Today saw us pack up and get ready to leave the hotel. Knowing that our ride would not be there until noon, we decided to again go out and explore the surrounding area. A nice bonus was finding mouthwash and shampoo/conditioner to replenish the items we had to leave at the Buffalo Airport. Another handy discovery was an ATM to get some money for our next leg of the journey. We felt we were on a roll and needed to celebrate. What better way than stopping by another local bakery where we got a platter of tiny-sized baklavas and some “bird nest” pastry which are best described as shredded wheat coated in a layer of honey, made into the shape of a bird’s nest, and with either two almonds or two macadamia nuts in the middle. It looked exactly like a bird’s nest and tasted amazing.
Soon, our guide Sam was here, our luggage was stowed safely in his trunk, and we were off to explore the city of Cairo again. First stop was the Civilization Museum which was recently completed and beautifully designed. The exhibits were well lit and displayed and had translations in English and Egyptian. The upstairs housed an assortment of items showcasing the history of ancient and modern Egypt and provided us with further understanding of Egypt. Sam carefully took the time to explain many of the items on display and he graciously shared his knowledge of ancient culture, tools, people, and the history of the area. Also in the museum were displays of more modern leaders and their contributions to Egyptian culture and modern Egypt. The lower level of the museum housed the mummies, which are still intact, thousands of years later. We wish we had some pictures to share, but none were allowed. We can only recommend you Google them to see the details of mummies of famous people like King Ramses II and Queen Nefatari. Some of the mummies still had hair on them and you could see the color, or braids, or flowing locks.
Next stop was the Mosque of Sultan Hasan built in the 1300s where we wandered around while Sam explained how the faithful prayed in the direction of Mecca, where the Imam sits, and where the faithful sit and pray, listening to the Imam speak. When you enter a mosque, one difference that is noticeable is you see no imagery or icons. Muslims do not believe in this as part of their religion and as such you see only geometric designs. We also went to another mosque built in 1922 right next to the first one, ‘”””””””. We saw the same structure and design as the other mosque. This mosque was unique, though, as it housed the burial site of the Shah of Iran after he fled Iran after the 1979 revolution. Despite the fact that other Muslim countries denied entry to the Shah, Egypt remembered his assistance many years earlier and repaid the Shah for his help. As a teaching of Islam says, if you help someone, then one day, they will help you. In Egypt, they are Suni Muslims and in Iran they are Shiite Muslims, and they two factions do not coexist easily.
Rounding out the guided tour, we drove, not walked, through the City of Dead. All we could think is how sad. It is a cemetery, and the dead are buried below ground with a small enclosure built above it, about the size of a shed. Now, the homeless occupy the areas above the dead. The City of the Dead has become a large homeless shelter for many of the working poor.
Sam then offered us a choice, shopping or someplace for dinner. Kathy, not wanting to brave the shopping crowds or heat, picked dinner which ended up being perfect for her. Both had a very nice meal which was recognizable and delicious. Kathy had Salmon and Dave Chicken Cordon Bleu. We did each try a smoothy and both were amazing. Kathy’s was strawberry with Hibiscus flowers and Dave’s was caramel. Both were ice-cold and delicious and very welcome on a hot day.
Last stop was the train where we met up with Sam’s brother-in-law, Ayman, who had our tickets. We were joined by a couple from Puerto Rico, Raul and Maria, and we were soon deposited into our “cabin” to spend the next 12 hours. The size was smaller than my closet at home and included an upper and lower bunk, a sink, and……….air! We met our next-door neighbors, two cousins from the States: Josh from TN and Vince from Ohio, who were spending time in Egypt as sort of a reconnaissance. Meals were somewhat edible. Dave will eat anything, and he said it was fine but Kathy is a bit more discerning. Sleep was elusive for Kathy as the temperature from the air conditioning dropped the room to a “I can see my breath” temperature, the noise from the other trains, and the constant motion, bumps, and halting of the train made it difficult to stay asleep. Breathing a sigh of relief, we were “soon” off the train, as it was only three hours late getting into the station. We were promptly picked up by our guide Michael who drove us to the cruise ship for our next stage of the journey – a cruise down the Nile river. It was like being deposited into heaven. We have a sitting room with couch, chair, and a TV. A separate bedroom with his and hers bathrooms. Secret to a happy marriage: separate bathrooms!! 😊
We even have the internet. I hope it is good for the entire trip. Like the bathrooms, we have his and hers access!