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Welcome to our world of business information, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines. This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Cairo & Alexandria, Egypt.
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Recognition: We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides. In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.
Cairo & Alexandria, Egypt
Birding Opps: Info for our birding friends. In and near Cairo, Egypt you can see these species: Yellow Wagtail, Great Honker, Wigeons, Shovellers, Pochards, Boots and Whiskered Terns.
Tour Egypt (touregypt.net/featurestories/birding.htm) has interesting historical information such as early Egyptian birds that were depicted as Gods.
The Fat Birder (fatbirder.com/links_geo/middle_east/egypt.html) reports that 470 species have been recorded of which 2/3 are migrants. Birding is good year round with peaks in the spring and fall.
At Egypt Hotspots (camacdonald.com/birding/africaegypt.htm) they call it a birders paradise.
Transportation: This is your site for public transportation such as Cairo Metro, Buses, Taxis, no camels (touregypt.net/egypt-info/magazine-mag04012001-magf3.htm).
Shopping: Khan el-Khalili, known simply as Khan, is a huge market (souk) that offers something for everyone.
Business Information: Here is help in regard to your business: (http://egypt.usembassy.gov/)
Exchange Rates (http://www.x-rates.com/)
Day One: Your first stop is the Egyptian Museum – Daily: 9-7, Midan al-Tahrir, Downtown Cairo, 02 5794596
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo contains the world’s most extensive collection of pharaonic antiquities.
It has 107 halls filled with artifacts dating from the prehistoric through the Roman periods. The museum houses approximately 160,000 objects covering 5,000 years of Egypt’s past.
The ground floor takes the visitor on a chronological tour through the collections, while the objects on the upper floor are grouped according to tomb or category.
Exhibits include the treasures of Tutankhamun, wooden models of daily life, statuettes of divinities, and a rare group of Faiyum Portraits. On display on the second floor are also many of the New Kingdom royal mummies.
Lunch is a special treat at Abou El Sid – L & D: Daily, 157,26th of July St, Zamalek, 02-7497326
Start with a mezze of fava and coriander spread, stuffed grape leaves, spicy oriental sausages and a chicken liver paste.
For your main we like the stuffed pigeon with rice or pan fried chicken with onions and peppers or the Egyptian stew with spicy lentils.
Their signature dish is Circasin chicken in walnut sauce. They have a full bar. Dessert is the Oriental pancake with honey and mixed nuts.
Our Cousin Raoul suggests we visit the Coptic Museum – Daily: 9-5, 3 Sharia Mar Girgis, Old Cairo, 23639742
The Museum is located within the walls of the fortress of Babylon, part of the old city walls built by Emperor Trajan in 98 A.D.
It also houses the old churches of Cairo: St. Sergius and St. Barbara of the 4th century and the Hanging Church “El Muallaqa” of the 6th century.
The sculptures of the 4th and 5th centuries show subjects borrowed from Greco-Roman mythology endowed with Christian symbolism. From the 6th century onwards reliefs inspired by scripture increase.
You can see this in the three Hebrews in the furnace, the Virgin nursing the infant Jesus and angels holding aloft a medallion displaying a bust of Christ.
The Museum holds a collection of 16,000 works of art, of which 1,200 are exhibited to the public. It owns 6,000 papyrus manuscripts of which the most important are the Psalms of David and the manuscripts of Nag Hammadi.
Your next stop was to be the Museum of Islamic Art – Daily: 9-4, Bab El Khalk Square, 3901520
Closed because of severe damage by a truck bomb blast on January 24, 2014.
The Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque –
At the Citadel we learn that Egypt was ruled from this hill for 700 years, but nothing remains of the original mediaeval fortress except a part of the walls and Bir Yusuf, the well that supplied the Citadel with water.
We see the Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad with its beautifully crafted masonry and ornate minarets indicating that the building is a Mamluk work of art.
The conquering Ottomans carried much of the original interior decoration off to Istanbul, but the space is nevertheless impressive.
The supporting columns around the courtyard were collected from various sources including ancient Egyptian structures.
Dinner is at the famous Moghul Room – D: Nightly, Mena House, El Haram St, Giza, 0233773222
Although we are not well versed in Indian cuisine, we listen to our Cousin’s suggestion to try the Moghul Room. The dining room is beautiful complete with sitar music.
Start with samosas and popadoms with tamarind, mint, chutney and pickled lemon sauces. The butter chicken is in a creamy curry sauce and the lamb curry with red chilies and spices is served with chick peas, potatoes, onions and ginger.
There is also a small portion of saffron rice with almonds, raisins, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Dessert is pista kulfi – Indian ice cream.
Day Two: Breakfast Is at Zooba – B,L,D: Daily, Zamalek : 16, 26th of July Street, 0233453980
We like the scrambled eggs and pastrami or the scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes, parsley and onions.
Juices include orange, strawberry, lemon with mint and mango with rosemary. Several different teas are available.
We’re in Egypt to see the Giza Pyramids that were built by Pharaoh Khufu in 2550 BC.
Egyptologists may differ on the number of workers involved, where the doors were and how long construction took, but no one denies that Giza is big.
For 3800 years Giza was the tallest man-made structure on earth.
Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre, built the 2nd pyramid at Giza and also the Sphinx which is a sentinel for the tomb complex.
