I slept solidly for almost 6 hours, and woke up before the first call to prayer. Still had nearly two hours before the alarm so tried to go back to sleep with no luck but I’m on vacation, darn it, so I WILL stay in bed. 😉
After a solid breakfast, Nibal picked us up and we headed in to the city. Crossing the Nile for the first time in daylight (too tired post-airport to notice was thrilling. So much water… and… it’s the Nile!!
Our first stop was Coptic Cairo, in the south of the city. In the beautiful Hanging Church we saw incredible ivory/cedar/ebony inlay, icons of various saints and martyrs, stained glass….
This Coptic Orthodox church dates to the 4th century AD, though much of the contents are more recent, roughly 12th century. It’s called such because it’s suspended in the top of a fortress tower. There are some clear panels installed in the floor so we could look down and see the areas below.
The Coptic calendar counts from 282 AD rather than from the birth of Christ. 282 is when the Romans stopped persecuting the Christians.
Next stop, just a couple of blocks away, was the Church of St George, an Armin Orthodox (Greek) church where St George (yes, the famed dragon slayer) hid from the soldiers.
It’s ornate and colorful, with lots of gilding and beautiful daylight.
From there, we walked just a little further to Old Cairo.
Here there is the church of Abu Serga (Saint Sergis), with original wood from the 4th century AD. Baby Jesus and family hid in the grotto of this site for three months. This year, it was open and we were able to enter!
Next stop was the Citadel and the mosque of Mohammed Ali. The Citadel was built by Saladin in the 1170s in anticipation of the Crusaders, but they never attacked it as he stopped them further north. However, the fortress remained a power center for 700 years.
Also within the walls is the gorgeous mosque of Mohammed Ali. It took almost 20 years to complete in the first half of the 1800s, and Mohammed Ali dies before it was finished. His tomb is within.
The views from the Citadel look west, and are absolutely stunning as it’s on a hill–of course, being a fortress!
Nibal arranged for the driver to order coffee so it was ready for us when we finished here. It’s like Turkish coffee, thick and strong and amazing. Energy for the Egyptian Museum next!
Our final site of the day with Nibal was the Egyptian Museum, a striking purpose-built pink building on Tahrir Square dating from (?).
I’m so glad that we went to the pyramid/necropolis sites prior to visiting the museum. Having seen in person where many of these ancient statues and tombs came from made viewing them in the museum so much more real and understandable.
Nibal walked us through about 40 pieces, with history, context, and legend. One of my favorite pieces was the basalt (?) top to the smaller pyramid behind the Bent Pyramid that we had visited the day before. Yes, we also saw Tutankhamen’s famous fold mask, jewelry, and tombs contents. They’re really real!
Photos are currently allowed at the Egyptian Museum but you need a special ticket and we opted out if that.
After this incredible day we returned to Yasmina’s for dinner and a nap before heading out to see Dina’s show later on….