AfricaEgyptCairo

Cairo museum, the mosque... and pharaoh's revenge!

Cairo Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 8 › view all entries
Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo

It seemed somehow inevitable that one of us would get sick in Egypt, but we had done so well up until then that I didn't quite think it would happen in the end. How wrong I was. I woke up on our last day of sightseeing feeling about -20 on a wellness scale of 1 to 100. Breakfast was a non-starter and I was positively bordering on grey when the car came to collect us for excursions to the Cairo Museum and city mosque.

Mohammed Ali's mosque was first on the list. It was quite lovely and a good chance for us to pump our female guide for information about Islam and the role women play in it. She was really frank about it, which made for some interesting conversations. It was at the mosque that we also saw the greatest proliferation of women in the full hajib, even with gauze covering the cut out eye area, so that not a centimetre of flesh was showing.

Mohammed Ali Mosque
These women also wore gloves and stockings. When we asked our guide about this she was a little dismissive of their behaviour, and explained to us that the whole purpose of the burka (she wasn't wearing one, by the way, nor was her head covered), was so that men would not have an opportunity to imagine what the woman looked like under her loose clothing, meaning he could not have carnal thoughts about her. She is therefore supposed to be covered to protect her modesty. However, when more modern Muslims wear the head scarves but dress in tighter clothing (fitted tops and skirts), she felt this was defeating the whole purpose of not giving men something to imagine about her form. It was our guide's opinion that a person should either follow the tradition to the letter, or dispense with it, like she had.
Mohammed Ali Mosque

She also told us that the purpose of the veil across the face was supposed to be to cover very beautiful women, because even their faces could attract the attention of a man even though she was covered up otherwise. However, over the years the intention behind this tradition has been lost, and now it is used as a means of expressing devotion, rather than of protecting the modesty of only the most beautiful girls. All very interesting to us!

Anyway, aside from our lessons on Islam, the mosque itself was quite lovely and afforded some excellent views of polluted Cairo. It was around this time, however, that I started to take a turn for the worse with feeling crappy, and as we piled into the mini van once more I wasn't sure how much longer I could hold on.

City view of Cairo
The Cairo Museum was next, however, and I didn't want to miss that.

Putting on a brave face I managed to traipse around the museum taking in as much as possible as our ever knowledgeable guide pointed out some of the really amazing artefacts housed there. Unfortunately, these things can't really be enjoyed when you're so weak you're trying to find surfaces to lean on without setting off alarms.

Milt and I opted to pay for an extra ticket to see the really big attraction of the mummies housed there... well worth it! They were truly amazing, not least because, with all our modern technology, we still have no idea how the ancient Egyptians were able to preserve their dead so thoroughly. Some of them had teeth and fingernails! It was pretty full on and something I highly recommend.

City view of Cairo
.. even though I was queasy and staggering at this point.

From there we went to a buffet lunch, which was the most horrifying bit for me. Even the smell of the food was incredibly off putting and I couldn't wait to get out of these and back to the hotel to have a lay down. It wasn't to be that I would make it back unscathed, however, as the bumpy ride back to the hotel saw my breakfast come rushing up... not the best way to end the tour, but at least I had made it through up until that point. Still, I was horribly ill and Milton only just managed to get me back to the hotel before there was a repeat performance of pharaoh's revenge. Instead of making me feel better, though, I continued to get worse. Milt went off to investigate a laundry service (yes, it was all pretty gross) and came back with a doctor as well.

City view of Cairo
After a brief examination (the doctor seemed to have seen this sort of thing before, strangely), he pulled out a needle and gave me an injection in MY BUM! I was frankly too ill to protest and at that stage would have done just about anything to feel better, so the fact that an Egyptian physician who couldn't speak English was sticking me in the butt with god knows what kind of medicine failed to illicit the kind of concern it normally would have.

And to give credit where credit is due... the injection did work. I stopped throwing up at least and managed to sleep through the night long enough to feel mildly better for the flight back to Luxor the next day, where we would rejoin our original tour group to fly home. However, I was still probably about a 5-10 out of 100 on the wellbeing scale, and it turned out that our flight was delayed by about three hours. Three hours in the Cairo airport! This was not a happy time for me. Besides which, if we missed our connecting flight out of Luxor we would have to remain in Egypt for another 2 days before we could get another plane out.

Finally we boarded, though, and it was fortunately a very short trip to Luxor, where we saw our plane for England filling up as we were getting off our domestic flight. Panic set in on all fronts as tour reps made us run through the airport, our bags bumping along behind them, while they threw our passports at the control officer and hand delivered our luggage onto the plane. The good news is that we made the flight, the bad news is that running through an airport was just about the last thing I needed and I was back to scratch with the illness again, necessitating a few days off work when I did manage to blessedly step back on English soil.

Still, in all Egypt was a pretty damn amazing experience. It really was something else, and although falling ill has put me off third world countries for the time being, I'm so glad to have seen all those incredible sights and fully believe it is a trip every traveller must make at least once. Just don't touch the water and don't eat outside of the hotels!!!

jbo says:
Thanks for the tip! I shall make a note and get reading :D The illness was terrible though... makes me shudder thinking of it. Whew!
Posted on: Dec 15, 2007
vances says:
Sorry about your illness in Egypt, but fascinated by your discussion with the tour guide around the reason for veiling. I think the greatest insight into the failure of this attempt at suppressing carnal desire is displayed in Naguib Mahfouz brilliant "Cairo Trilogy"...a recommended read to understand the culture you visited!
Posted on: Dec 14, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Mohammed Ali Mosque  in Cairo
Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo
Mohammed Ali Mosque
Mohammed Ali Mosque
Mohammed Ali Mosque
Mohammed Ali Mosque
City view of Cairo
City view of Cairo
City view of Cairo
City view of Cairo
City view of Cairo
City view of Cairo
Cairo
photo by: vulindlela