January 25, 2009
After Farafra, our plan was to head to the south of Egypt. If you look at a map, it seems like there should be a pretty simple way to go directly from Farafra to Luxor. However, it turns out that this road is just not traveled very often so it’s complicated. Locals told us that it would probably take two buses and a taxi, plus the buses are not available every day and the taxi is expensive. So, ridiculous as it sounds, the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to go from Farafra to Luxor is to first go back to Cairo and then take the train.
We caught an all-night bus to Cairo and arrived around 6:30 AM. We rushed to the train station only to discover that we just barely missed the morning train, and that the next available train is at midnight. Bummer, but not the end of the world. We bought the tickets, left our big bags at the train station, and went into the city to spend the day. This gave us a chance to visit the Islamic Cairo neighborhood that we missed on our first visit.
Islamic Cairo has a labyrinth of narrow streets, and here and there some huge mosques. We started out visiting a couple of them: El Hussain Mosque and El Azhar Mosque. It was interesting to see that at any time of day you’ll find people inside reading and praying. Sometimes you’ll find kids just hanging out at the mosque, talking or doing homework. It’s a living community center.
We started walking towards the big attraction in Islamic Cairo – the Citadel. The walk was long and we were kind of groggy, not having slept well on the night bus. We decided instead to find a nice spot to read and relax, and we found the perfect place: El Azhar Park. It was so beautiful and comfortable there that we ended up skipping the Citadel and just hanging out at the park.
When dusk fell it became too chilly to stay at the park. We caught a taxi back into town. I’d had an itch to go to the movies for a while so we asked our driver to drop us off at a cinema that has English movies. The driver only knew one place, and that place actually only had one English movie: Keanu Reeves in The Day The Earth Stood Still. If we were in Seattle, there’s little chance that we would actually choose to see this movie, but here in Cairo it was a treat. Keanu was type-cast like always; even though he was the all-knowing ET-ambassador, he still mostly stood around looking empty. But whatever, it was entertaining.