13 February, 2010

Seeking Something New

Before things slip away to quickly in my mind and I'm occupied by something else, I first want to point out that today was actually a really good day. I got up in the morning and went to the gym, which really calmed me and then I went to AMIDEAST to pick up my passport with my new Egyptian visa. It was here that I found that I actually had a field trip...I guess I should update my iPod's calendar. 

So, before I knew it I was on my way to Islamic Cairo to see the architecture and learn about the culture a little bit more. The bus ride made me feel connected to everyone as I talked to them and enjoyed myself. 

When we got to Islamic Cairo, we were taken to a very old mosque, the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Ţūlūn, that had an awesome story attached to it. The goes something like this. Long after the mosque had fell into disarray, a sultan who had been removed from his throne came to Cairo and hid out in the deserted mosque for three years. During this time, Sultan Lajīn, prayed that he one day be restored to power and once restored to power, he would renovate and restore the mosque to former glory. Well, he did get his power back and it is said that he restored the mosque. Unfortunately, today it is still not used very often and is starting to fall into disrepair.
These pictures are the inside of the mosque, the center courtyard with fountain taken from above, and the minaret that we got to climb for a view of just about all of Islamic Cairo.  

It was at this point, however, as we entered the mosque that I realized I had forgotten to bring a scarf to cover my head, as that is the tradition for women, but, the guards didn't seem to mind as long as we all took our shoes off before going inside. 

After we finished with this mosque, we boarded the bus again and headed off for a different mosque, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hasan, which was built during the Mamluk Dynasty in Egypt. Now, for those who don't know the Mamluk Dynasty, here's a quick history lesson. It's basically a "slave dynasty". You couldn't become sultan unless you were once a "slave boy". It starts with Queen Shagrat al-Durr. (I know odd right, a women in power? Huh...) Her husband, the sultan before her, had just died and the French army had just landed in Egypt and were marching their way to Egypt. Instead of revealing to the people that the sultan has died, she gives the orders to the troops as if the sultan were still living. After the defeat of the French, she announces the death and hands over control to her step-son, who the Mamluks are not very fond of. The mamluks quietly take the son out of power and restore the Queen to the throne, where she then takes a husband from the slave boys, seeing as she was a slave girl herself. Not really how you would picture a dynasty forming, now is it? Also, something interesting to note is that the children she had with her new sultan could not actually be the ones to rule as they weren't considered "slaves". 

This is the main courtyard and fountain in the Mosque of Sultan Hasan. 

Ok, back on track. So, we visited this mosque which was a school that taught the four schools of Islam as well. It was beautiful inside and once again, the guards didn't seem to be too worried about us not having head coverings.

After we finished at this mosque, we met up with the Islam and Politics teacher, who showed us around the Al-Azhar Mosque, which is not really considered a tourist mosque. It was here that I was given a scarf to cover my hair. The inside of the mosque was very pretty, but you could definitely tell that this was still a mosque in use and not one that many tourists came to visit. The lecture that the professor gave us was also interesting, but it was mostly about the rituals of the mosque and what things were used for. Unfortunately, they had been told to us at the first mosque we visited and so, I found it kind of boring. 
These pictures are from the center courtyard of the mosque and inside. We weren't allowed to wear any shoes on the carpets as they are used for prayer. 

Once we left the mosque, we stopped at Al-Azhar Park and those of us who wanted to stop, stopped and those who didn't took the bus back home. This has to be one of my favorite places in Cairo, even though you have to pay to get in. It's a park with lots of green space away from all of the noise that is Cairo. There are lots of Egyptians there just hanging out and that's pretty much what we did. We got lunch/dinner at one of the cafes, and it was absolutely delicious. I splurged a little and got myself a pina colada, some chicken curry and a piece of cheesecake...so glad I had went to the gym that morning. We ate and then just walked around the park and admired the scenery and did some people watching. I definitely think I will go back there at some point.

These pictures are of the cafe we ate at, and the fountain at the entrance of the park. 

After we left the park, we headed home and around 9pm we got ready to go out. We were originally going to start the night hanging at Tyler and Moose's apartment and then move to Swiss club for their Valentine's themed club night. Well, we did about half of that. Or I did anyways. I went to Tyler and Moose's apartment, but I never made it out to Swiss club. Some of the other girls sort of went, but didn't go inside as it looked "sketchy" (This is Egypt. Everything looks sketchy.). So, instead I talked to some of Moose's friends from AUC and then came back home, not before stopping at Shruti's apartment with Moose to get some food. It was 3am after all and I had been drinking...made total sense. Definitely a good night.

Friday morning came around and I got up around 11am and then made my way to the gym. I'm really trying to stay in shape this semester, I think it will make a huge difference in the long run...plus, I need to be able to fit into my Amber costumes and Marni gown when I return. I then decided that I wanted to go somewhere, so I sent out a text and Sean and myself headed over to City Stars, which is the gigantic mall in Heliopolis. It took about an hour to get there, but it was worth it. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Cairo. More American-like. I know, I seem lame as I went somewhere American, but after living in the center of Cairo, occasionally you need that escape. I know I'll be back there sometime soon, as that is where the movie theater is and I know I'm  going to want to see one really soon!

When I got back home last night, I pretty much sat on the couch, read some Dexter and watched the end of Forrest Gump and then Memoirs of a Geisha. It was really relaxing and a good way to end the night. 

And this of course brings us to this morning/afternoon where I will be attempting to do homework to make up for the fact that I haven't done any for the last two days. Oh well, at least I enjoyed myself, right? 

So, yeah. Apologies for this post being so long. I'm going to get on that homework now. Stay tuned for more adventures! It seems the next few weeks are going to get busier and busier! 

P.S.- I completely forgot to elaborate on "Girl's Night". So, it started out really shaky for me as I was waiting for the cleaning lady to show up before I went over and she was nearly an hour late. But, I had a bit of fun. I talked with Shruti and Nadia (our academic coordinator) and some of the girls. But, it still felt odd and almost as if I was left out. Oh well. I'll figure it out soon enough. -REM


  1. That park is SOOOO PRETTY!! i want to go there, I think i could love it as much as VYSHEY... maybe. it sounds like you are doing cool things and having fun.

    the 20 feet of snow and I miss you!

  2. Awww...I miss you and the snow too! I'll see you when I get back though and we'll have fun along with Shayna and everyone too! I'm doing a lot of cool stuff. And yes, I love this park as much as Vsysherad. I just wish it was 5LE to get into it.