Touring Cairo (religious sites and more)

Trip Start Jun 16, 2008
Trip End Jul 20, 2008

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Flag of Egypt  , Cairo,
Monday, July 14, 2008

Our tour started today by visiting some religious sites.

First we visited a famous Chrisitan Church.  This is where Jesus and his family fled and prayed while in exile.

Next we visited Ben Ezra Synagogue.  The Synagogue of Ben Ezra was originally named El-Shamieen Church, and is situated behind the "hanging church". The Synagogue once had an old copy of the Old Testament, and it was said that Ezra the Prophet (Al-Azir) had written it. It is believed that the site of the Synagogue was where the box of Baby Moses was found. ". The Ben Ezra Synagogue was originally a Christian church that the Copts had to sell, to the Jews, in 882A.D in order to pay the annual taxes imposed by the Muslim rulers of the time, and therefore Abraham Ben Ezra, who came from Jerusalem during the reign of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, bought the church for the sum of 20,000 dinars.  It is built in the shape of a basilica (rectangle), consisting of 2 floors; the 1st dedicated for the men while the 2nd is dedicated for the women. The entrance is situated on the north side. The decoration goes back to the Turkish Period. It is clearly seen on the side halls with patterns such as, star patterns, pentagonal patterns and rectangles. 

Then we visited the Mohammed Ali Citadel  The mosque was built between 1830-1840. This mosque is also sometimes referred to as the Alabaster Mosque due to its extensive use of that stone on some of the exterior walls and other surfaces. Sometimes it is popularly known as al-qal'a, meaning citadel, and thus confused with the fortress in which it is located. The complex consists of two parts, the mosque proper to the east and the open courtyard, or sahn, to the west. Within the mosque are two minbars, or pulpits. The larger one of wood is decorated with gilt ornament, and is original. It is said to be one of the largest in Egypt, incorporating significant gold in its decorations. The smaller one of alabaster was a gift from King Faruq, dating to 1939. The mihrab, or prayer niche, is made of Egyptian marble. 

Later we visited the masive Cairo Museum.  There are over 147,000 artifacts here.  The bottom floor of the museum contained a variety of artifacts throughout all of the dynasties of Egypt.

Perhaps the most famous were the contents of King Tut's tomb.  He was never a powerful King, but is so famous because his tomb was the only one ever found untouched.  All of the valuables found inside his tomb were now on display in the museum.
Maybe the most impressive piece found in Tutankhamun's tomb is not the mask, although that is the most well known. The kings gold inner coffin displays a quality of workmanship and an attention to detail which is unsurpassed.   The coffin is made of solid gold. It is 74" long, 20" wide and 20" high. The king is shown as Osiris holding the crook and flail, traditional symbols of kingship. There is little doubt that the most famous icon from Ancient Egypt is the funerary mask of Tutankhamun. It is a stunning example of the Ancient goldsmith's art.
The mask itself is made of solid gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, cornelian, quartz, obsidian, turquoise and colored glass.

The last stop for the tour today was the Khan El Khalili market.  Diana and I stolled around here for over an hour bargaining like professionals and making some great purchases.

The market was built in 1382 by the Emir Djaharks el-Khalili in the heart of the Fatimid City. Together with the al-Muski market to the west, they comprise one of Cairo's most important shopping areas. But more than that, they represent the market tradition which established Cairo as a major center of trade, and at the Khan, one will still find foreign merchants. Perhaps, this vary market was involved in the spice monopoly controlled by the Mamluks, which encouraged the Europeans to search for new routes to the East and led Columbus, indirectly, to discover the Americas. During its early period, the market was also a center for subversive groups, often subject to raids before the Sultan Ghawri rebuilt much of the area in the early 16th century. Regardless, it was trade which caused Cairo's early wealth, even from the time of the Babylon fort which was often a settlement of traders.
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