Mosque – Islam lesson – see the pics on “go Egypt – Cairo” page
Gosh, we’ve been busy today. We started with a visit to an old mosque. I got chatting with muezzin about how he learned to incant the morning prayer and he gave us a live demo in the huge burial chamber behind the mosque with a ceiling about 100m above ground and resonances to warm the cockles. He incanted for about 4-5minutes and his voice was like honeyed velvet and the call to prayer chanted, just for us three, had us in tears.
Our guide gave us a lecture about Islam but there was too big of a chasm between us as usual (about women and gays and accountability etc). You can’t argue about values, but you can get mightily exasperated!
The Yacoubian building (see pic on “go Egypt-Cairo page)
It’s not quite as down-at-heel and shabby as I remembered it. There is a lively hustle & bustle of chain stores around about. The elegant French facade is still comforting and the wonderful security entrance gates still stand guard, in fine condition, considering their years. The old place got a bit of sparkle from the revolution in the air and looks fit to serve another 100 years at least.
Coffee / Tea place
Afterwards we went for a tea at the exact same place outside the bazaar where I was tailed during previous visit on Amnesty business. And – blow-me-down, I saw the exact same secret policeman who followed me last time. He was seated at the same neighbouring table from where he monitored me last time and he had the same brand of notebook for observations and reporting as in 2004. He has been promoted and he’s bit greyer & chubbier than 8-9 years ago, but he hasn’t changed that much, we recognised each other instantly and embraced with kisses on both cheeks. He was briefly transferred to the internet tracing branch, but missed the outdoor life and all his street mates. I promised that if he comes to London I’ll give him a tour round Peckham and try to get him into the East Dulwich Police Station for town twinning session.
The mobile cellphone has become much more ubiquitous in the intervening period and our ghuide spends more than his time with us on the telephone speaking rather loudly to travel agency base. They are having problems with us because we are not buying enough extra optional day-trips and side tours, so there is a constant tug-of-war between them and us to sell us more side trips. We have not taken the Son et Lumiere of Ancient Egypt and we have not gone for “Coptic Cairo”, but we insisted on checking out the reproduction antiquities depot and on looking for CDs of revolutionary music in hard-to-find music stores. I wanted a copy of the little seated figure of cheops and some animals, but very difficult to track down among all the Tut tat from China. Mind you, if you want a figure with a massive disproportionate willy, they come in every size.
The market and tourist spots and restaurants and hotels do look very very quiet, but this could be explained by the off-season and by recession/ austerity in Europe rather than the local political situation.
T-shirts stall reps, shoe shine guys, vendors of silver and plastic, bread deliveries on gigantic trays balanced on the head, necklace touts and policemen of every stripe seated on the sidewalk, eating, drinking , issuing on-the-spot parking & traffic fines and playing cards. The old plpace has not changed all that much.
A subterranean treasure store of eclectic Tutankhamunia – papyruses, brassware, figurines in plastic or alabaster or granite or quartz or soapstone or blue stone or green stone or olive wood or black wood and glass jars and phials and jugs and vases and thrones of Tut and beds of Tut and holy book stands and jewels and beads and silver and gold and gold leaf and gilding and finally a cup of tea and a bargaining session over price with all the family watching the entertainment of the funny eccentric fat man.
Downtown CD shop
Downtown everyone is so helpful and friendly and his grandfather was a scout for the British army and look at his grandad’s photo. Unfortunately Shareen, the activist singing star of the revolution, has not issued a CD yet cos there are just 2-3 tracks available via download.
Fel Fela Restaurant
We tried every dish on the menu and it still didn’y break the bank. We are beginning to feel we could beat Cairo. But we still wouldn’t go out all that often and would live within a radius of 500m. Any other view of the world or lifestyle would be simply too much jeopardy; justy crossing the road is like pulling off a major high wire stunt.