06 December 2012

Life in Cairo: Al-Azhar

On one particularly beautiful day, my roommates and I headed out for a walk in the area of Cairo around Al-Azhar Mosque. We'd already been into the depths of Khal el-Khalili souk, so we decided to walk around in other directions to see what there was to see. This was one of our last weekends together in Egypt, as one of our number already moved into her student room on the other side of town, I was leaving the next day for my organized tour of Upper Egypt, and the others only had a week left on their studies as well. Here are some highlights from our walkabout that day:
Beautiful Minaret

Kitschy tourist crap that I didn't buy

I think these were spices, though some of them could probably function as natural dyes

Prayer book inside the Hanging Church of Cairo

This boy was with his mother, selling tissues outside the underground walkway

When you look up, you see Cairo's colonial beauty
We covered quite a bit of ground this day, and all of us were marveling at just how beautiful Cairo really was (it is!). Though we'd all had our own negative experiences during our time there, those were no match for the stunning beauty, architecture, and hospitality that we all experienced from most people that we met. I was so lucky to have friends already living in Cairo, so the city actually triply blessed me with good fortune.

Books for sale in the Market outside the mosque

People selling prayer rugs, handcarved boxes,
books and other goods outside the mosque

As we continued our walk, we discovered another, hidden neighborhood, and decided to walk through it. I love doing this when I travel, because you never know what kind of gems you're going to find!

Boy selling drinks
It was so hot in Cairo when I was there, and the humidity, compared to Baghdad was nearly unbearable for me. I found a lot of refreshment in the various drinks sold in the juice shops in and around Cairo. The boy in this neighborhood was selling three different drinks to refresh passers by in the narrow passage ways where he'd set up his cart: Tamarhindi (tamarind juice) or Erk Sous (licorice), Sobieh (coconut milk juice), and/or Sugarcane juice. these are so delicious on a hot summer day (yes, even in September it's still summertime!). Though, I prefer, just as a precaution to buy my fresh juices from shops. Not that that always protects you from stomach bugs, but I've got to at least try. I pretty much am guaranteed to get sick eating food from street carts!
This breadmaker invited us into his shop to have a look at his bread. In Egyptian, bread is called, aieesh. There are three kinds - Shammie, which is basically just like any old white flour pita (though not to be underestimated, because YUM!), aieesh balady, or the bread of the people, and aieesh makamar, which is darker and crispy for making Fatta. The word for bread (in the Egyptian dialect), I think even gives a clue to just how important it is for living, because I think, Aieesh is also the word Egyptians use for "life."

When I asked if I could take a picture, he ushered us into his steaming hot bakery to show us how the bread was made. You can't imagine the amazing smell coming out of this shop! In the back were a couple of old men, and some young boys mixing the dough and preparing it for the roller and the ovens. 

And now I leave you with a last image from our walk this day. Another stunningly beautiful mosque on the skyline. This one, in particular caught my eye, just because of the blue windows next to it. 

I've still got a lot of ground to cover on my five weeks spent in Egypt. So, what next, dear 5 people who read this blog? Shall we head to Upper Egypt, or do you want some more on Cairo first? I promise I'll be more timely about posting these!

1 comment:

dianaschnuth said...

I love seeing your travel photos! If you're taking requests, maybe we could see some more of Cairo before moving on to Upper Egypt. But I'll read whatever you post! :)