whole city can hear- but in the 21st century they just use microphones) It was crazy to see the view from the top- there were ancient, beautiful, monumental buildings sitting right next to collapsing apartmens complete with sattelite dishes galore.
The next mosque we went to was the mosque of Sultan Hasan- it was SO BIG. Once again we had to remove our shoes and cover our hair (the girls at least) and we toured this beautiful mosque, which doubled as a school. Afterwards, the next stop was the Al-Azhar Mosque, which sits next to Al-Azhar University. This mosque is not really open for tours like the other two and was a little more strict. Our professor of Islam and Politics, who is also an imam, met us there dressed in his full garb ready to lead prayer. I have no pictures of this mosque because I had to pee so horribly bad and my only goal in life was to find a restroom, which apparently they don't have in mosques. Well four of us girls asked and found we had to walk outiside the walls of the mosque (without our shoes) to the bathroom, which turned out to be an infamous "squatter" Luckily (I guess) there were wooden sandal like shoes for us to wear from the mosque to the bathroom- and I mean wooden- wood bottom, wood strap across the top. We hobbled to the restroom looked inside, looked at eachother, cringed, and dove in. A couple of the girls walked out and said they could wait- I was not so lucky. After cringing, holding my breathe, and trying not to cry from the disgustedness of it all, I finally figured out how to use it (it's not as simple as it sounds I swear) and when we walked out afterwards, I'm not gonna lie- I felt REALLY REALLY proud of myself- i happen to have issues with public restrooms in general (cleanliness and such) so this was the ultimate test- I passed thank you very much.
After leaving this mosque some of us decided to go to the famous Al-Azhar park- I had no idea there was such a monster in this city! It. was. GORGEOUS. It looks over the entire city of Cairo and you have a clear view of the gorgeous citadel sitting above the city. We were naturally hungry so we went to one of the four restraunts inside the park, called Trianon Cafe. It was about 85 degrees that day and we sat outside at a table surrounded by palm trees and huge comfy chairs, complete with an entire view of Islamic Cairo- It was unbelievably amazing. Oh, and then there was the food. We had to buy a minimum amount of food per person to eat here- so there was a LOT of splurging. I got a fruit and yogurt parfait that was huge and delicious, a salad in a cracker like bowl that tasted like funnel cake, and the Grilled Cheese Royale which meant there were two sandwiches. It was the most delicious meal- we sat there for over two hours talking, relaxing, eating amazing food, and taking in the view of Cairo as the sun began to go down. We were ungodly full afterwards, and it was only about 5:30pm. Apparently Mosque hopping requires a lot of energy. We walked around more of the park and I just fell in love with every part of it- it's a solace away from the intensity of the city. It's about We only saw a modicum of Islamic Cairo and luckily we are coming back in a couple weeks to see even more- I find it very fascinating. And no mother I am not going to convert to Islam- I just find it to be so dramatically different than my 23 years of Catholic upbringing and want to learn as much as I can. Luckily I'm in the right place :)
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Andrew on

Ann Sweet pics. Although I would have really enjoyed seeing those wooden shoes and the hole in the ground you "squated" in. For all we know you could have gone in a blue "port-a-potty" like they have at construction sites. Just saying seeing is believing.

AMD on

Love the pics and the stories, so neat and fun and funny ! you have seen some amazing sites that all of us can only dream of! you go girl! keep the good times rollin'..............

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