Cairo

8:26 PM

It took me a while to put this post together. 

Initially, I wanted to post some photos and add in few captions (which, now that I think about it, sounds kinda lazy). I was also hesitant to write this post after learning about the devastating attacks in the Helwan district that took place on December 29th, just one day after I left Cairo. What's particularly jarring is that I attended a Christmas service while there, but at a different church, and at a different time.

The night before my flight, someone jokingly told me to stay away from large crowds. I kind of laughed it off, but I silently wondered to myself why so many people perceive Egypt to be dangerous country (I later realized it's not as safe as I imagined). Naïve, I know.  Churches and mosques are usually surrounded by high security, but it is clear that tragic events can still take place despite all the precautions taken.

I'm glad I changed my mind and dedicated an entire post to this incredible city, because there are so many good things to say. At the end of the day, I still believe we should travel to the destinations on our bucketlist (within reason, of course). Besides, if we stress over travel warnings and watch the news on loop 24/7, we'll never end up going anywhere, right?

The Service Industry

Strangely enough, the first thing I noticed was that the service industry appears to be very prominent in Cairo. Having a hired chef, caterer, gardener, cleaning services, driver etc. appears to be the norm*. I don't know why this took me by surprise. Cairo is a huge city with many civilians, traffic congestion is high, and so convenience is key. I learned that Uber and Kareem are popular ridesharing services for getting around the city. I also observed that social gatherings are usually catered, and that Ot Lob is a popular app for ordering in. Speaking of food, Egyptian cuisine is simple, delicious, and always made to order. My favourite dish was Mahshi, a cabbage roll stuffed with spiced rice and tomato. They also make the best assorted desserts out of dried fruits and nuts.
*Disclaimer: my experience is through the lens of a visitor which, I'm sure, is wildly different from the "norm".
A welcome cake from my mom's landlord. Super sweet and thoughtful!

Tourism

On day two of the trip, we made a trip to Giza, followed by the Citadel of Salah al-Din.

The trip to Giza was a surreal experience, and if it weren't for the photographic evidence on my memory card, I wouldn't believe that it actually took place. I remember reading about the pyramids and hieroglyphics in history class, and watching The Mummy (the 1999 version) as a child, which gave me serious nightmares (remember the scene with the bugs?). Being able to witness them in real life was something else. It boggles my mind that the pyramids were constructed with such simple (yet efficient) technologies.


My favourite part about travel is going to destinations that make me feel small. It's that humbling realization that my lifespan is just a tiny drop in the large ocean of human civilization. So many incredible events, feats, and actualities occurred before my existence.


In the afternoon, we drove to the Citadel of Salah al-Din to visit the Muhammed Ali mosque. I had seen a few photos of the mosque on Instagram and was dying to see it in person. The architecture is incredible. The mosque was constructed in AD 1830, and designed after the Sultan Ahmad mosque in Istanbul. Because it's situated on top of a hill, you can see the massive dome - accompanied by four semi-domes and two minarets - from every corner of the city.




I was especially taken by the interior of the mosque. 

After removing your shoes at the entrance, you enter through a large wooden door and stroll into the dimly lit, carpeted space. You'll find several individuals (seated and standing) that are being lead in prayer, as well as a few tourists. I could literally spend hours staring at the light fixtures and ornate details on the high ceiling.





The People

Around sunset, we went on a felucca ride down the Nile river. This was easily my favourite part of the trip. There's nothing like the peace and quiet of being out on water, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Somewhere along the journey, we saw a fisherman off in the distance that appeared to be rowing his boat towards us. His name was Ramadan, a friend of the man sailing our boat. He explained that he was about to make a cup of tea and asked us if we would like some.
Making tea
We joined him on his boat, and thankfully, my mom's friend - who is fluent in Arabic - helped us to translate what he was saying. Ramadan told us about the fishing tools in his boat, the type of fish he generally catches, and that the morning is the best time of day to get the best yield of fish. We thanked him for the tea and parted ways.


I'm grateful to be able to visit a country with such a rich historical background. There are several other Egyptian cities that are noteworthy, but that require more time to explore (ex. Luxor, Alexandria etc.). Hopefully, I'll be able to go back and see them some day!

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