Cairo is an unaesthetic but interesting city. We spent most of our time there.
Cave Church, Garbage City, & the City of the Dead
Pictures don’t do justice to the gorgeous Cave Church. The church is built into a cave (the site of numerous miracles, apparently), with elphantine paintings and murals on its upper reaches. Inside, every detail is beautifully thought out. I enjoyed my guide, a sweet little man who told me anecdotes in a pitchsqueak followed by giggles.
But you reach this beautiful church by driving through two of Cairo’s most horrific areas.
Garbage City is a part of Cairo so named because all the city’s garbage is delivered to and sorted there. Whole families, including the elderly and small children, live within buildings ensconced in garbage, and it’s everyone’s collective job to deal with it.
Immediately before Garbage City we drove through the City of the Dead, an Islamic necropolis. Some of the people are still alive.
They reside here in order to be near their ancestors, or because they can’t afford shelter elsewhere. Much of the necropolis is a slum, and I wasn’t allowed out of the car.
Nothing in this trip was entirely pure, free of something rotten.
The amazing Egyptian Museum holds the relics of King Tut’s tomb. The entire top floor is filled almost entirely with sarcophogi; I felt like I was in a very aesthetic graveyard. In classic modern Egypt fashion, there were no plaques or print near the exhibits. A few of the sarcophogi had dusty cards with a typewritten (!) sentence. The sentences were not enlightening.
One card had this :
Wooden stick. Use unknown.
The coffin is one of the most important objects in the tomb.
In the Egyptian museum I was surrounded by teenagers wanting pictures with me. The same thing happened at Saladin Castle with a crowd of overzealous children and in downtown Cairo. Young women eating orange sorbet waved at us and squealed when we waved back. They were excited about ‘the Americans.’
The fun Pharaonic Village is not a historical site but a reproduction. It includes an ancient temple, the house of an aristocrat and a commoner, and the tomb + relics of King Tut. There’s also a yacht ride on the Nile, while on the shore people enact jobs of ancient Egyptians: builders, farmers, mummifiers, and, randomly, Bathsheva and baby Moses.
The yacht show is cute, except you can see the actors rolling their eyes during wheat cuttings or mummy wrappings. One of the mummies winked at me.
*Stay tuned for the last part of my Egyptian adventures.
To read the first segment of the Egypt Files: