egypt 10: a guide to islamic cairo

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Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo’s oldest surviving mosque, and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali

Islam was introduced into Egypt by Amr ibn el-As in 639 AD and Egypt changed forever after that. Islam is based on the recitations of the Prophet Muhammad who was born in 570 AD in Mecca, Arabia. At the age of 40 he received the word of God through Gabriel, the archangel and for 22 years, thereafter, he recited his revelations to his followers. Islam rests on the Quran (el-Quran means the recitation). In the quest of spreading this message, the converted Arab armies led by his followers in Baghdad, conquered the Byzantine and Persian empires.

If there is time to see only one mosque in Cairo, it has to be the Ibn Tulun Mosque. Built in the 9th Century by Ahmed ibn Tulun, it is the oldest surviving mosque in Cairo. The edifice is impressive both for its large scale and minimalist classical lines. The vast courtyard is covered with pebbles, the pointed arches made of brickwork and stucco, and the spiral minaret seems to have been borrowed out of a fairytale. A 2-kilometer long wooden frieze inscribed by one-fifteenth of the Quran runs below the ceiling. Continue reading

egypt 9: a guide to the egyptian museum and coptic cairo

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Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the Middle East since the 13th Century, is the meeting point not only of past and present but East and West. Five thousand years of history blend harmoniously into each other in this large metropolitan, cosmopolitan, historical, yet modern city.

Egyptian Museum

Cairo’s most famous and priceless treasure is the Egyptian Museum in the heart of the city. Founded by the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette in 1858, it contains some of the world’s most extraordinary antiques. At least two days are needed to get a grasp of the masterpieces which range from across the millennia: the Old Kingdom (2686-2160 BC), Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC), New Kingdom (1550-1080 BC), the Amarna Period and the subsequent Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Continue reading

egypt 4: the nile cruise

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“Hail to thee, O Nile, that issues from the earth
and comes to keep Egypt alive! …
… O Nile, verdant art thou,
who makes man and cattle to live!”

~ Translated from ‘Hymn to the Nile’ written for an Inundation Festival held at Thebes some 3,600 years ago

“Egypt is the Gift of the River”, said Herodotus, the Greek Historian in the 5th Century BC. Rightfully so. Kingdoms came and went, dynasties rose and fell. But the Nile continued, steadfastly, year in and year out, with its rise and ebb to irrigate, fertilise and nourish a civilisation that endured 3,000 years of history. Continue reading

egypt 1: pyramids, houses of eternity

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“Oh Atum, what is my duration of life,”
the deceased king asked the creator-god.
“Thou art destined for millions of millions of years,
a lifetime of millions,” the deity replied.

~ Extract from an ancient Egyptian religious text

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