Sunday, 20 June 2010

Photogenic Cairo - Midan Hussain, Beit as-Suhaymi and the Nile

The Friday was a day of tourist delights as we packed in as much as possible before our departure to Luxor the following morning.

We started at Midan Hussein where we listened to the call to prayer and watched the crowds heading to the Mosque of Sayyidna Al-Hussein to pray.  Al-Hussein is the holiest site in Cairo and the most important mosque in Egypt, so sacred that only Muslims are allowed to enter.  Hundreds come to pray every day, and on a Friday this can go up to several thousand - when large umbrella's are opened outside the mosque to provide shade to those who cannot be accommodated inside. 

We then headed back to the streets of Islamic Cairo and Sharia Al-Muizz to see some of the sites in the daytime. 

We visited the Madrassa and Mausoleum of Sultan Qalawun, dating from the 13th Century.

We then visited the beautifully restored Ottoman house, Beit As-Suhaymi.  The most elegant remaining residence in Islamic Cairo, this was another clear highlight to our stay.  We explored room after room filled with beautiful panelled and painted ceilings, delicate wooden screens and ironwork, tiled floors, colourful light filtering through countless stained glass windows, all overlooking lush green courtyards.   

While we were looking round the house a lady with her daughter stopped to talk to us and ended up showing us all the things she learnt from the Arabic speaking tour - telling us something of the history of the place and pointing out the features in the rooms from the table 'just like her mother used to have' to the cupboards where the women used to store their things.

In the early evening, we went to meet Lorna and some of her friends for a sunset felucca ride on the Nile.  It was a wonderful way to spend an hour or so relaxing on the water, having a drink and a chat with the girls.

After the felucca, we went off to the Grand Hyatt to take our third evening cruise of the holiday. The boat was pretty quiet and the first part of the entertainment was bizarrely 2 singers taking turns to sing along to their ipod, karaoke style.  However, things picked up after that.  First of all with a fantastic dinner - the Grand Hyatt boat surely should probably boast the best food of all the Nile cruises - here is my very photogenic plate of dessert.

And after that we were entertained by bellydancer Camelia.  We were even dragged on stage at the end of the show to try some khaleegi style dance.  Here is Camelia with her Shamadan.

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