On our first full day here in Egypt we hired a guide and visited a number of holy sites in Cairo. We completed the day on the rooftop of our B&B in Giza watching the famous Sound & Light Show at the Sphinx.
Our first stop in the morning was to see the Hanging Church in Cairo. This church was built in 690 CE and is one of the oldest Christian churches in Africa.
The craftsmanship in this church is truly amazing. Despite several restorations most of the key features are original. The ivory inlaid without adhesive was especially impressive. This stained glass has been blessed with over 1000 years of sunlight.
The most famous icon of the 110 icons held here is the so-called Coptic Mona Lisa which represents the Virgin Mary holding Jesus. Her eyes appear to follow you like the Mona Lisa does. This icon has been in this church for over 1200 years.
The scale of time here in Egypt is boggling. We saw a house outside this church which has been inhabited by the same family for longer then the United States has been a nation.
The story of Joseph and Mary flight to Egypt with young child Jesus to escape Herod is well told in the Gospel of Matthew. Today, we visited the place where Joseph, Mary and Jesus took shelter and drank from a well. This church was built over the holy site.
We spent much of the morning in the area called Old Cairo. Every day this door is opened at 6am and every night it is closed and locked at 6pm. If you arrive after 6p then you’ll spend the night outside.
There used to be several of these doors securing the Old Cairol but not anymore. This door continues the tradition. Even our esteemed guide told us that no one knows how long this door has been managed this way, maybe for 100 generations.
Old Cairo is home to old Coptic churches, synagogues and mosques. Religious tolerance is a proud virtue in this area.
Our final Christian site to visit was to see the Coptic City of the Dead. Apparently there is also an Islamic version but we didn’t see it today. The City of the Dead is called this because it is a city of people living in an area where people are buried.
For the most part, the dead are housed in mausoleums which have very small sitting areas built atop of them for the mourning family to use to visit with the dead. If you become a pauper this may be your last bit of ground that you can claim as your own so you may choose to live there.
We made two other stops on our holy sites visits today. The next stop was to the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulum which was built in the 9th century less than 300 years after the Prophet Muhammed brought the words of Allah to the world. This makes this Mosque the 2nd oldest in Africa.
It was grand in scale and had a number of unique design elements.
We climbed to the top of the minaret and shot this photo with Old Cairo in the background (CreeperKitty hates heights so he missed the photo).
The last tour stop was to see the so-called Alabaster Mosque (Muhammed Ali Mosque) and the Citadel.
In this following photo you should see that the Citadel built walls from the same limestone quarry as the great pyramids and was built to protect against Christian crusaders.
Interestingly enough, the top of the hill is still formerly a military base but the historic Citadel wall (at left) was foolishly allowed to be bisected by a road in the 1970’s.
The 5 Adventurers finished the day seeing the limestone from this quarry 20km south at the Great Pyramids of Giza. Twice per night for 50 years, there has been a sound and light show at the sphinx and the Great Pyramids.
We didn’t buy a ticket for tonight’s show but we did eat dinner and watched it from the roof of our accommodations. The kids thought that the show needed “way more” laser lights and the parents just thought the whole production felt dated.
If you’ve ever seen the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me then you’ve seen a snippet of tonight’s show. It’s that dated. But the lights on the pyramids made for nice photos.