Monday, November 22, 2004

Adventures in Egypt - Day 3 Cairo

Today was one of the highlights of the trip for me because we visited the Egyptian Museum!  So very thankful to have our guide as he made this giant archaeological dig site manageable.  The museum was like nothing I had ever seen.  Most museums I've visited have been so perfect and pristine...the Egyptian Museum had little handwritten signs below some of the most ancient artifacts and I fully expected to see Indiana Jones to come strolling by at any moment.

Alabaster Mosque (a.k.a. Mosque of Mohammed Ali) was next on our agenda for today.  This was my first visit to a mosque and while I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, it wasn't what I was expecting if that makes any sense.

We arrived just as the mid-day call to prayers were being called.  It was definitely one of those "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore" moments as you could hear the call from all over Cairo.  Amr gave us an outside tour while prayers were taking place and then we headed inside at the appropriate time.  Upon entering we all placed our shoes by the door and some of us placed a scarf over our hair out of respect.  The mosque was prepared for any tourists not dressed appropriately for a house of worship and had loaner skirts/shirts for men and women.
After wandering around the inside, we all gathered on the floor and Amr gave us a brief introduction to Islam and opening answered any questions we had about his religion.  

Qeblah (niche)...every mosque has a
qeblah which points toward Mecca.

Amr surprised all of us when he hopped off our mini-coach and returned with lunch...falafel and foul in a pita which was very tasty.
After a little driving around Cairo, we stopped at the El Khahli Bazaar.  Amr camped out with coffee and his paper while we went in all directions through perhaps the largest market I've ever seen.  Lee and I quickly learned if you looked at something for more than three seconds the merchants were all over you trying to make a deal with you.  We stayed on the main aisles for a while and then decided to venture off the beaten path and head down some of the small alleys...must admit there were a few times when I was a little nervous  but it was here that we found some of the best shops and got some great deals!
Once everyone had their loot, we headed back to the hotel to collect our belongings and head to the train station for our overnight train to Aswan in the south (Upper Egypt).  En route to the train station we stopped at Momem (Egyptian fast food restaurant) to pick up food for the journey.

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