Saturday, October 13, 2007
Cairo Day 2
Wow! What a day. We left the hotel bright and early at 8:00 to go to Old Cairo. Actually, we had originally planned to go to the oldest worshipping synagogue in Egypt and an ancient Jewish cemetery but they were closed (it’s a holiday. Imagine being closed on Shabbat!). We did, however, have the privilege of visiting the Church of St. Sergius where it is believed the Holy Family stayed for a while during their sojourn in Egypt. Close by the church was the synagogue where it is believed that Moses was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter. That is near not only the oldest continually worshipping mosque in Egypt but also by the Hanging Church—an ancient Coptic church built over the ruins of a Roman fort (thus the name “Hanging”). Coptics are Egyptian Christians. They believe their church was founded by St. Mark (as in Gospel of) in the late 60s AD (making the church older than the gospel). Coptic actually a form of the name Egypt but is applied to Egyptian Christians. And they were the folks responsible for the Nag Hammadi scrolls (of which we saw a few) that contained ancient copies of the gospels plus some of the Gnostic writings such as the Gospel of Thomas. We also visited the Coptic museum in Old Cairo and saw some beautiful art from the old churches.
But that’s not all. In the afternoon, three of the more adventurous of us went to see the step pyramids at Saqqara rather than resting by the pool. If you ever go to Egypt, I highly recommend this museum. It was very different and much more modern in approach than the Great Pyramids. We saw a video about the pyramids and their architect, Imhotep, as well as a model of what it must have looked like in its day. We entered one of the pyramids which was not as exhausting as yesterday’s trek and actually still had carvings in its middle. We also entered some tombs of high court officials that still had wonderful reliefs on the walls. I was really surprised by the quality of the reliefs, the joy and humor of the everyday life they depicted, and the intimacy of the couples that was portrayed in the depictions of man and wife. We actually took some pictures in these tombs. (Not really allowed, but for $1 they blinked.)
Then to finish the day, we took a boat trip on the Nile for dinner. The food was okay (and rather European) but we did get to see a Whirling Dervish and a belly dancer (sorry guys the battery ran out on my camera at that moment! – I’m serious.)
Now it is off to bed. We have to be on the bus at 7 am for a six or seven hour drive to St. Catherine’s at the foot of Mount Sinai. Then a short nap and a 2 a.m. trip to the top of the Mountain to see the sunrise.