Nearby is the Solar Boat Museum – Daily: 9-4
Ancient Egyptians used to bury a “solar barge” near the tomb of their pharaoh because they believed that their ruler needed transportation in the afterlife.
In 1954 the parts of a cedar-wood barge were found in five pits near the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The barge was restored and assembled out of 1200 pieces of wood, and it is displayed in a glass museum near the Great Pyramid in Giza.
We are in for a fun lunch at the Fish Market – L & D: Daily, Americana Boat, 26 El Nil St., Giza, 20 2 35709693
We’re on a boat on the Nile, and first we pick out our fish and then how we want the chef to prepare it. Our favorite is the sea bream – grilled.
If you’re with a group we suggest the Appetizer Tower as a starter while they are preparing your fish.
If that’s too much try their mezze or a salad. Dessert is their profiterole.
The stories attributed to the The Gayer-Anderson Museum – Ahmed Ibn Tolon As Sayedah Zeinab, 20 2 23647822, are too good not to be included.
The Gayer-Anderson Museum was founded in 1937 in two ancient residences, the Beit el-Kiridiliya from 1632 and the Beit Amna Bent Salim from 1540.
The museum includes the private collection of Major Gayer-Anderson as well as furniture, glassware, crystal, carpets, silks and embroidered Arab costumes.
Legends in regard to this site include:
The house was built on the the grounds of an ancient mountain called Gebel Yashkur where Noah’s ark (possibly the first zoo?) came to rest after the deluge and the last of the flood water drained through the well in the courtyard.
God spoke to Moses on this spot.
A lover gazing into the well water (see above) would see the face of his/her lover instead of his/her own.
In 1984 Aga Khan created the Al-Azher Park on Al-Darassa by converting a municipal dump into a much needed urban refuge.
We enjoy leisurely walking about the park checking out the water features, the great views of the city and restaurants. During the rehab process a 12th century Ayyubid wall was found and excavated.
In addition to the 655,000 plantings there are three landmark buildings, the 14th Century Umm Sultan Shaban Mosque, the Khayrbek complex (encompassing a 13th century palace, a mosque and an Ottoman house), and the Darb Shoughlan School.
Have your hotel book a felucca cruise to see Cairo from the water.
Our captain was probably trained by his father on how to maneuver the boat and sails, so all we have to do is enjoy the ride.
A dietary change is in order for us so we head for Tabla Luna – D: Nighlty, 41 Road 218 Degla, Maadi, 0225198403
The Latin American menu is perfect for us. We start with the shrimp ceviche with lime juice, cilantro, onions, tomatoes and parsley and the spicy empanadas.
Then we have the beef sirloin with a salad and sautéed potatoes. The roasted duck with papaya and apple sauce is tempting also.
Dessert is the chocolate flan.
Day Three: Breakfast is at El Fishawi – B,L,D: Daily, El-Fishawi; El-Fishawi Alley; Khan al-Khalili, 20 2 25906755, the most famous café in the Arab world since 1773.
We have coffee but the most popular beverage is tea, especially karkaday – a deep red hibiscus tea. Water pipes packed with tobacco and molasses are very popular. Try the falafel.
Cousin Hadj is taking us to Alexandria to see the Bibliotheca –
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a wonderful reincarnation of the famed ancient library of Alexandria.
The original library held the largest collection of manuscripts in the world, and was a great center of learning for 600 years until it burned down in the 3rd century.
The dramatic new library, resembling an angled discus or a great sundial, was designed by a Norwegian architect and cost about $200 million.
The Library of Alexandria is of religious significance because of its original role as a temple, its historical association with such Christian theologians as Origen of Alexandria, and its collection of many religious manuscripts (including rare copies of the Qur’an).
Alexandria was selected by Alexander the Great as the capital of his empire in 320 BC, and it was the most powerful and influential city in the region.
The original Library of Alexandria was founded in 288 BC by Ptolemy I under the guidance of Demetrius of Phaleron.
It was a temple that functioned as an academy, research center, and library. The great thinkers of the age flocked to Alexandria to study and exchange ideas.
The Antiquities Museum within the Biblioteca Alexandrina displays the artifacts discovered at the construction site.
The collection consists of 1,100 pieces and documents of various epochs of Egyptian civilization dating from the Pharaonic era up to the Islamic period, including the Greek civilization that arrived with the conquest of Alexander the Great and the Roman and Coptic civilizations.
We like The Alexandria National Museum – 110 El Horreya Rd, 20 3 4835519, it is located in a restored Italian style palace.
Here we see artifacts from the four main ages of Egypt: Ancient, Greco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic. There are also modern items such as royal jewels and an interesting collection of antique coins.
There is a replica of a tomb similar to those in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor and Coptic Christian items include icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and the Last Supper.
There is a collection of 162 gold and silver coins that were minted in Alexandria and a collection of jewelry, watches, vases and handbags from the former royal family.
Our choice for our meal in Alexandria is Samakmak – L & D: Daily, As Sayalah Gharb, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria Governorate, 20 3 4809523
It’s not fancy but it’s fresh and it’s all good. We’ll start with the mezze, of course.
Then we like the grilled calamari with green peppers, onions and tomato. The butterflied shrimp and the spaghetti with clams are keepers. Beer is available.
Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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