Judy in Egypt, Day 10: Return to Cairo

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Crossroads senior web editor Judy Koutsky arrived in Cairo Jan. 29 to begin a two-week adventure in Egypt, sponsored by Wild Women Adventures. Armed with a laptop and digital camera, she is sending on-site reports and photographs back to Crossroads' New Jersey headquarters on a daily basis (or whenever she can get an Internet connection). Agents who have questions or advice for Judy during her trip can send email to [email protected]

CAIRO, Egypt -- Today we flew back to Cairo. I think I've flown more in these past two weeks than I've flown in a year; this morning's was the seventh flight of the trip. Although the flights are all relatively quick (about an hour apiece), the packing, unpacking and waiting at the airport is catching up to me. I'm trying to cover as much of Egypt as I can, to get an overview of the country, but it might not be a bad idea to have clients keep the number of destinations reasonable, so they don't burn out.
This morning was spent visiting Old Cairo and Islamic Cairo. The first stop was the Citadel, an imposing, medieval fortress comprising three mosques and an assortment of museums. The CitadelThe Citadel and the minarets of Mohammad Ali's mosque tower high above the Cairo skyline and are breathtaking to view from a distance. Mohammad Ali's mosque, with its beautifully decorated walls and ceiling, is the most popular among tourists.

We could hear the Call to Prayer as we took off our shoes to enter the mosque. The Call to Prayer, signaling Muslims to pray, can be heard five times a day at mosques throughout Egypt. It's a beautiful chant, and I've come to appreciate being woken by the sound in the morning. Should clients turn up at the Mohammad Ali mosque inappropriately dressed (knees and shoulders must be covered), the mosque custodians will give them a flowing green robe to wear over their clothes. However, in this part of town, it's best to dress on the conservative side during one's stay.

We proceeded to the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Cairo, and a Christian Coptic church. It's interesting how this part of town is laid out: There are little alleyways branching off the main road in both directions, enabling Muslims, shisha pipeJews and Christians to find their respective houses of worship. Considering that up to 90% of the country is Muslim, it's quite amazing to see such a variety of religions practiced in a small area.

On almost every corner there is a cafe where men smoke shisha pipes (water pipes) and socialize with friends. This is a great place to meet and talk with locals while sampling the numerous varieties of teas and coffees offered.

The afternoon was spent at the Egyptian Museum, which contains some of the world's most extraordinary antiquities. It's recommended that tourists visit the museum twice: once at the beginning of their trip, to familiarize themselves with Egypt's ancient history, and once at the end, to appreciate all that they've seen.

More than 100,000 relics and antiquities from every period of ancient Egyptian history can be found here. Highlights include the Mummy Room, New Kingdom tombs and, of course, the famous artifacts from King Tutankhamon's tomb. I'd been looking forward to seeing these artifacts since visiting Tutankhamon's tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

This collection of over 1,700 objects found in the small tomb is simply astonishing. Included in the display are the pure-gold coffin in which Tutankhamon was buried (the actual mummy still lies in his tomb in Luxor) and the funeral mask that is inlaid with semiprecious stones.

Most of the second floor of the museum showcases the boy-king's treasures.

Fact Sheet

The Citadel is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the museums close at 4:30 p.m. Admission is 20 pounds (about $7).

The Egyptian Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 20 pounds (about $7). Permission to use cameras (without flash) costs an additional 10 pounds (about $3); otherwise cameras must be left at the entrance. Use of a video camera costs about 100 pounds (about $33). While visitors are free to roam the museum on their own, official guides will take clients around for about 40 pounds (about $13) per hour.

Wild Women Adventures: 107 N. Main Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472. Phone: (800) 992-1322. Web: www.wildwomenadv.com. Email: [email protected]

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