Leaving Jordan came at the perfect time. I experienced much of the country, but not so much that I never want to return. Anyhow, given the cost and logistics required to arrange travel to this region of the world, I thought it was prudent to at least visit some other places, which is why I’ve been in Cairo, Egypt for the last 35 hours.
Planning my visit here was easy enough, I used AirBnB and could not have found a more welcoming and kind host, not to mention the beautiful accomodation: a houseboat on the Nile. I write this with my sliding door wide-open, the city lights reflecting off the river into my (temporary) living room. The second advantage to my host is that he frequently hosts tourists and works directly with an independent Egyptian tour guide named Mina, who was my host for the better part of the day.
Mina and I began at 7:30AM departing from the houseboat to Islamic Cairo where we visited an entirely empty mosque from the mid-800s. The inside of this mosque is stunningly beautiful, but the truly best view was from the top of the minaret — which is apparently only accessible to people on good terms with the mosque caretakers. (In Egypt and the Arab world more generally, this is called wasta, which is a word for “connections” but, in many cases, really means “corruption”). Nonetheless, climbing the minaret was an awesome experience, and the view from the tower over the bustling city below was itself worth the trip.
Second, we visited the Coptic area, which included the Hanging Church, so named because it was built on the remains of the roman towers and, thus, hangs suspended well above ground level. The church was beautiful, the mass taking place was something entirely different from the christian ceremonies found in the United States, and the architecture was excellent.
Third, the main attraction. Mina and I left for Giza to see the three great pyramids and the sphinx. Words written by a better author might possibly convey the magnificence of these millenia old ruins, but mine cannot. I will simply add photos.
Lastly, Mina and I visited the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and Tahrir Square. The Museum, if I am allowed to be critical, is better described as a glorified and well-kept warehouse. The displays are packed in as tightly as possible, which is understandable as they have 100,000 pieces on display, with another 150,000 in storage (with more being discovered). The best display of the Museum, without a doubt, was for King Tutenkhamen. The sheer absurdity of the amount of gold that was buried with King Tut (and is now on display with his solid gold mask) is dumbfounding. Also impressive is the manner in which he was buried after his mummification; he was entombed in his sarcophagus, a room built around room and plated in gold, followed by another room that was plated with gold, and so on for another three rooms until the burial case for King Tut was roughly the size of a modern one-car garage. I’m not one to advise 18 year old kings on how to spend their wealth, but sometimes I indulge. My thoughts for King Tut might be: Building oneself a golden garage in which to be buried seems to me, at the very least, frivolous.
Anyhow, I’m now seven hours away from departing my Nile River hosueboat. I need to make a trip across the street for water, I need to re-pack, and I need to prepare for my next adventure in Lebanon.