Al-Qahirah

Working and living in Cairo, Egypt.

Monthly Archives: July 2012

As tourists…

Hello again, it’s been a while… Now we are already in Finland but we still want to share some memories from Cairo. This time we’ll tell you something about the sights and what you can do on your spare time in Cairo.

On our first week in Cairo we we visited, probably the most famous thing in Egypt, the Pyramids. We booked the whole day for it and also our trustee taxi driver πŸ™‚ We went to two different pyramids, first our taxi driver took us to the Giza pyramids. Those really are amazing and huge! We just kept on wondering how people were able to build those years and years ago. We also went inside the biggest pyramid, which was exciting.. you shouldn’t be too claustrophobic when going in. We rode the camels as well, luckily our roommates’ friend (male one :D) was with us because otherwise we would have paid way too much, but he knew how to haggle over the price. Of course there was also the sphinx, the noseless figure with a human head and the body of a lion. We took a lot of pictures there! After Giza our taxi driver took us to the pramids of Dahshur. There we saw for example the Bent pyramid, which shape is a bit different, like its name tells: it is bent.

On the first week we also went to a felucca cruise with our roommates and their friend. Felucca is a traditional one massted sail boat of the Nile and it doesn’t have an engine so ot relies entirely on the breeze. Our cruise took one hour (you can also rent it for two hours) and it was really relaxing: we had some tea and cookies, sun was shining and there was a nice breeze. πŸ™‚

After four weeks we visited to the Anafora Retreat Center. It was an excursion arranged by Finns in Egypt organization. Anafora is located about 70 kilometres towards Alexandria from Cairo and it is a Christian retreat center where lives dozens of Anaforans and voluntary workers. We satyed there one night (the coldest night ever!!! :D) and we enjoyed it, in spite of the night. It was wonderful to breath fresh air and hear the silence because there was no chaotic traffic at all. We met the founder of the Anafora, bishop Thomas, and he told us interesting stories about himself. We also met a Finnish Helena Nikkanen who lives in Anafora and teaches icon painting for the nuns of Anafora. She told about her work and the icon painting tradition in coptic church. There was a nice little shop in Anafora too and of course we couldn’t leave without buying something, such as a rug, shade, scarf, papyrus…

In Cairo we visited the Cairo Tower which is located on the Gezira island. Te tower is an imitation of a lotus plant and it was buit in 1962. The tower is 187 metres tall and the views are amazing! We got a better view from the Nile and the whole city.

One evening we visited the Cairo Opera House and went to see the Tosca opera with our friends. We hadn’t seen any opera before so we didn’t quite know what to expect. The ticket cost about three euros so it would not have been a problem if it wasn’t any good. The opera was sung in Italian and the translation was in Arabic, but luckily we had programmes in English where we could read the story. Opera took about two and half hours and we were really surprised how good it was, so maybe we could see one in Finland too. πŸ˜‰

If you like shopping (and we do! :D) you cannot leave from Cairo without going to Khan al-Khalili, the biggest bazaar in Cairo and one of the oldest ones in Egypt. The oldest parts of the bazaar are from the 14th century. We went there three times and we could say that it was enough πŸ˜€ Khan al-Khalili is a good place to buy souvenirs, there are hundreds different little shops but you just need to remember bargain, a lot! Otherwise you are paying way too much. So it is not the fastest way to buy things but it can be fun. On the other hand you can get frustrated because there’s lots of pushing.

We didn’t shop just in Khan al-Khalili but also (quite many times) in Carrefour, also known as Maadi City Centre, we could say that it was one of our favourite places + Starbucks and White chocolate mocha, yumm! We also visited the City Stars a couple of times, it is a huge shopping centre, at least three times the size of Ideapark.

Near Sayyda Aisha, where we changed the mikrobus on our way to work, is also one place worth visiting, it’s called Citadel. Citadel is a big fortification which was built in 12th century. There are many things to see, for example three mosques and lots of different museums. When we visited the Citadel we went inside the mosque of Muhammad Ali, the most visible mosque in Cairo. It was really beautiful and it’s spectacular in the evenings too when the lights of the mosque are on. You can see it from far. It was also quite exciting because it was our first time in a mosque. After the mosque we visited the National Military Museum and the Prison museum. We would have visited the Police museum too but unfortunately it was closed. It was a really nice tourist day, the sun was shining, it was really warm and we ate ice cream :p

The Egyptian Museum is a very impressive place and there’s so much history! We only visited the museum once but it would have been better to go at least twice because there are so many things to see. We were there for four hours and it just wasn’t enough, we also got a little bit tired because we didn’t have time for a coffee break πŸ˜€ It is said that there are over 120 000 items in the museum and our travel guide (a book) says that if you look at every piece for one minute it would take nine months to see it all! Probably the greatest thing in the Egyptian Museum were the mummies. We had to buy a separate ticket to see those but we didn’t mind because it was so interesting. So, there were 12 mummies lying under the glass ”boxes” in one room. We could see their heads, fingers and toes, otherwise they were covered. Some of them had teeths and some hair left. It was so weird.. that years and years ago they actually were living people. There were animal mummies in the museum too, which were quite interesting also.

Finally we would like to tell something about the Egyptian food. To begin with fruits, we ate lots of those, mostly bananas and strawberries. Fruits were really cheap in Cairo compared for example to Finland. But our favourite food or lunch (depending on how you want to define it:D) was definitely fitiiras and mahalabeyas. Fitiira is made of puff pastry, it is rolled and inside of it you can have for example cheese or icing sugar. Mahalabeya is pudding in other words. We always had milk-chocolate or cappuccino-chocolate flavour, yum! Those were really cheap too

Abu Al-Sid is an Egyptian restaurant where we tasted pigeon and molokheya. The pigeon was stuffed with rice and it tasted almost like chicken, a little bit lighter though. Molokheya was a very interesting experience. It’s green soup which tastes like garlic and it is made of molokheya leaves. It was quite good but very slimy. :p The soup was served with rice and chicken which was really tasty!

We also visited Maison Thomas which is located in Zamalek, on gezira island. It is a famous European style pizzeria which was established in 1929, and the pizzas were sooo good!

 

So here were some of our experiences that we had in Cairo πŸ™‚

-Pia & Saara