Islamic Cairo and the Egyptian Museum

We started our exploration of Islamic Cairo at the Al-Azhar Mosque, which is one of Cairo’s oldest mosques and the world’s oldest operating university.  There were lots of students, primarily from Indonesia and the Philippines, here to study Islam.  Natalya and I made sure we were dressed appropriately to enter the mosque, including scarves to cover our hair.  Admission is free, but you will run into people asking if you want a guide.  You will have to pay baksheesh for this service of course, so proceed with caution.

Nearby is the famous Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s ginormous souk (market), aka “giant tourist trap.”  Any souvenir imaginable can be found here, such as pashminas, mother-of-pearl jewelry boxes, carved (but obviously mass produced) chess sets, spices, and water pipes.  Also, for locals (or a daring tourist) there are tons of meat and vegetable stands.  I knew I had several more days here so I just window-shopped and made a note of how much people were offering for items I inevitably walked away from…

We continued from Khan el-Khalili to check out the twin minarets of Bab Zuweila, a medieval gate in Cairo.  For 15EGP admission, you can climb up to the top of the minarets, take pensive princess photos from the towers, etc.

Next stop was the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, or more commonly known as the Egyptian Museum.  Basically, it is a warehouse of Egyptian artifacts with items strewn about in a haphazard manner, many articles without labels or mislabeled. Even Costco is better organized than this…. but at the same time the sheer size of the collection was impressive.  There is even more stuff stored in the basement because there is just not enough room to display it all.  A new state of the art museum is in the process of being constructed with proper lighting and air/temperature control, that I’m sure will be amazing to see one day.

Admission to the museum is 100EGP per person, with an additional fee to see the royal mummies.  My favorite displays (that were also the most coherent to understand in terms of placards and labels) were the animal mummies and the special room which held all the artifacts from the Tomb of Tutankhamen.

On a random note: This is a photo of a woman peddling beading headpieces to tourists around Khan el-Kalili and smoking a cigarette over her child, who looks a couple years too old to be drinking from a bottle.  So many things wrong with this picture…

Return to main menu: “Walk Like an Egyptian”

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