Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLXXVI. A Return Visit (5 of 15)

Islamic Cairo

Most visitors will go to Egypt to see the pharaonic monuments; such a visit would be incomplete for it leaves out Islamic Cairo. Indeed, there are hundreds of Islamic monuments in this fabled city.

Granted, time is at a premium, but to see the most famous ones need not take a lot of your time. In my case, I allocated a short period of time and was able to see sights I would have never forgiven myself had I missed them.

For six centuries, Islamic Dynasties succeeded each other. Space permits me to provide you with the names only: Umayyads, Abbassids, Tulunids, Ikshudids, Fatimids, and Ayyubids.

These Islamic Dynasties were followed by the Mamelukes and the Ottomans, and their reign continued for five and half centuries. It came to an end in 1798 when Napoleon invaded Egypt; while his stay was brief, he Westernized the country, and lay the foundation for the Alawiya Dynasty. In turn, this Dynasty takes us to The Modern Period.

The Islamic Dynasties left us a rich architectural heritage. However, with some exceptions, Egypt itself was neglected. Heavy taxes were imposed, agriculture declined, prices rose, and native Egyptians suffered growing impoverishment.

It got worse under the Mamelukes, and the Ottomans; and their architectural contribution was poor indeed.

With this brief historical background out of the way, let us now get acquainted with Islamic Cairo.

I enquired at my hotel about the possibility of engaging a guide to show me the highlights of Islamic Cairo. And they were able to accommodate me.

Halim was what we call here a free lancer. He was not attached to any travel agency. The deal offered was the same as the previous one; namely, it would be a private tour in a car with a driver; the driver’s name was Mohammed.

It didn’t start well at all! I had paid the fees requested for two days. Yes, I would have two days, and many sights were included; however, the day would start at 9:00 AM and finish at 2:00 PM! I was informed of that in the car only; I made it clear that that was a non-starter. We would not be watching the clock, and I was not going to pay for a five-hours day of sightseeing. There was also another problem.

Halim seemed so young. How much did he really knew about the places he was taking me to?

The driver suggested that we go to a café and try to settle our problems around a good cup of tea.

I don’t know what was in that tea, but on short order, the three of us were talking and joking as if we had known each other for years!

This was what was agreed upon. We would not rush; we would take the necessary time to properly see all the sites agreed upon. As for Halim’s youth, he assured me that he had finished university and obtained a degree in Islamic Studies; there were not many guides that knew Islamic Cairo like he did. When I asked Mohammed with a smile if this was true, he nodded his head vigorously, he then added that Halim was the best guide I could hope to get.

And so it was that I spend two unforgettable days with this young guide. He brought to life the mosques we visited; he read the Koranic verses, and related them to time and place. Again and again he proved the depth of his knowledge, truly, he was what he claimed to be and much more.

As with Magdi, he managed to keep my attention throughout our tour. At the end, I expressed my gratitude by giving to both Halim and Mohammed a substantial tip. (This was something I could not do for the first tour since tipping was permitted only via the agency. I did leave a tip at the end only because Khaled did a favor for me. Whether Magdi and Ahmad shared in that tip, I do not know).

I cannot relate all the sights I saw, however, a description of the most important ones follow.

Comments are closed.