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Cairo visit - Part 3

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hello dear Sparkfriends,

This blog covers Wednesday, with the visit in the afternoon of some amazing old Muslim and Christian (Coptic) buildings in Cairo.
When I arrived at our office on the morning, there was a special gift waiting for me... Well, two special gifts really: some cantaloupe (very tasty!) and Egyptian pastries. Oh la la!!!

You can find similar pastries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but these were especially awesome. (No, don't worry, I didn't eat them all, I tried to practice mindful eating... but hum, I did enjoy a few more than what my 'hunger' was telling me!!!) emoticon

With two of my colleagues, we then left to visit a nearby French private school we work with, attending a kindergarten show (that was sooo cute!) with little girls singing in Arabic and in French...

I was asked to say a few words in French to older students. When I watched the video my colleague Mumtaz took of this, I couldn't believe how much my hands move when I talk!!!

Then it was time for some touristic fun! My colleague Lois, who is American but has been living in Egypt for 20 years, first took me to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest in Cairo in its original form (it was consecrated in 884).

If you are a James Bond fan, you might recognize it: parts of the film 'The Spy Who Loved Me' were filmed here! I know some of you like to have more information about the places you see in my blogs. Here you can read a little more about this famous mosque:
sque_of_Ibn _Tulun

Lois and I walked up the minaret...

to look at the view on the mosque itself...

on life in the streets...

on the buildings nearby...

I am badly afraid of heights (although I cannot say I get scared, but I start shaking like crazy), so I decided to stop about half way, as I wasn't sure I would be fine going down. Still, the view was great!

You can see several mosques in the background. The big one up the hill in the middle was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848. It is one of the most famous buildings in Cairo and appears on the 20 Egyptian Pounds notes.

But back to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, with a quick visit in pictures...

Then it was time to drive to old Coptic Cairo! Unfortunately, many of the places to visit close at 4pm, and we were too late. But what we saw of old Coptic Cairo was beautiful! Old houses...

Saint Barbara Church...

The famous Saint Virgin Mary's Church (known as 'the Hanging Church') was striking. Here is Lois outside the gates...

It is called the Hanging Church because it is built on two towers of the Ancient 'Babylon' (built by Babylonians, i.e. Iraqis, who had taken refuge there). The church as we see it today was built around... 690!

Above the door, there is a verse of Matthew's Gospel in Arabic (Coptic Christianity is very Bible-based, there are verses of the Bible everywhere!):
'Ask, [and it shall be given you]; seek, [and you shall find]; knock, [and it shall be opened to you].'

Here is Lois outside the door up the stairs:

These young girls were fun, they wanted a picture with us, so Lois said it was ok if we could also take a picture of them! :)

That's all for Coptic Cairo...

Several of you have asked some questions about schools in Egypt in the comments on my previous blog. Lois kindly went through your questions and sent me the following explanation:
"Schooling in Egypt is free, with just a small price (but which is steep for many) to get notebooks and school supplies and uniforms. The schools are generally overcrowded, the teachers are underpaid, not trained well, and often not respected.
"Also, one reason it's so hard to read and write is because the Classical Arabic Language that is read and written is extremely different from the colloquial every-day spoken Arabic that people use to communicate. And the grammar is very difficult as well. This is why it is so important (and successful) to make learning to read and write Arabic into something more than just learning the grammar, but into a fun time, with discussion and interaction and games, and to study something meaningful and interesting as well."

Thank you so much Lois! (Lois just joined Sparkpeople by the way... if you want to visit her page and say hello, you can find her at LOISEGYPT!)

A few flowers from Cairo to end (the first ones are bougainvilleas)...

Thank you so much for reading this very long blog! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did this beautiful day! As soon as I receive the pictures my colleague Mumtaz took of me at the Pyramids, I'll post my last blog about Cairo!

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