Eighteen. Eighteen! That is how many places in the U.S. alone that are named…CAIRO. There are 6 more places named Cairo in Colombia, Italy, and Costa Rica. But….we were at the original Cairo, the city that evokes pictures of pyramids, camels, ancient times, mosques, and exotic goods. You won’t be seeing any photos of camels or pyramids, as we visited Giza many years ago on a cruise. This time, we opted for a tour of Medieval Cairo, with visits to a mosque, synagogue, church, and bazaar. Just walking the streets was fun, experiencing it all and filling our senses with smells and images that were just beautiful. It was a grueling 3-hour bus trip each way from and to Port Said, though. It is not so bad in the morning, but it seemed that it took forever, at night, to return. We had to wait for other buses, as we formed a convoy led by a police car. We are assuming that it was for our security.
Refined scenes? That would be the religious building and the facades of the military structures we passed. The scruffy? That would be most of the ordinary neighborhoods we drove through on the bus, with everyone selling everything along the streets. The buildings are old and many are literally falling apart, but that is due to Egypt being a relatively poor country. The delicious? That would be a lunch feast we had, with baba ganoush, salad, falafel, eggplant, beef chunks, rice, and okra in thick tomato sauce, all able to be scooped up with lovely pita bread. The exotic? That would be the Old Cairo Bazaar, which felt like something out of the 15th century. Everyone wanted to sell us something. The two best lines we heard: How can I take your money today? and I don’t know what you want, but I have what you need. We laughed, as of course we can’t actually buy anything other than drinks/snacks since we have no home in which to put anything.
Cairo is known as The City of 1,000 Mosques, more than any other place in the world. As we drove all around the city, every time we glanced out, there were multiple mosques in view. At one point, counting those we could see in two blocks, there were 14! The city also has 12 remaining synagogues. The one we visited is now a museum, and is the oldest of the remaining synagogues. But sadly, in a city of 22,000,000 (!), there are – ready? – THREE Egyptian Jews. It is interesting, both that there are so few, but that they know exactly how many there are.
All in all, we liked Cairo, at least more than on our first visit in 2009. It was hot, but only about 88 degrees F, with a little breeze. It seems like fall is a good time to visit. One of the ship’s workers, Taiane, said when she was here in the summer, it was 110! We saw lots of tourists wandering around who were not part of tour groups. The old parts of the city feel really old, and so interesting. You can buy any item you are looking for at many different shops, but we don’t know how one shop distinguishes itself when several hundred shops are selling identical items at identical prices. It seems like a hard way to make a living.
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