Journal: Sunday 21 November 2004
Today is probably our last day in Cairo so Sam and I decided to go to the Citadel as neither of us had been there for years. We took a taxi to the Citadel gates. I really don’t much like this massive fortress, with its military feel, but we wanted to visit the mosques there, so in we go. It was very windy and dusty and quite cold on top of the hill, but with spectacular views over Cairo all the way to the Giza Pyramids and we could pinpoint many of the places we had visited.
Our first stop was at the Mamaluk mosque of Sultan al-Nasr Mohammed, built in 1318 and notable for its two different minarets. One is near the main entrance and the other in the far corner so that the call to prayer could be projected into the northern enclosure to the troops. They are both unique stylistically with a great Persian influence. Inside the mosque it is very plain and simple because all the marble panels were carried off by Sultan Selim the Grim to Istanbul, although the qibla wall has now been restored. Many of the columns in the arches around the two-story arcade have been reused from various sources and you can see Ptolemaic, Roman and Christian capitals and bases. The ceiling decoration inside the arcade is a lovely light blue and silver.
Across the road is the Mohammed Ali Mosque, probably the most famous mosque in Cairo. Built in Turkish Imperial style, I love the shape of its great domes and towering minarets which dominate the Cairo skyline, but I find the interior far too ostentatious for my taste – very baroque in style. It was very crowded with tourists but I was pleased to note that women wearing shorts or with bare arms were made to wear long green robes to cover up, and were not allowed in without a head covering.
We had a mango juice in the cafe and walked around the rest of the citadel, looking at the gates and walls but we found that many areas were closed off. On the way out there was a bookshop. We tried to walk past but it drew us in like a magnet! I bought a French publication on the Luxor Tomb of Menna with some great pictures and also the Medieval Cairo guide maps I have been trying to find for ages. I bought three, but they didn’t have the fourth in the set, which covers the Citadel area. They were only EL15 each so I wasn’t too extravagant today.
It was soon time to go back to our hotel and after downloading pictures and having a siesta we went across the river to Mohandasin for dinner at Kadoura. This is a well-known fish restaurant which Sam loves, but they also do amazing salads. Being vegetarian I close my eyes and hurry past the slabs of hundreds of different fish (all eyeing me suspiciously), which you have to chose and they cook them fresh for you. The upstairs restaurant is very nice but was spoiled tonight by the inevitable TV with football blaring out. After the meal we went across the road to el-Shakowa coffee shop for our usual evening cups of Ahwa (Turkish coffee). I can’t get through a day without this! Got to bed around 2.00am. I Love driving around Cairo at night, it’s so full of life!