Egypt Tour 5:
Cairo (Al Cairo)


The name Cairo means "Victorious." I wondered a bit at that meaning until a car ran over my foot. Then, I realized that it shows something about life in the city, either you emerge victorious or it does.

When the Arabs invaded Egypt, they found a population, as elsewhere in the Arab world, less than enthusiastic with the local branch of Christianity, the Alexandrian version of Eastern Orthodoxy. Egypt entered a whole new era as an important Islamic country. In this respect the tiny numbers of Arab invaders made a far more significant impact on Egytpian culture than all of the grand invaders who came before. Hence, I have the national anthem and map on this page.

The Egyptian national anthem.

Latin Transliteration

Biladi biladi biladi
Lakihubbi wa fuadi
(repeat previous two lines)

Misr ya umm al bilad
Inti ghayati wal murad
Wa alla ku il ibad
Kam lineelik min ayadi

Misr intiaghla durra
Fawq gabeen addahr ghurra
Ya biladi aishihurra
Wa asadi raghm al adi.

Misr awladik kiram
Aufiya yaruzimam
Saufa takhti bilmaram
Bittihadhim waittihadi.
CHORUS (without repeats)


My homeland, my homeland, my homeland,
My love and my heart are for thee.
(repeat previous two lines)

Egypt! O mother of all lands,
My hope and my ambition,
How can one count
The blessings of the Nile for mankind?

Egypt! Most precious jewel,
Shining on the brow of eternity!
O my homeland, be forever free,
Safe from every foe!

Egypt! Noble are thy children,
Loyal, and guardians of thy soil.
In war and peace
We give our lives for thy sake.
CHORUS (without repeats)

The City

From Pharoah to Nasser:
The Long Aftermath

One could certainly write a book: Parallel lives of the Ancient and Islamic Egyptians. Something about living on the banks of the blue gives one a royal imagination if not always royal reach. Al-Hakim, the Mad King, about matches Akhenaton. In Ramses II, the warrior of Kadesh, you have a match in Saladin. And so forth.

Certainly, each left something behind in Cairo. The mosques, particularly, seem a continuation of the old pharoanic tradition of trying to acheive immortal life. Even as the pharoahs added to their predecessors tombs, so the later rulers remodelled earlier mosques, in some cases beyond recognition. Anyway, to the task.

Coptic (Christian) Cairo

Somehow Egypt always ends up taking its own path. Perhaps the security that you can summon a large population to agree with you and ignore the foreigners emboldens rulers. At any rate, even as Eastern Orthodox, the Egyptians quickly got into a theological argument with Byzantium resulting in effective ecclesiastical independence, i.e. become "Unorthodox." At the far end of the Byzantine reach, the Byzantines couldn't argue much about this.

After the Islamic invasions, a percentage of the population did not convert to Islam. Known today as Copts, they live in the oldest quarter of the city. Unfortunately, the area, "Mari Garis," seems to attract every salesman in the country who claims to be a Christian. What's that quote about "My house should not be a den of thieves?"

The interior of St. Sergius (I think), the church built on the spot in which Mary and Joseph hid in Egypt.

St. George's Cathedral, Coptic for sure.

A lone synagogue.

Historically narrow street.

St. Sergius, center of the Coptic community.

Okay, this celebrates the flight site of the Holy Family.

Tulimids and Fatemids

The earliest Caliphates, that of the Ommayids and Abbasids ruled Egypt in a pretty straight-forward pattern. The most persistent problem was local governors declaring their independence and the need to send armies out to subdue them.

One Turkish general, Ahmad Tulun, did what his Abbassid masters asked. Then, he declared his own dynasty which lasted for thirty years (870-900). Primarily, note the massive mosques. Again the Abassids sent out another general.

Of more lasting importance, the Shia Fatimids invaded from Tunisia. Originally from Syria they claimed direct descent from the Prophet through his daughter. Hence, the name. Unlike previous rulers, they didn't even claim to rule in the name of the Abassid Caliphs. Indeed, they considered the Abassids as heretics and fought wars against them. Under the Fatemids, Egypt claimed not independence but equality with the great Caliphs. At their height, the Fatemids had a reasonably big empire, but mainly it consisted of Egypt..and its conquests. The Fatemids included Al-Hakim who ordered all kinds of strange things done in his name. When Saladin overthrew the last Fatemid he took particular steps to restore Orthodoxy (see below).

The city of Cairo during this era centered on Fustat, now called "the Old City," and surprizingly far from the riverbanks. This quarter includes Khan Al Kalilih, a kind of poor man's bazaar. You could also consider it the world's oldest supermarket.

A gate to the Old City

This the Al-Barzun mosque.

The towers of the Tulumid mosque give a commanding view.

Another view.

Al-Azhar. The attached school is considered the oldest university in the world.

Saladdin took steps to bring scholars from the four
schools of Sunni Islam to replace the Shia scholars.

Another view.

1000 points of light?

Everyone gets a picture taken here.

Al Omar mosque from 1100s.

The wall

Though called the Al-Hakim mosque, he actually just finished his father's mosque.. He did, however, redesign the minarets.

Sali Talal Mosque, also under restoration

But wait. There's more.

Another view.

Sabil Kahhasha, an old rest stop, figures prominently
in a novel by Egyptian nobel prize winner Mafouz.

An external view.


The Turks

As the Arabs built their empire, they started to rely on others to do their fighting. As in the case of Tulumids, the relationship did not always remain as master and servants.

After the Fatemids, you get a long sucession of foreign rulers, generally of one kind of Turkish ancestry or another. These include Saleddin (a Kurd), the Mamelukes (slaves) and finally Mohammad Ali, an Albanian.

Under Ali, the Egyptians became a modern state, of a sort anyway. The country modernized to such an extent that it appeared, at one point, as though it might swallow up the entire decaying Ottomon Empire, a familiar tune played on a new instrument.

The Al Rifae mosque holds the Shah's remains.

Sayidda Zainab

Another view.

Saladin built the fortress, Ali the mosque atop.

Another view. It's also called the Alabaster Mosque.

Was he the greatest or what?

Ali's Palace on the Gezira, the island in the stream.

A suburb? No this is a city of the Dead.

Another view.

Beginning and Endling

Mohammad Ali actually gave away his entire collection of antiquities. This became the heart of the Egyptian Musuem. Logically, you might ask why the tour doesn't start there. Actually, the museum seems very 19th Century, as much a part of the past as Ali's mosque and part of the present since Egypt makes so much of its money from tourism.

As for Nasser, you can see his pyramid on tour # 1. Mubarak's pyramid? Well, I imagine they have people working on it right now.

Ask me no questions, and I'll tell no lies.

The Talking Heads

I don't know. What looks good in the Market to you?

Assorted Egyptian gods

The tower: symbol of modern Cairo

Another view

If you jump, I'll....

The author.

The modern metro rail system.

It's so fast the train already left.

Traffic: the curse of Cairo.

Related Eyptian Tours:
Back to Tour 4: Alexandria
On to Tour 1: The Saqqara and Giza

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