Published: July 24th 2010July 15th 2010
We awoke this morning to a knock on our train sleeper cabin door at 4;15. We were an hour and a half from Cairo and breakfast would be served shortly. Now breakfast is a very liberal term; really we were given a tray containing three stale baked items and a bun. Nonetheless, we choked down what we could and got ready to get off the train. We got back to our hotel and checked into our room. Our room had a terrible odor but we were exhausted so we slept for an hour and met the tour group at 830 as planned. The hotel kindly changed our room for us when we complained about the smell.
Our first site for the day was the Citadel near Islamic Cairo. The Citadel contains a few mosques and museums surrounded by a very large high wall that was used for defensive purposes. Theron attraction within the Citadel is the mosque that Mohammed Ali (not the boxer!) attended. His remains are kept in the mosque to this day. We visited the mosque and took a few photos, which we will upload when we can.
Our next stop after the citadel was Islamic Cairo. Islamic Cairo is very different from the rest of Cairo. Most noticeably it seemed very clean. We were also paired with a very serious, Secret Service looking police officer who provided security for the group. Although we felt "safer" in Islamic Cairo than in the rest of Cairo, the fact that we were sent in with a police escort tells you something!!
Islamic Cairo is basically a set of very narrow streets winding and criss-crossing through a walled off area of Cairo. There are areas that are very touristy and others that are obviously more frequently visited by the locals. (You can generally tell because the local areas are far leas hygienic than the pure tourist areas). A large portion of the area is devoted to a tourist only bazaar. You have to barter hard in these areas in order to get a decent price, because the merchants are cut throat and used to tourists that are pretty liberal with their cash.
Elysia and I ventured into a couple of alabaster (a type of rock) shops and ended up buying a stone pot from the second place. We sure had to haggle though, and the merchant wasn't that happy with us when we finally got a deal. Originally, they wanted 650 E£ ($125), but eventually we got him down to 80 E£ ($14)!!!
For dinner we went to a little takeout place and picked up koshary and rice pudding. Koshary is an Egyptian dish with rice, noodles, lentils and tomato sauce. We took dinner to a cafe where we for drinks and a couple of groupembers got a sheesha. Overall, it was a nice evening and dinner cost about $5 for the two of us!