Tuesday 10th January 2006
So the sleeper train to Cairo was pretty uneventful – despite me getting little sleep and having my insides oscillated to heck and back! For the first time in what seems ages, I can sleep in a bed that isn't rocking in one direction or another, although my head still thinks that the earth is rocking...
We took in a tour to Coptic and Islamic Cairo today. The Coptic church is one of the oldest Christian communities, dating from the 3rd century in Egypt. In fact, some of the rituals can be traced back to Pharonic times, as can the Coptic religious language – one of the keys to deciphering the Hieroglyphics, using the Rosetta stone. The Coptic community in Cairo is ancient, and the streets surrounding the main churches are rabbit warrens. Rather surprisingly, there was a Synagogue nearby as well, although few active Jewish families remain in Egypt.
Three mosques were visited, Amr ibm al-As – on the site of the first mosque founded in Egypt, Mohammed Ali – built by the first leader of modern Egypt in the early 19th century and is modelled on Turkish lines., and an-Nasir Mohammed, whose main claim to fame is the last remaining Mamluk building in Cairo's citadel. From the exterior terrace of the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, there is a view over all of Cairo. Today's visibility was so good, because of the lack of traffic due to the holiday, amongst other things, that the Great pyramids and others were visible, several miles away.
I admit that today's PaD may not be to everyone's taste. However, today was the feast day of Eid al-Adha. This marks the start of the Hadj, the time of pilgrimage to Mecca. A holiday for all Muslims, it is marked by mass prayer, and the ritual slaughter, on the streets, of sheep and cows. The meat is offered as a gift to the poor, while the fleece or hide is used, either commercially or within the family.