Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mosque moments with the Muezzin... and other grand adventures!

Today (Wednesday) has been a day of great adventures. We took a very cheap taxi (we knew we'd bartered well when the driver looked sad as we left!) to Hussein Square with the intention of going to the local market there, which comes highly recommended. No sooner had we left the taxi driver than we were accosted by a man asking us to come into a mosque. The mosque in questions is about 1500 years old so we decided it would be fun, and he claimed women were welcome. He also claimed to be the Muezzin (the man who leads the call to prayer) so we found ourselves entering the Mosque without much chance even to discuss it. Visiting the mosque involved taking our shoes off and dressing in a long dress with a hood that made us look like ewoks! The tour was incredibly long and involved us having our photo taken in front of every mihrab. The "muezzin" was very keen to tell us exactly what to do and where to stand etc but he did show us a lot and, every time we got a question right, he gave us mosque tokens (which he wanted us to wear as jewellery!) The whole experience was quite surreal. The man 's English was dreadful and the moment when he made me film him standing next to Rachel singing the call to prayer was hysterical. The video will be released in the future, if we receive enough money to make it worth our while! He also gave us 5 books each about women and Islam and 2 CDs of the qu'ran and was clearly attempting to convert us. The books are weighing heavy in our bags but neither of us, as good Christians, feel that we can throw them away. They may get left in cafe or book exchange somewhere!

We thought we were ready to leave when we got our shoes back but this was a mistake! Actually we were going to climb about 150 steps up to the top of the minaret and to go outside and walk around the mosque roof and climb out of windows for more photos. The 'muezzin' spent the whole time shrieking with delight when he took a photo and calling me 'Principessa' so it was with some relief that we did eventually escape.

But things continued to be a little odd. We wandered into the market ,where I decided it was time to use the wonderful head covering my Mum bought me, and looked at the most beautiful displays of fruit and veg, unlike anything we have in the West. Then we wandered further and found a lot of raw Egyptian cotton for sale. We were immediately befriended again by a man who took us to see where the cotton was died and then to see where mother of pearl boxes were made. He took us deep into the bag streets of Islamic Cairo where the people were unhappy about me using my camera. We had to escape from this guy by inventing our tour group that we had to meet.

We then made it, eventually, to what should have been our destination for the morning - the market. After all our excitement this was just too touristy and tacky and we were very unimpressed. We found a cafe haven though and had a relaxing late lunch. We decided by this time that we'd had enough of Cairo and thought that a few hours in a female zone that wasn't the metro was necessary. Sadly we chose the Hilton hotel where they have a minimum cafe charge for non resident that was high enough to send us scrambling for the door. Shame on them. Another company for me to boycott. So we walked through the male-dominated crazy, dirty streets of Cairo to the internet cafe. We will soon head for out hotel to reclaim our bags and then Metro to Giza station and onwards to Aswan - it is definitely time for a new place!

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