Traveling to Egypt: Old Cairo – Day 11 (2021-01-31)

It’s our last day in Egypt and we are pretty exhausted with the tourist sites for the most part, but on the map there is a place called “Old Cairo” which seems interesting. It has a “Hanging Church” which adds to the intrigue, especially since we haven’t seen any churches here at all. (There is also New Cairo which the government is trying to establish as the capital, but that doesn’t interest me at all.) We walk the 4 miles there, mostly along the Nile. Of course, the location turns out to be another “tourist site” so we paid the requisite fee. Actually, this wasn’t only a site, it was also a museum and we were requested to walk through the museum rather than take a shortcut. Oh well… It wasn’t all bad. If nothing else, the woodwork on the ceilings and windows was exquisite.

A word about the police. I think I have already mentioned, that we see the police everywhere, but especially tourist sights and government buildings. In addition, we were stopped when driving. Generally, there is a guard or two standing behind a bulletproof metal shield. Accompanying them is a relatively nice utility sport vehicle, and either in the car or sitting behind it, are more police talking or drinking tea or coffee. One time we chose to leave our bikes near a spot they were congregated and at first they were telling us we couldn’t but then, once I approached them, they told us it was fine.

I can’t make any claims for certain, but it appears that a lot of money is spent on the police and, if you can get it, it would seem to be one of the best jobs if you aren’t well educated. We saw a couple high-class police officer clubs where there was clearly money. Our impression is that this was just accepted as the way of life in Egypt these days, and we never heard anyone question it even when we asked them.

Another point to note is that we were frequently walking through metal detectors. However, about half the time no one seemed to care when they went off. I would walk through with my cell phone in my pocket and it would beep. On the other side, they asked me to open my camera bag – which I had put through the scanner. Generally, my impression at the tourist sites was that they just wanted to know if I had an SLR camera and then charge me to take it inside. If that was the case, I always declined and left it with the guard to be picked up on the way out. Occasionally, at our Cairo hotel for example, they were more diligent and even took my backpack through a larger scanner because the smaller scanner picked up something suspicious. (They concluded it was my electric toothbrush.)

Afterward, we went next door to see the St Sergius and St Bacchus Church and walk around the cemetery.  Surprisingly, there were quite a few modern tombstones (as late as 2020).  I assume this is because the later generations were placed into the same plot as earlier generations as this clearly is a fairly old cemetery as well.

On the way, we encountered a funeral that occurred during noon prayer.  There were a total of about 5 coffins.  Again, lots of questions but connecting now seemed insensitive so we stayed our distance.

I can’t say for sure, but it seems reasonable that we may have encountered another area of people whose living was to process garbage.  These people fascinate me.  I would love to learn more.

We decided to take a long way back, not aiming for anything, even choosing a longer route on occasion. We were not near any tourist sites and, by the way people interacted with us, it would seem they didn’t see many Caucasians in these areas.  We were frequently greeted.  Often children followed us or requested to have their picture taken.

At one point we were invited to sit down and have tea followed by lunch. We accepted the tea. As usual, communication was possible thanks to Google Translate.  People were extremely welcoming. When we were done, we left some money on the table but when we were about 100 yards away, the children ran up and insisted we take the money back.

Later we came across some children playing dodge ball.  The ball came our way and I deftly popped it up with one foot and then – kicked it onto the roof of a small food truck.  WOOPS!!! (I lifted one of the kids to retrieve it.) The kids all crowded around asking us to take pictures. There were some women on the sidelines that encouraged us and one man even had us take pictures of him.  However, one woman went up to Mike and informed him in no uncertain words to stop, that this was completely inappropriate.  Mike urgently called me to stop and we paid our leave. Ughh!!

After walking more than 20 miles, we were back at our hotel by 6 PM.  They had graciously agreed to allow us a late, 8 PM, checkout – which was incredibly generous.  We took advantage of the time and showered before heading to dinner and then the airport.  Our flight wasn’t till 1:50 AM.

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