When you wake up in Egypt, you know there is no way you are going to see anything as fascinating as the day before, and each day you are wonderfully mistaken. Such was our last day in Cairo after an early morning flight from Luxor. The Step Pyramid, the oldest known of Egypt’s 97 pyramids, is an architectural feat designed by the genius and ‘’ father of Architecture” Imhotep, whose tribute in the museum is as inspiring as the pyramid itself. Imhotep was so significant his titles included: Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, and Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the maker of Stone Vessels. Imhotep’s Step Pyramid was designed for King Djoser of the third Dynasty and was not just a tomb, but was a collection of temples, pavilions, corridors, chapels, halls and storerooms. French architect and Egyptologist J.P Lauer dedicated his life to the restoration of King Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex and for that I am grateful. If I had to, absolutely had to name my favorite Egyptian site, it would be the Step Pyramid.
From the Step Pyramid, we stopped by the Arab Republic of Egypt El Sultan Carpet School. Here we saw amazingly skilled workers transform threads of silk, wool, and cotton into oriental rugs the Middle East is famous for. One square meter can take as long as 1 month to complete, the designs are varied, and watching the color “pop” during the shaving process created true appreciation for the final product! My rug arrived exactly four days later and is a perfect complement to my dining room!
We spent the afternoon in Old Cairo, also called Coptic Cairo. Coptic means Egyptian and Christians living in Egypt refer to themselves as Coptic Christians. We strolled past the famous Hanging Church which was built on top of the Fortress of Babylon and appears to be “suspended,” (hence the name) and the Citadel of Cairo whose walls were built to deter Crusaders. Upon reaching the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, we reverently removed our shoes to enter the massive and grandiose structure. At the time of its construction the mosque was considered remarkable for its fantastic size and innovative architecture. The mosque was indeed breathtaking and still active in education and prayer. I had never been in a mosque and was fascinated with the opulence, rows of prayer mats, and welcoming feeling!
From the Mosque we visited the Synagogue of Ben Ezra, the oldest Jewish synagogue in Egypt and supposedly the place where Moses was brought from the bulrushes. It was quaint and small and simplistically beautiful. The final stop of our “prayer” walk was at the Church of St. Sergius, one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt dating back to the 4th century. It too was small and was built upon the sanctuary where Joseph, Mary and infant Jesus rested after their journey into Egypt to escape Herod. It is believed the Holy Family lived here for three years until they were able to return to Israel. Mythology, Christianity, Islam and Judaism all abide harmoniously in Egyptian artifacts. Spiritually uplifting!
Before heading back to our hotel for a farewell dinner, we walked the Khan El Kahlili. The Khan El Kahlili is an intimidating labyrinth of shops. It’s a conglomeration of streets, alleyways, lanes, passages and paths crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with bargaining Egyptians in their colorful robes and head scarves. Here you can find anything from exotic treasures like antiques, copper, jewelry, and perfumes to souvenir trinkets. It is a good thing we did not have time to linger or I would have ended up with a lot more than an oriental rug on my doorstep! I am not sure my bank would have liked that!
I didn’t go to sleep my last night in Cairo. Even if I had not had to leave for the airport at 1:30 in the morning, I wouldn’t have slept. I didn’t sleep much on my return flight, either. Egypt fills you with passion, mystery, wonder, awe, and respect. All worth savoring until you can only relive in a dream! Rebecca
Previous Articles in This Series
- Protecting Traveler Equity Matters - February 1, 2017
- Never Tired of New York - May 16, 2016
- Italy for Spring Break! - October 1, 2015
- A Mother/Daughter New York Trip! - August 25, 2015
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago, Chile - May 4, 2015
- Egypt: Hidden Treasures of the World - April 17, 2015
- Egypt: Loving Luxor - April 16, 2015
- Egypt: Luxurious Luxor - April 15, 2015
- Egypt: Amazing Aswan - April 14, 2015
- Egypt: Just the Beginning - April 13, 2015