Sunday, April 25, 2010

Egypt's Hidden Treasures.

The next time you come to Egypt, or even if it's your first time here, try and expand your horizons beyond the pyramids, the museum and temples. Yes I know the pyramids are awe-inspiring, the final resting places of kings who wished for immortality and have-in a way- achieved it should definitely be on your list. After all where else in the world can you see one of the original 7 wonders of the world? But this isn't all this country has to offer, there's so much more than just the Pharaohs and their treasures.

What you won't find advertised as much or on the zillions of cheap tourist tat available is the beauty of medieval Cairo. Known locally as Masr El-Kadima, or Old Cairo it contains Roman ruins and remains of the pre-Cairo capital of Egypt, El-Fustat. El-Fustat was built by the Arab Khalifa (literally; follower or he who comes after) Amr Ibn el Aas after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the 7th century. He built the first mosque in Africa in his new capital city. Cairo itself was not built till the 10th century during the Fatimid rule of Egypt and at that time it was a separate city to the north of El-Fustat. Eventually the cities merged as Cairo expanded and El-Fustat fell into disrepair.

The location of El-Fustat was near the Roman Babylon Fortress, which today is in the area known as Coptic Cairo. This area, as the name suggests, is home to some of the oldest churches in Cairo and is thought to have been where the Holy Family visited during their flight into Egypt. Most of the churches were not built until after the Arab/Islamic invasion of Egypt when Christians were tolerated unlike the persecution they faced under the Romans. The fortress itself has had churches built into or on its walls.

One of these churches is the Hanging Church of Babylon, so named because it was built on the gatehouse of the Roman Fortress, so its nave is suspended, or 'hanging' over a passageway. Due to the construction of the High Dam in Aswan, and the subsequent lack of floods has lead to the ground level rising and so the dramatic effect of the church has been somewhat lost. The church contains icons dating from the 8th century to the 18th and the alter is carved ebony and ivory decorated with coptic crucifixes.

In the Islamic area of Old Cairo has some of the most beautiful mosques in the city one of which is the Rifai Mosque ( el masged el Rifa'i) commissioned by the 19th century rulers of Egypt to complement the 11th century architecture of the Sultan Hassan Madrasah (madrasah literally means 'school' in Arabic but is most commonly associated with the learning of Quraan-Islam's holy book). The Mosque has a beautiful inner courtyard with a central water fountain area for wudu' (the ablutions performed before prayer) and this is surrounded by four areas for prayer. The mosque is the final resting place of, among others, King Farouk-the last King of Egypt.

For pictures of the places mentioned above please click here

Movie Marathon!

Yesterday a friend and I made a spur-of-the moment decision to have a movie marathon. We narrowed down our choices to three films but decided the order would be down to our mood once we reach the cinema. After navigating Cairo traffic-which is a topic for another time- we arrived and were off to get the tickets! First up was From Paris With Love a bang-bang-shoot 'em up with a fairly predictable plot, I figured out the 'twist' about 10 minutes in. Don't let that put you off seeing this film though, it's good fun, mainly down to John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Travolta's character is OTT and wonderfully flamboyant and contrasts well with Rhys Meyers' more straight-laced rookie. It's thier chemistry that provides the humour in the film and I'd be quite happy to see a sequal if the powers that be decide on one.

After a lunch that was not quite as guilt free, calorie wise, as we had hoped, it was time for the second movie of the day. We thought we had bought tickets to When in Rome, turns out we were actually in the theatre showing Remember Me Now this is a bloody good film! Honestly, I'm not sure what I was expecting, Twilight without the sparkly skin? Maybe. A film for teenage girls to swoon over their latest heartthrob? Definitely. I was wrong on both counts. Sure Pattinson is almost as emo in this as in Twilight but-unlike Edward Cullen- Tyler has valid reasons. Without giving too much of the plot away, it's suffice to say that Tyler doesn't have the happiest of family lives. Neither does the heroine, Ally who lost her mother 10 years earlier when she was murdered in front of her and yet she appears to be a much happier person than Tyler. The two, naturally, fall in love but the film is so much more than just another love story, it's about how events and people in your life can truly have an effect on who you are and how you relate to others. The ending is wonderful in its simplicity and I highly recommend this film to anyone, especially for those last 10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lazy days (or evenings)

Don't you hate feeling that you really should be doing something, anything, but that you just don't have the energy? One day away from the weekend- a blissful three day one at that- and I'm ready to crash. The only thing making me feel a bit better about my current state of lethargy is the fact that everyone around me seems to be feeling the same way. One look around the staff-room at work and you'd be forgiven for thinking we've all just finished running a marathon! The combination of heat, dust, reports and kids who I swear must be sneaking drinks of red bull in the bathrooms has us all at the end of our tethers.

The weekend can't come soon enough, a good night's sleep is what I really need and if the horrible turkeys (I hate and fear turkeys!) that turned up in my dream last night stay away I think I might just manage it. So I am off to bed because the sooner I go to sleep the closer the weekend will be. Lets just hope the B.F.G blows some good dreams my way tonight.

Night night.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Introduction and first mini rant.


I'm typing this by candle-light as my neighbourhood has just plunged into darkness; an auspicious start for my blogging alter-ego! It's quite a romantic setting I suppose, although I do wish the unpredictable Egyptian electricians had found a way of having the country's air-conditioners wired so that they were never affected by these power cuts! BTW the unpredictability of Egyptian electricians, plumbers etc. is a topic for another day. It would be fairly long!

After that -slightly random- ramble allow me to introduce myself; my name, as you may have guessed, is falafel (no, really). I'm a British-Egyptian girl in my mid-twenties, born in England (Cheltenham), raised and currently living in Cairo. I graduated from the faculty of Pharmacy in June of 07 and by September had realized that none of the career paths available in the field appealed to me at all; so in October I applied for a position as a co-teacher at an international school, started the same day and haven't looked back! In fact before the lightswent out I was looking up MA courses in education in the UK, suffice to say, I'm in it for the long haul!

That's all for now,I'm sure it will be easier to get to know me as you read my blogs; whether they be in the form of a ramble, a rant or a fangirl 'squee!'